Canal Boats, Food Stalls, Fireflies and Temples:
A Day Trip from Bangkok to the Four Most Popular Floating Markets
A lot of travellers (and residents alike) love to visit one of the near-Bangkok floating markets. True, they are often more canal-side market than actual floating market, but the excitement and the colourful atmosphere, the exotic and in places otherworldly settings, and the National-Geographic-like photo’s fairly easily taken with your (maybe not that professional) camera, add to the allure. All of the described markets can be reached from Bangkok as a part of a one day expedition, and with some you can extend your visit into the night hours and experience the after-dusk magic, as well as observe some mystical creatures of the dark.
Probably the most famous, the most touristy and therefore the most crowded floating market is the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Ratchaburi Province. That said, it is one of the few floating markets that actually is a floating market. No shortage of boats there, and it’s open daily from 7 a.m. till noon. Tours can be organised by many Bangkok agencies, or you can venture there yourself by taking bus 78 from Southern Bus Terminal. If you arrive really early in the morning, you can escape the extreme crowdedness of the day.
A slightly less famous and less touristy option is the Amphawa Floating Market, which is more popular with Thais than foreigners. It is located 50 kilometres from Bangkok and if travelling independently, can be reached by one of the minibuses departing frequently (when full) from BTS Victory Monument. Of course, you can also join one of the numerous tours. This market is suited to the non-early-birds as it only gets going later in the day. I would recommend staying there overnight (home-stays are available), since this gives you an opportunity to take a ride in a long-tail boat after sunset and view the Coleoptera Lampyridae, better known as fireflies. Many trees and bushes are literally brilliant with them, all pulsating as one and giving a magical, Christmas-like appearance to nature. I remember one of the ladies on our boat questioning if the spectacle was indeed natural, or if sneaky locals had “put fairylights on the trees”. However, it was real. Mother Nature can create things far more beautiful than the spoilt human mind can comprehend. It was a highlight of the Amphawa Floating Market, which is open on Saturdays and Sundays only. Very popular are also the boat tours to the temples and islands. But just a few metres from the river there is a peculiar looking temple, resembling the Ta Prohm temple in the Angkor temple complex in Cambodia (also known as the ‘Lara Croft Temple’ to the modern movie fans or the ‘Indiana Jones temple’ to the slightly more dusty ones). You’ll recognise it when you see it. This Thai version of it is in active use, and is often overlooked by tourists, but is visited by many devotees and also houses a golden Buddha.
The next two markets are almost within Bangkok and can be visited in a combined trip. The first is Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market and the other Taling Chan Floating Market. Apart from enjoying the lively and genuine market ambiance, and the food, Taling Chan is also a good destination to take an inexpensive boat trip on Bangkok’s canals or khlongs. Both markets can be reached by taking the BTS train to its last stop – Wongwian Yai (Silom Line) – and then getting a taxi, as they are only a few kilometres from each other. Note that they are open on weekends only. Khlong Lat Mayom is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Taling Chan from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
If you decide to visit one of Bangkok’s floating markets, you are bound to have a unique and picturesque experience. Avoid the tourist traps and do it at your own pace and according to your own preferences. You might catch a tantalising glimpse of some of the old Thai tradition, while enjoying your food served from a long-tail boat.