Gliding along a canal in a long slim boat while checking out wares displayed in other boats is a pretty special way to shop. Fruits, souvenirs, coconut water: flat-bottomed boats are piled with goods and crammed along the canals. Called “floating markets,” these are remnants from the days when canal travel was a major form of transport in Bangkok.
Today, Bangkok’s floating markets are mostly targeted at tourists who come for the unique experience and colorful photo opportunities. Though the days are pretty much gone when the floating market was an actual place for locals to shop, there are some less-touristy spots, and visiting any of the markets is a worthy day trip from Bangkok.
There are about a half-dozen floating markets in and around Bangkok; here are a few of our favorites:
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
This market is the most popular with tourists, and is often referred to simply as “The Floating Market.” It had a role in a Bond film, and has been on the tourist map ever since. You’ll find most of the same goods you’d find at one of the night markets along Khao San Road or Sukhumvit Road, but you’re not really going for the shopping, right?
The majority of travelers visit Damnoen Saduak on a tour, easily booked through any travel agent in Bangkok, and it’s probably the easiest way to visit it. If you want to do it on your own, however, you can catch a bus from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal to Samut Sangkhram Ratchaburi, walk along the canal passageway and hire a boat from the pier. The market is about 80km south of Bangkok.
Bang Khu Wiang Floating Market
Far less touristy than Damnoen Saduak, at Bang Khu Wiang you can see monks arriving at dawn to receive their alms. This market is more traditional than most of the other floating markets in Bangkok (as evidenced by it’s opening hours: 4am – 7am! Perhaps a good one to hit while you’re still jet-lagged and awake at odd hours…).
Bang Khu Wiang is the easiest floating market in Bangkok to reach. Tours are fewer here, but you can catch a water taxi at Wat Chalo Pier in Bangkok, which leave every 15 minutes starting at 5am; it’s a 45-minute ride.
Taling Chan floating market wins points for having a dining area at one end of it: floating kitchens serve diners specialties such as som tam (spicy papaya salad) and other Thai favorites.
This market is also fairly traditional, offering little for the tourist except photo opportunities and fresh produce. Taling Chan is open from 9am to 5pm on weekends only. It’s located in Thonburi, and you can take pubic buses numbers 79 or 83. You can also hire a long-tail boat from any of Bangkoks large piers on the Chao Phraya River.
[Photo credit: Mobilephotos@heidenstrom, Flickr]