Thailand is becoming more and more popular as a touristic attraction, and small wonder, considering it is full of culture shocks and surprises – basically a different planet – for someone who traveled only in the Americas and Europe. From martial arts to the meat of choice, Asian people are known for their adaptability, and floating markets are yet another proof of how versatile humans can be when beset by Mother Nature: when unable to pave roads for trade, water may prove just as reliable an asset as others.
The concept may seem awkward, but once you find yourself in the middle of a floating market, you know the experience is quite unique. In some, movement is done solely by boat, and if you don’t want to paddle, you can hire boatmen for a cheap price. Others have piers and you can simply walk by and let yourself be mesmerized by the kaleidoscope of exotic fruits, strange clothes, traditional food and hand-made souvenirs.
This floating market is located north of Bangkok, in the Ayutthaya province, right next to the Elephant Camp. If you go trekking, you can’t miss it. The entrance is free and you can roam at your leisure. Besides the usual souvenir shops and food stalls, it offers a variety of shows and river boat rides.
11. Klong Sa Bua
Also built in the Ayutthaya province, this floating market is only open during weekends, and is more similar to a theme theater than a Thai market. Most vendors sell food, and visitors buy it before watching the show, similar to popcorn at the movies. The show variety is rich though, and entrance is free.
10. Taling Chan
If you are in Bangkok and you want something closer, this floating market is actually in the city. However, compared to Damnoen Saduak, for instance, it only offers a small portion of the whole atmosphere, with merely several boats pulling along the pier.
9. Tha Kha
This floating market is located in the Samut Songkhram area, and is a good synthesis of the two above. There are not many tourists, but boat merchants are numerous and colorful enough to quench your thirst for local tradition. Besides the fact that it is difficult to reach, the Kha is a worthwhile visit, and you can easily hire boat rides from the market to soak in the experience.
Also in Samut Songkhram, this market used to be a favorite place for Thai tourists. While the internet made it popular for “farangs” as well, it is a good mixture between the riverside market and Tha Kha.
7. Bang Noi
Not far from the Amphawa floating market, this one goes way back for more than a century, so if you’re looking for something with tradition, but not necessarily as picturesque, this is the place for you. The quality of the hand-made souvenirs is superior to that of the craftsmen in other markets, mainly because of the prestige, and it is only open on weekends.
6. Bang Nok Kwaek
Also located in Samut Songkhram, this is another market of old, but without the fuss surrounding the one in Amphawa. It rather offers a vintage atmosphere, with the spirit of the good old shopkeepers of distant times. It is probably the best place to go if you want a chill environment, untainted by tourists. River tours are available as well.
5. Bang Nampheung
A relatively young floating market, this one is located in the Samut Prakan Province, built along a tributary of the Chao Phraya River. It is famous for the souvenirs and hand crafted items, but it is rather for Thais, in the sense that it’s not very rich in traditional cuisine, offering instead products considered exotic by the denizens of Bangkok, such as fruits and foods that aren’t native to Thailand. It’s not really a good place to see the historical ways in which Thai merchants used to make up their living, but just a place to relax after a long week. While it’s not very rich in boats either, you will still find some for rent, but make sure to arrive before 2 pm.
4. Muang Boran
This floating market is part of the Ancient City of Siam outdoor museum in Bangkok, which is filled with architectural miniatures of important effigies in Thailand. Among the attractions, the Muang Boran market is great to get a glimpse of traditional Thai life, especially if you don’t have time to visit another floating market. The houses and architecture are particularly well maintained. The whole market is connected by wooden bridges, offering a great setting for photos, and as usual, the food is extraordinary.
3. Damnoen Saduak
Probably the most popular floating market in Thailand, Damnoen Saduak is located about 100 kilometers outside Bangkok. It offers the most authentic feel of the archaic lifestyle, making it ideal for pictures, and to get the best idea of what Thailand tradition is about. If you want to avoid tourist crowds, you should go there early, preferably before 9 am.
2. Khlong Lat Mayom
Another market mainly for the locals, this one is very easy to reach. From the center of Bangkok, it’s about 100 baht by cab. It is very close to Taling Chan, so if you are hunting for floating markets, you can easily visit two in the same day and get an idea. In Khlong Lat Mayom you will probably be the only tourist, but unlike Bang Nampheung, this is a 100% traditional Thai market. It’s probably the most recommended in Bangkok if you want to get the best out floating market visits: authenticity, relaxation, and lack of tourist fuss.
1. Pattaya Floating Market
The city of Pattaya hosts the largest floating market in the world – over 100000 square meters, and if you haven’t seen any before, you should know it is a peerless experience. Split into four parts, each representing a region of Thailand, it is probably the most complete floating market. You can find virtually anything: there is no dish that can escape your grasp, from all the Thai regions and eras, houses representing the various architectural styles of every region, hand-made craftwork, daily feature shows, and a wood-carving museum. It is open every day from 10am to 11pm and the entrance fee is 200 baht.
Whether you are a fan of bargaining or not, the floating markets are a great way to immerse in one of the most iconic traditions of Asia, or a great pretext to spend a quiet afternoon in “quantum capsule” outside the rushed and busy atmosphere of the city.