One of the highlights of a trip to Bangkok is the floating market. Known in Thai as Damnoen Saduak, what used to be an authentic traditional Thai floating market is now predominantly a tourist attraction. But, if you visit the floating market early in the morning before the tourists arrive, you can still experience a truly unique Thai shopping experience.
If you don’t go with an organized tour, you can take a bus or a taxi out to the market. Arriving before 9am, you can beat the crowds and enjoy the market surrounded mostly by Thai shoppers and shopkeepers. Damnoen Saduak – the floating market is just over an hour’s drive from Bangkok. On the drive, you will also see authentic Thai teak houses, rice fields and orchards – more typical Thai than some of the tourist sights in Bangkok.
When you arrive, the first thing you will notice is the enslaught of color and noise. All up and down the canal, you’ll see dozens of small boats manned by a ‘shopkeeper’. Often wearing the traditional Thai navy blue farmer’s shirt and pants, and a wide brimmed hat made out of bamboo leaves, they ply their trade up and down the river.
Everything you can think of is available on the boats on the floating market. You’ll see women cooking noodles on small gas fires at the back of a small row boat. Flowers, vegetables, fruit, shoes, clothing, snacks and dessert all pulled up in boats – you’ll find it all here.
You can choose to walk down the banks of the canal and beckon the shopkeepers on the canal over to you. Their boat will stop, they’ll take your order and, if it requires cooking, will whip up a delicious breakfast in a few minutes flat.
Or you can hire a small boat and head out onto the canal yourself. Pulling up alongside boats you want to shop at is as simple as pulling your car into the parking lot at your local supermarket in the US or England.
When you’ve finished with your boat trip, make sure you walk the length and breadth of the stalls set up on the banks of the canal. The floating market is the main attraction but there are also numerous stalls and restaurants on the bank that are also worth visiting.
Hordes of little kids will also magically appear near you and will try to hawk their packs of postcards, t shirts and packets of Thai herbs and spices. If you speak a little Thai, these kids are great to talk to as they have met so many foreigners they’ve lost the shyness Thai kids often have.
So take an early morning trip the next time you’re in Bangkok and visit the floating market. Just make sure you arrive early and that you bargain, and you’ll have a wonderful time. It’s a fascinating place to take photographs too.