Thailand earlier depended heavily on its rivers and canals for trade and transportation. Even now, it does, even if not as much, and now there is the added icing of tourism. Floating markets in and around Bangkok give you a glimpse of the Thai way of life, one of hospitality, vivacity, and culinary excellence. Thailand holidays are incomplete without paying a visit to these floating markets, indulging in some bargaining and enjoying some local treats. Fresh fruits, vegetables, handcrafted jewelry, embroidered handbags, and various other trinkets are sold on boats at these markets. Quite often, Thailand packages offer boat cruises along these floating markets.
The Taling Chan market is located in Bangkok city, and is a conventional Thai market frequented mostly by locals. You will see fewer tourists here compared to the other markets outside the city such as the Damnoen Saduak or the Amphawa. It operates on weekends only, and it is a good idea to reach slightly early, around 8 am. Take a long-tail boat cruise along the canals and watch the vendors sell their ware. Sample some excellent roasted seafood that is served in the floating restaurants.
Even before it featured in a James Bond film a few decades ago, The Damnoen Saduak floating market was already popular among tourists. If you want that perfect shot of the vibrance and color of a Thai market, this is where you should head. Traditional puppets, handbags, the wide-brimmed hats characteristic of the Thai, and a variety of knick knacks can be found here. Most Thailand tour packages offer a trip to the Damnoen Saduak market. Located in the Ratchaburi province, this market is always brimming with tourists, but it is also always teeming with life. So don’t let the fact that it’s a cliched tourist experience put you off, because it’s well worth a visit when you’re in Thailand.
Drive an hour outside of Bangkok, and you will be in Samut Songkram, home to two famous markets, the Amphawa and Tha Kha. On your way, you will see traditional Thai houses and several salt fields on either side of the road. The Amphawa sees fewer Western tourists than the Damnoen Saduak. Pick up a few souvenirs here, they’re less expensive here than in the other markets. Sample some local pastries and if possible, go on a Firefly Tour, which takes you to spot thousands of fireflies after dusk.
The Tha Kha is a 10 or 15 minute minute drive from Amphawa, and is an equally authentic Thai experience. Take a boat ride along the market, and perhaps also visit a local palm sugar factory.
A visit to a floating market in Thailand is an opportunity to see life in Thailand, as it is. The friendly faces of the locals as they yell out to each other, the sweet coconut pancakes and delectable Pad Thai, the hundred different colors of the landscape – it’s all here. So the next time you’re checking out Thailand holiday packages, make sure you have a trip to at least one floating market on your itinerary.
Nandini Muralidharan is an engineer-turned-writer, possessive bibliophile and a travel junkie. She loves love collecting random bits of information about any place she visits, and weaving a story out of it. An obsessive photographer, she records any memory of a place from the beautiful Helsingor castle to the “Delizia icecream – keeps you tongue tied” signboard on the highway. Currently, she writes for WeAreHolidays. At WeAreHolidays she is responsible for writing about holiday packages.