Last Updated on March 1, 2023
Floating markets are special features in Thailand’s shopping community. These boats filled with goods were significant for bartering and trading for centuries in places with large water channels. Anything from food to handmade trinkets can be purchased around these markets.
The need for floating markets is not as prevalent as it was in the early periods for Thailand, but they still serve as popular tourist attractions. Read on for tips on how to make the best out of your floating market visit!
Book a tour
The best way to make the most out of a visit to the floating markets is to book a tour. Several services offer tours that can cater to your interests in sightseeing, food sampling, and exploring the floating market. Many tours are reasonably priced and hosted by locals who are very familiar with the area and the worthwhile places to visit around the markets.
Damnoen Saduak, the most popular floating market, is the most likely place you will receive a tour. Private tours of this market provide a guide for your party who can take you through the water on a longtail boat. Some tours incorporate visits to the floating markets in between travelling to other attractions. If you are interested in the history behind the area as much as being able to shop and eat, booking a tour will give you the best of both worlds.
Predictably, these markets attract a lot of tourists and can become crowded very early in the day. Depending on which market you choose to travel to, the water can be packed with boats by as early as ten in the morning. You should aim to be at your market by nine o’clock to fully experience the atmosphere before the rush kicks in.
Some markets close in the afternoon, which is yet another reason to start your day early. For local markets like Amphawa that don’t have a large tourist following, you may have a better chance at enjoying a longer time there. Amphawa is open into the evening and hosts firefly cruise tours down the canal at night. The time of day also dictates what is being sold on the boats in some markets. Fruits and prepared food are featured in the morning and souvenirs dominate the afternoon, although you are sure to find a mix of all sorts of goods all day long.
Use public transportation
Most of the popular floating markets are central to Bangkok, but may take a while to travel to wherever you are. Taxis are a common way to get to these locations, but if you are travelling to Damnoen Saduak or a market of equal tourist traffic, the taxi fees are subject to be a bit pricier. Your best option to get to the farther floating markets is to take the public bus.
Public transportation is the most cost effective way to travel the hour or so it may take to get to the markets. For less than five dollars you can ride one way to your destination with ease. Make sure to know exactly which market you intend to visit before deciding between a taxi and the public bus. Taling Chan is a smaller floating market that does not have as much of a tourist draw. For floating markets like that, taking a taxi will be less costly and more comfortable than public transportation.
Like most outdoor markets of this kind, floating markets can be a way for tourists to spend a lot of money. Souvenirs and the produce you can purchase may be more expensive than you think. Be aware of inflated prices in popular areas and try to shop around before making a final purchase.
Local markets like Khlong Lat Mayom are not only closer to Bangkok but more reasonably prices. Again, because it is not as flooded with tourism, the mood is calm and not dictated by making sales. This market in particular has vendors by land and water that focus on freshly cooked foods and snacks. Overall, the most impressive point of any of these markets is the sights, so save your money for something delicious along your journey and skip the knick-knacks.
Visit more than one
Each floating market has its own distinct personality and surroundings, so seeing one is certainly not seeing them all. Although you may be tempted to just visit Damnoen Saduak or Amphawa, it is worth it to give the smaller markets a try as well.
The close proximity of Khlong Lat Mayom and Talin Chan, for example, makes it easy to travel between them. The duality of markets on land alongside the canals makes each of these places unique and fun to visit. You will get to see different parts of Bangkok and sample different foods along the way going to the different floating markets.
Take a camera
Floating markets are a part of Thailand’s culture and history, and most likely unlike any market you have ever been to. Aside from being able to purchase a variety of goods, for most people the biggest is draw is being able to ride down the canal and sightsee.
You will not want to forget your camera when visiting the floating markets. You are likely to witness boats covered with the vibrant colors of flowers, fruits, and textiles reaching from edge to edge of the canal. If you are making a day trip out of it, you might even be able to snap a picture on the canal as the sun is going down, capturing the boisterous atmosphere as the markets transition from day to night.
These markets are regarded as one of the “must-see” attractions of Bangkok, and for good reason. There is no other place you can go to see a collection of vendors selling their items like this. Beautiful sights, tasty food, and a canal ride are all that is in store for you on your next floating market visit.