On the swampy shores of the Ganh Hao River, Ca Mau, which covers the southern tip of the Mekong Delta, is the capital and sole city in Ca Mau province. It’s a remote and inhospitable area that wasn’t cultivated until the late 17th century. Due to the boggy terrain, Ca Mau has the lowest population density in southern Vietnam. It incorporates the country’s largest swamp and is famous for its voracious mosquitoes.
Given that, it may make people surprised that Ca Mau city is so pleasant a place. With wide boulevards, parks and busy shopping streets, the town has developed rapidly in recent years but still appeals to few tourists. The most important attractions are the nearby swamps and forests, which can be discovered by boat.
Ca Mau Market
(Ð Le Loi) Traditionally Ca Mau life was lived facing the water, and while the floating market has disappeared day by day, the main market still sprawls along the streets to the west of Phung Hiep Canal, south of Ð Phan Ngoc Hien.
Cao Dai Temple
(Ð Phan Ngoc Hien) This temple, which was built in 1966, is a riot of color and ornamentationlike all Cao Dai places of worship.
Quoc Te Hotel $
(International Hotel; 0780-366 6666; www.hotelquocte.com; 179 Ð Phan Ngoc Hien; r from 280,000d) There are breakfast and airport pick-ups included in the price at this business hotel along with swimming pool, massage service and a lift. It falls short of international standards, yet rooms are smart enough.
Thanh Son Hotel $
(0780-355 0992; 23 Ð Phan Ngoc Hien; r 80,000-230,000d) This light and bright five – storey mini hotel has clean rooms with tiled floors. Extras include TV and hot water, and bathtubs in the more luxurious rooms. They speak little English.
Anh Nguyet Hotel $$
(0780-356 7666; www.anhnguyethotel.com; 207 Ð Phan Ngoc Hien; r US$29-49) Romantically translating as the Moonlight Hotel, this destination attempts a glitzy look. Rooms are perfectly fine, though walls are thin and the carpets not expensive.
Ca Mau’s speciality is shrimp, which is raised in ponds and mangrove forests. The most delicious food is to be discovered at the cluster of small, cheap roadside restaurants and banh mi stalls in the streets around the market, especially at the end of Ð Nguyen Huu Le. In the evening, the eastern end of Ð Pham Ngoc Hien becomes a big outdoor café.
Pho Xua VIETNAMESE, SEAFOOD $$
(126 Ð Phan Ngoc Hien; mains 50,000-300,000d; 7am-10pm) It’s an atmospheric destination set amid landscaped gardens draped in fairy lights, with a menu focus on shrimp and other seafood dishes.
Ca Mau Hospital (Benh Vien Ca Mau; 0780-383 1015; Ð Ly Thuong Kiet)
Ca Mau Tourist (0780-381 7057; www.camautravel.vn; 1B Ð An Duong Vuong; 9am-5pm)
Getting There & Around
Vietnam Air Service Company (VASCO; www.vasco.com.vn), a subsidiary of Vietnam Airlines, has two daily flights to and from HCMC (from 750,000d, one hour). The airport is 3km east of the centre, on Hwy 1A.
At least three hydrofoils a day travel from Ca Mau to Rach Gia and vice versa (125,000d, three hours) from Ferry Pier Can Ganh Hao, in which travellers can also catch a speedboat south to Nam Can (60,000d, one hour). Boats to Can Tho (150,000d, three to four hours), with a stop in Phung Hiep, depart from Cong Ca Mau pier (Ð Quang Trung), 3km east of town.
TRAVEL BY HYDROFOIL
If you cannot decide whether to take a hydrofoil or a bus , let’s take the hydrofoil. They’re less crowded and generally more comfortable, and the journey is also more exciting.
There are low and long boats here, meaning views are just above the waterline. The journey between Ca Mau and Rach Gia is particularly nice, since it switches from a green, undeveloped area dotted with rattan houses near Ca Mau to a heavily built-up and industrial stretch approaching Rach Gia.
There are buses depart from Mien Tay bus station to Ca Mau; express buses (130,000d) take around seven hours. Several daily express buses leave for HCMC between 5am and 10.30am. Daily buses also leave for Rach Gia (50,000d), Ha Tien(89,000d), Bac Lieu (50,000d), Can Tho (65,000d), Cao Lanh (83,000d), My Tho (100,000d) and Ben Tre (103,000d). The Ca Mau bus station is around 2.5km from the centre of town; head along Hwy 1A towards Bac Lieu.
Car & Motorbike
Hwy 1A now continues to Nam Can (50km), the southernmost town in Vietnam. Ca Mau is 176km far away from Can Tho, it takes you around three hours to reach there and 329km from Hochiminh city, it takes you approximately seven hours to get.