Thailand’s floating markets evoke an earlier era, when waterways were the main conduits of trade. Today they couple exotic wares—tropical fruits, fragrant foods, and the necessities of city life—with opportunities to meet colorful locals in traditional longboats. Here are some of the Bangkok area’s best floating markets.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
In Ratchaburi, some 62 miles (100 kilometers) southwest of downtown Bangkok, this market takes place each morning from 7 to 11am on the Damnoen Saduak canal. If you can, come early—the best stuff goes quickly. Test your bartering skills from shore or take a paddleboat tour through the chaos, ordering fried bananas served via fishing pole from neighboring boats. Get your camera ready for great shots of women in traditional wicker hats and their loads of fruits and vegetables, but remember to be courteous and ask your photo subjects for permission before snapping. Many floating market tours tag on trips to the River Kwai, the stupa at Phra Pathom Chedi (Phra Pathommachedi), and the Rose Garden, all of which are all well worth a visit.
Taling Chan Floating Market
For something a little closer to the center of Bangkok, this smaller market, some nine miles (15 kilometers) west of downtown, offers an authentic experience to mingle with locals as they drift along a sleepy canal. Take a private tour and learn how to barter for fruits and vegetables grown in gardens nearby. Once you’ve had enough shopping, find a quiet spot to enjoy fresh seafood before hopping on a long-tail boat trip through the neighboring canals.
Amphawa Floating Market
Just nine miles (15 kilometers) from the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, this mid-size shopping area is the region’s only floating night market (Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from about 4 to 9pm), and tends to be more popular with Thai locals than visitors. Food is king at Amphawa, and this is apparently where “boat noodles” originated. Watch as local vendors maneuver their row boats overflowing with steaming woks of pad Thai, vats of traditional Thai-style coffee, and carefully packaged desserts. When the sun goes down, rent a boat and watch the place light up as you drift along the waterways.