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Experience the Floating Markets of Thailand

By Kirsty T.
February 27, 2017

Shopping is a popular pastime in Thailand and massive malls and street markets can be found in virtually every part of the country. However, in the days before paved roads covered the land, traders used Thailand’s waterways to sell their fresh produces and wares.

A number of floating markets can still be found in and around Bangkok and visiting these markets provides an interesting insight into Thailand’s past. These floating markets are known locally as talat naam and feature traditional wooden boats piled high with fruit, vegetables and flowers floating along the narrow waterways.

The rich colours of these market scenes are exciting, especially to people who are used to purchasing most of their food from modern supermarkets. Here are a few markets I’ve had the opportunity to explore, and which you may wish to on your next trip to Bangkok.

Damnoen Saduak

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the whole of Thailand. If you book a trip to a floating market through a travel operator in Bangkok, you will without doubt be taken to Damnoen Saduak.

Market woman on the famous floating market Damnoen Saduak in Bangkok. It is a traditional market on the khlongs, where locals sell goods and food from the boats.

This floating market is located around a two-hour drive from the heart of Bangkok and is surrounded by picturesque countryside. The trip includes the chance to explore the narrow network of canals that surround the floating market in a long wooden boat.

However, while speeding along the canals past the tiny houses that line these waterways can be a thrilling experience, visitors may be less than impressed when they arrive at Damnoen Saduak itself. The entire scene is dominated by stalls selling trashy tourist treasures. The rich colours I had been looking forward to take the form of cheap souvenirs.

If you take up the invitation to climb into another boat and drift through the floating market you will be steered through the crowded canal where you are bombarded by merchants on all sides. There are so many different boats all crushed together that it is nearly impossible to progress along the waterway. The sellers take advantage of this, grabbing onto the boats and resticting visitors from moving along the river as they try to ply their wares.

tourists at Damnoen Saduak in Thailand

Tourists and traditional vendors on the famous floating market Damnoen Saduak in Bangkok.

Taling Chan Floating Market

This charming floating market takes place on Saturdays and Sundays from 9am to 4pm. While the market may be much smaller than Damnoen Saduak, it is a genuine floating market where farmers from the suburbs around Bangkok travel each weekend to sell their goods.

The atmosphere at the Taling Chan Floating Market is very relaxed and visitors can sit at the side of the canal and simply take in the atmosphere as they watch scenes of local life unfold around them. Few tourists tend to take the time to travel to Taling Chan Floating Market, which means that the main visitors are Thai people who want to buy fruit and vegetables as well as a range of other types of fresh produce directly from the sellers.

A Thai woman grills seafood in a boat at Taling Chan Floating Market in Bangkok in November 2013.

As you approach the canal at the Taling Chan Floating Market you will be meet by the sight of women wearing traditional blue overalls and conical hats, slowly paddling their boats filled with wares.

Two other floating markets worth exploring

Tha Kha Floating Market: This traditional floating market is held six days a month from 6am to 12noon on weekends. Tha Kha Floating Market is located just ten kilometres past Damnoen Saduak and the best time to visit is around 7am.

Bang Khu Wian Floating Market: Head to the Bang Kruai areas of Nonthanburi around dawn to witness the magic of this traditional floating market. Visitors will be able to take in traditional scenes of village life. To get there, simply take a boat from the Tha Chang Pier near the Grand Palace.