Some may have caught a glimpse of Bangkok’s floating markets on a Hollywood big screen, with scenes of a canal full of boats and colorful flowers sold from on board by a smiling lady with a straw hat.
In Thailand, most floating markets have metamorphosed into the country’s main tourist attraction: swarming and not as authentic as they were in the past as real local markets, but more developed for tourists. Every bit of it is picturesque, laid-back, fun and full of Thailand’s must-try delicacies.
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Hundred years ago, the Thai used to rely solely on waterways for transportation, mainly because the areas around rivers were the first to be populated. Thus, economic activity around them prospered when daily trading began to develop on board of boats that formed into floating markets.
In the period of Rattanakosin (1782-1868), floating markets were still lively and bustling, but when other means of transportation in Bangkok such as roads and railroads began to develop, people then shifted to land transportation, and floating markets were no longer the main trading hubs.
Floating markets are inseparable from Thai society’s history and culture. By visiting them you can experience hundred years of culture that has assimilated into modern life.
What it’s like
At present, floating markets are vibrant with locals and tourists who amass to spend quality time there with their loved ones, to savor local delicacies, trade daily necessities, all buoyed up by a pleasant atmosphere. Expect it to be packed, especially on weekends.
Touristic floating markets are more organized and well developed to cater for tourists, offering a wide range of activities such as boating, souvenir shopping, massages and many others.
Top floating markets
Below we list five floating markets around Bangkok. If you plan to stay in Bangkok for 2 or 3 days, one visit is enough because of the distances. Most of the floating markets are quite far, some even take 1.5 - 2 hours drive, and you have to start very early to have the best views without the crowds.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
First established in the 1960s, the staggering 100,000 square meters of floating market is Thailand’s most popular and the most touristic one. Unlike 10 - 20 years ago, present Damnoen Saduak is mainly managed for tourists; most of the transactions are between locals and tourists.
Once you arrive, decorated long-tail boats will welcome you and pick you up to the market. After 20 minutes slow and peaceful ride, the bustling market scene then takes over the serenity: yellow bananas, freshly cut coconuts, colorful flowers, ready-made noodles and smiling sellers with straw hats will soon greet you.
Canal exploration by boat is also available for 200-800 Baht per boat. Contact us, to help you find the best deal.
Opening Hours: Daily, 7 am - 12 pm
Location: Chang Wat Ratchaburi 70130
Distance from Bangkok: 100 km, 2 hours drive
Amphawa Floating Market
If you plan to visit Bangkok during a weekend and coincidentally are not quite a morning person, Amphawa floating market is the one to go to. The market doesn’t open until late, but as the second most popular floating market in Thailand, it tends to get packed after 10 am. So it’s still good to leave early.
Grilled seafood such as giant prawn, shellfish and squid is one of the local delicacies that you shouldn’t miss. They’re sold from wooden boats that are docked around the central bridge. Boat trips are also available to row to Wat Bang Temple that is located across the river. It’s famous because it looks as if it had been swallowed by a tree.
An additional option for the night, is to continue your boat trip to Mae Klong River at dusk to watch the beautiful fireflies that swarm the trees at the riverbank area.
Opening Hours: Weekend, 9 am - 8 pm
Location: Chang Wat Samut Songkhram 75110
Distance from Bangkok: 50 km, around 1.5 hours drive
Taling Chan Floating Market
Taling Chan floating market is one of the closest floating markets from Bangkok but also one of the smallest because the river is quite narrow, so only several boats can float simultaneously on it.
To make up for its small size, Taling Chan has quite a large local market attached to it, so you can explore the floating and the non-floating market with restaurants, souvenir shops and cafés. Spend a relaxing time with a foot massage for 200 baht, while sipping your fresh coconut juice, or ride a long-tail dragon boat and explore the canals for 100 baht.
Opening Hours: Saturday and Sunday, 7 am - 5 pm
Location: Chak Phra Road, Bangkok
Distance from Bangkok: 10 km, 15 minutes drive
Bang Khu Wiang Floating Market
Bang Khu Wiang floating market is one of the most non-commercialized floating markets in Bangkok. It has fewer tourists visiting compared to other markets but it offers more authenticity.
Similar to Taling Chan, Bang Khu Wiang is one of the easiest to reach from Bangkok but also the hardest one as it is open from 4 am until 7 am, mainly for locals and for monks to collect alms. Its size is also not very big.
Opening Hours: Daily, 4 am - 7 am
Location: Khwaeng Si Phraya, Khet Bang Rak, Khrung Tep Maha Nakhon 10500
Distance from Bangkok: 5.5 km, 17 minutes drive
Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market
In contrast to busy Damnoen Saduak, at Khlong Lat Mayom floating market, there is a big possibility that you are one of few foreigners visiting. Situated in a lovely green lush area, this floating market is considered the smallest, as it can only sustain 10 boats at most, and there are no little long-tail boats to cruise around on.
Khlong Lat Mayom still operates as a transportation hub and has a medium sized non-floating market beside it that has delicious food, among the most recommended is pla pao (Thai salt-crusted grilled fish).
Opening Hours: Saturday and Sunday, 8 am - 6 pm
Location: Soi Bang Ramat, Bang Phrom, Khet Taling
Distance from Bangkok: 16 km, 20 minutes drive
Tips for a floating market visit
A visit to floating market is one of the most pleasant short escapes in and around Bangkok, especially during weekends. To maximize your visit, we list several tips to help you prepare your trip.
Most of the floating markets open only until midday and become very crowded at around 10 am. To avoid the crowds, leave early and aim to arrive by 9 am. Have your first coffee and your breakfast at the market.
Manage your visit
Each market has its character, so each visit to a different floating market will bring you different insights. However, if you have a short stay in Bangkok, visiting one of them is enough. Do not hesitate to consult us to personalize your trip and to make the most of it.
Pick the right one for you
Based on the market introductions above, find the one you like the most so that we can help you arrange the trip most suitable to your preference. For example, if you prefer the most touristic, large and busy, then Damnoen Saduak floating market is for you. But if you prefer more leisure and less tourists, then Khlong Lat Mayom may suit you better.
Have the camera ready
Everything looks picturesque and exotic on a floating market; capture the best moment on your camera.
Beware of scams
Always check the souvenir before you buy it. Ask around for the price of a boat trip for comparison, before settling for a vendor. Always be aware of your surroundings.
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