A bird’s-eye view of a canal crammed with narrow wooden boats, laden with tropical fruits, fresh vegetables, fragrant flowers and aromatic herbs, rowed by smiling women wearing woven hats, is one of Thailand’s most iconic images. The markets have been an integral part of Thai culture, commerce and social life since the capital was founded in 1782.
Take a look at some of the popular floating markets in and around Bangkok. You can visit them on your Thailand holiday. Some of the markets mentioned here are not ‘floating markets’ in real sense but to be fair, the Thai term talaat nam literally translates as ‘water market’. Some don't even have vendors on boats, but all are centred in and around a river or canal, and it's possible to arrange a boat trip at any of them.
1. Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
The most popular floating market for foreign tourists is Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Ratchaburi Province, about 100kms from southwest of Bangkok. Visit this market if you are looking for picture perfect postcard shots of floating markets. This is the right place to stock up on Thai souvenirs your family awaits when you get back home. You can visit this colourful and buzzing floating market between early mornings till afternoon. You can take the public transport buses departing from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal. The frequency of buses is in every 40mins and it will take 2 hours to reach Ratchaburi. The bus will drop you at a boat terminal from where you can take a boat ride (for 1000 Baht or less if you have good bargaining power) or walk for 15 minutes (towards the left of bus station) and get a boat ride for cheaper (about 100-200 Baht).
2. Bang Noi Floating Market
A short distance away from the north of the famous Amphawa market is the Bang Noi Floating Market. This charmingly laid-back market has more character with wooden boardwalks supporting the traditional houses that are home to grocery shops, cool cafes, a handful of chic boutiques and even a few home-stays that draw locals and in-the-know tourists alike. It is a weekend market that is open from about 8 a.m. to late afternoon. This market is just about 6 kms north of Amphawa floating market. Take the same route and transport and you will reach Bang Noi.
3. Amphawa Floating Market
Amphawa floating market is an afternoon/evening floating market held on every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Big, buzzy and artsy, this market heaves with diners and shoppers in the late afternoon, which might start to feel a little uncomfortably crowded for few people, but the lively atmosphere is part of its appeal and the food is second to none. Attracting local families and friends, Bangkok hipsters and Asian tourists, it’s Bangkok’s Chatuchak or ‘JJ’ Market on the water. Eating is a more organised affair here with boats bearing signs, prices, menus, and photos of dishes, and low benches running alongside the water’s edge with tiny plastic stools. Apart from exploring this floating market in Amphawa province, you can also visit Wat Bang Kung and Wat Bangkae temples, the museum of Thai deserts, enjoy boat rides through canals or take a fireflies tour at dusk time. Take a mini bus from the Victory Monument station in Bangkok and it will drop you just next to the bridge which has steps down to the canal. If you take a bus from the Southern Bus Terminal, it will drop you at Samut Songkram (also known as Maeklong). From here, take a local songthaew (small passenger truck) to Amphawa. If you want a relaxed trip, you can also hire a taxi from Bangkok. The travel time from Bangkok to Amphawa is about two hours.
4. Don Wai Floating Market (Nakhon Pathom Province)
More of a riverside market, this century-old market is worth a visit because of the most incredible variety of food in Thailand. This market is open every day from morning till afternoon.
5. Taling Chan Floating Market (Bangkok)
A quick taxi ride from central Bangkok, this is more of a riverside market that has number of boats tied up alongside the pier. Opened in the late 1980s, this was among the first 'new age' floating markets to be set up explicitly for tourism. This market is open only on Saturdays and Sundays from morning till noon.
6. Bang Nok Kwaek Market (Samut Songkhram Province)
Another old Thai market, it certainly has an old time charm and friendly shopkeepers. You can also visit Tha Kha floating market located in the same province for its authentic scenes of farmers rowing the long-tail boats. This market is open only on full/new moon days of Saturdays and Sundays between 5am till 12pm.
7. Ayothaya Floating Market (Ayutthaya Province)
Located in the north of Bangkok, this is situated very close to Elephant Camp. Next to this market is another floating market named Ayutthaya Klong Sa Bua with an entrance fee. Open only during weekends, Ayutthaya Klong Sa Bua is more of a ‘dinner theatre’ market than a traditional market.
8. Bang Nam Pheung Floating Market (Samut Prakan Province)
This one is a relatively new floating market near Bangkok built along a canal that flows into the Chap Phraya River. Reachable by a quick ferry ride from Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok, you can stuff yourself with delicious local Thai food, lie down for a massage, shop for locally made health products or even check out your karaoke skills on Thai country tunes. You can visit this market only on Saturdays and Sundays between morning and afternoon.
9. Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market
Located within the Bangkok city limits, this floating market is for locals to meet and share food on weekends. Apart from eating, you can also indulge in activities like visiting the petting zoo or explore the arts and crafts station with kids. This market is open only on Saturdays and Sundays from morning till afternoon.
10. Kwan Riam Floating Market
Based on the San Saeb canal in east Bangkok, this modern floating market has funky covered boats and even electronic toilets. This market is open only on Saturdays and Sundays from morning till afternoon.
11. Lam Phaya Floating Market
Located in a village on the Tha Jeen River to the west of Bangkok, this floating market features atmosphere which is more local than touristy and features ample of room for sit-down meals. You can visit this beautiful floating market on Saturdays and Sundays between morning and afternoon.
12. Khlong Suan Floating Market
If you are keen to explore a classic canal-side Thai market, this is the place for you. It offers excellent variety of food with old school ambiance. This floating market is open every day between early morning and afternoon.