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Drifting Down Thailand’s Iconic Floating Markets

Text and Photos by David Nakayama, DET Corp Comms

Bangkok, Thailand, October 8, 2020- Many visitors to Thailand are attracted to the stunning floating markets which offer a true feast to the senses. But like many things in the Kingdom, reality may not always live up to your Instagram-influenced visions. So let’s take a moment now to check out three of Thailand’s famous floating markets I’ve visited in and around Bangkok.

Amphawa Floating Market

This is one of the oldest and most genuine large floating markets in Samut Songkhram Province nearby Bangkok. The 50-kilometer long market is located where the Mae Klong River flows into the sea and is open from afternoon to evening Friday-Sunday. Visitors can find stalls in the surrounding streets, restaurants and shops along the canals and boat vendors.

On my first visit to Amphawa Floating Market, I went to a small but well-kept museum to learn about life in the riverside townhouses and the traditional dugouts the historical community used to trade and fish with. I also sampled plenty of fresh local specialties like steamed Thai mackerel with vegetables and chili shrimp paste and Thai tomato meat sauce noodles that resembles a mild spaghetti.

When night falls, you can take a 40-minute river and coastal cruise on a Thai swift tail speedboat. The lights of the market and riverside mansions soon give way to the inky blackness of the jungle and then like magic the mangrove trees on the banks light up with hundreds of fireflies. I was thoroughly enjoying the illuminated scene until my Thai friends told me some of them are just solar-powered Christmas lights strung up by ingenious locals. 🙁 

Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market

This market was started by a local farmer in 2004 in the Taling Chan district of Bangkok. Open Saturdays–Sundays and public holidays from 9.00 AM- 5.00 PM, it operates as a regular weekend market for locals with sections for household goods, toys, fresh produce and street food vendors lining the waterfront and in boats.

The highlight of this market are the boat rides down the maze of canals and jungle waterways. While other markets have longer boats that take groups of passengers, this market has small boats that take a couple of passengers for a more private (and fast) ride. The swift tail boats race down jungle canals like motorcycles on Bangkok’s back streets, passing floating houses and vine-covered temples.

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

This is the most famous, and unfortunately touristic, floating market located 100 km southwest of Bangkok. The market was started by locals on canals dug from 1866 to 1868, by King Rama IV, to connect two rivers. The original market disappeared by the mid-20th century due to modern land infrastructure development but in 1971 the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) revived the market as a tourist attraction for foreigners.

Finding parking was easy enough as the throngs of selfie stick waving visitors are bussed in on tour coaches and minibusses. Once inside the market things got crowded and expensive fast! Dockside restaurants with Chinese and English menus serve up strange fusion Thai dishes only tourists would dare try and boat hawkers charge at least three times the normal price for snacks and drinks.

Every boat launches from the market entrance which causes a massive boat traffic jam that rivals rush hour on Sukhumvit Road. Our boatwoman patiently paddled us through this throng and along the canals, stopping at her friend’s stores that line the waterway. Every shop sells the same “hand-made” wood elephants, arts and crafts so don’t expect to find any pearls of the Orient.

In the end, you can decide which floating market to visit based on how much time you have and how much you crave adventure or authentic experiences. Regardless of which market you choose, you can be sure to experience (and enjoy for what it’s worth) the unique mashup of ancient and modern that is Thailand.

Useful Links:
Amphawa Floating Market
Location: https://g.page/amphawa?share
Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market
Location: https://g.page/taladnamkhlongladmayom?share
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damnoen_Saduak_Floating_Market
Location: https://goo.gl/maps/rHFqPfFVgFCcTjr19

About the Author (Editorial Team)

If content is king, there must be a kingmaker. And the universal theme in my favorite stories is our innate human desire for freedom. I have a master’s degree in Chinese education and experience spanning industries and countries. As the Comms guy at DET, I’m obsessed with the stories behind our products and people. Share your stories with me @ https://www.linkedin.com/in/yushi-david-nakayama/

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