One of the most famous floating markets in all of Thailand is the Damnoen Saduak floating market. This market is a huge destination because the canals represent the old traditional way of selling goods and produce.
About 1-1.5 hours outside Bangkok the journey to the floating market is an adventure in itself. Our day started early leaving the hotel at 7:30 am. The rain had stopped and the sun was shining. As we stepped out of the air conditioned hotel we could already feel the sun shining and humidity on our skin. It was going to be a spectacular day. From the busy district of Patpong, we started to drive out of the city onto a big sprawling 8 lane highway. All of the overhead bridges had pictures of the King and/or Royal family. As we moved farther outside the city we could see beautiful huge green fields on either side of the highway. The highway soon turned into smaller roads and then into dirt roads.
After about an hour and two bottles of water later, we had arrived. A semi-empty parking lot beside a concrete platform covered by a wooden awning, it was the entrance to the boat
to take us to the floating market. The canoes are long and shallow painted with decorative pictures on the outside. The engine was turned on, we started off. The sun was beaming down on us as our boat caressed the greenish/brown murky water. We passed by local houses ranging from modern and renovated to period, old homes. Houses in Thailand are built above the ground, almost looking like are on stilts. The top house is open with massive doors that let in the light and breeze. The bottom house is shaded and cool. Hammocks are tied to posts where you can relax and take in the scenery. There is also a practical aspect to the houses to keep the homes dry in case there is a flood. The ride was peaceful and serene. Coconut and durian trees lent some shade on the route as the sun peaked through the trees. After about 15 minutes we arrived at our destination. As we approached the dock we saw two sets of huge wooden decks with shops and stalls. On the water vendors wait for the eager shoppers to sell food, vegetables, purses, drinks and more. As we departed onto the first deck
we walked around to the “gift shop” where there are higher end silks, clothes, etc on display. We were way too excited to spend any time in there. I would highly recommend buying some cold drinks to take with you. We were at the floating market in April where temperatures on average were 40 degrees celsius. You can get dehydrated very quickly.
We went to the other side of the deck and walked down a short flight of stairs. Now we were going onto the water ways, the actual floating market. The canal ways are quite symmetrical like roadways. As you approach the floating intersection other boats will pass by with hawkers eager to sell their wares. If you are interested let the boat driver know and he will slow down so you can interact with the merchant. Like any market, bargaining is expected. However, this is a major, and I mean major, tourist destination. Hard bargaining is not received too well. Don’t expect to cut the quoted price in half or your merchant will sail away.
As we went down the canals we could see floating store fronts. As you see things of interest let the boat
driver know so he can slow down. Thai fabrics, native art pieces, fragrant fresh spices and believe it or not… knock of high end purses are just a few of things you will on sale. I have to say if someone told me I would see knock off purses at the historic floating market, I would never have believed. Well I’ve seen it, so believe it!
The floating market is quite small, really more for historic purposes now, there isn’t a ton of shopping to do here. Although, I still managed to buy stuff J A few things I would recommend you buy/try at the floating market:
• Do try home made ice cream. Our guide was fantastic and showed us a local vendor (on a boat) who was making some home made coconut ice cream. The ice cream is more like an ice milk with the merchant churning the cream. It reminded me of my grandfather and the way he used to make home made ice cream using a wooden churn. The ice cream costs about $30 baht which is a steal. This is one of the best ice creams I have ever had in my life.
I’ve tried ice cream all over the world. How can I describe this? Ice cold, milky; the texture is smooth, creamy and refreshing. The coconut is sweet yet subtle. As you taste it, your taste buds instantly awaken. Unlike heavy creamed ice creams, the milk texture is more delicate. In the heat it was the most perfect thing we could have had. I still think about that ice cream.
• Mango slices with sticky rice and sweet coconut milk. I can’t tell you what a difference it makes to have a local person with you. All of the hidden gems mean for locals become exposed. Our guide was kind enough to buy us this dessert to try. Delicious. The sweetness of the ripe mango contrasts the sticky rice. The silky coconut milk binds them both together. The fruity texture of the juicy dark orange mango slices on top of the rice with silky coconut milk sweet and delicate. Three different textures that melt in your mouth.
• Fresh spices. Thai food is so good because it is prepared fresh. Whether you buy your food from a street vendor, restaurant or food hall, food is prepared fresh to order. There is at least
one vendor at the market that sells fresh spices. You can also ask the vendor to put spice mixes together such as Tom Yam. Anything from cinnamon sticks, lime leaves, lemon grass, and of course, chillies.
As we departed the departed we our boat, there is a little bit of mains street where you can also look around and shop at locals stalls. This would be another way to get to the floating market if want to bypass the canoe entrance. We then departed off to the Rose Garden for lunch.
As you can probably tell, we went to the floating markets through local tour guide. I would highly recommend you book a tour for this particular attraction. The floating market is quite a distance away from Bangkok. A good 1-2 hour highway car drive gets you there. I am not sure if any public transportation goes there, but you can certainly book tours to take you there. There are many places that sell tours to the floating markets in Khao San road or MBK or in Siam. We ended up booking our tour at the hotel, which was expensive by Thai standards, however, for a full
day out with a private driver, guide, and the floating gardens and the rose garden it was well worth it.
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