The Best Floating Markets in & around Bangkok

08 Aug 2021

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Thailand’s floating markets are truly a feast for the senses. Hundreds of teak longtail boats jostle in the morning light, clattering woks fill the air with scents, and mouth-watering morsels lie around every bend. A tour is a kaleidoscope of new tastes, smells, and textures — all key ingredients to making the kind of vivid memories you'll savour long after your trip ends.

Still, with such a large number of markets out there, deciding which to add to your itinerary can be tricky. The biggest cater almost entirely to the international tourist trade, and can rival the city centre in terms of clamour and congestion, while plenty of outliers in smaller suburbs remain relatively laid-back, local affairs.

There’s no right or wrong kind of market to visit, but since the most popular ones are an hour or more from Bangkok, it is important to make an informed decision before you set out. We hope our picks will help you make the right choice for you, whatever your travel style.

Amphawa Floating Market

Best for getting that quintessential Anthony Bourdain experience

Riverfront stalls at Amphawa Floating Market

Amphawa is the second most popular floating market in the region, and attracts just as many locals as tourists with its relaxed, artsy vibe, and reputation as a foodie nirvana. The focus here is on eating, drinking, and having a good time, and the market is especially highly regarded for its super-fresh seafood, some of which is barbecued in wooden sampans moored around the central bridge and served to hungry punters directly from the boat. You can graze on soft-shell crab, fresh grilled squid, and giant river prawns, as well as a huge variety of local desserts decorated with vivid fruits and exotic flowers.

Unlike many others, Amphawa is an afternoon market, and the comparatively slow pace entices many visitors to linger. Grab an iced coffee and enjoy a spot of people watching on the wooden boardwalk (you’ll see Bangkok hipsters listening to live jazz, young couples chatting, and local kids sticky with lotus milk ice cream) or spend the afternoon wandering the stalls on the riverbank, which sell hand-painted postcards and vintage toys. In the wet season, it’s worth staying after dark, when you can join an evening cruise to see the colonies of fireflies that flicker in the old-growth trees on the riverbanks.

Opening hours: Friday-Sunday, noon-8pm

How to get there: The easiest way to reach the market from central Bangkok is by taxi (£15 each way, 70 minutes). Alternatively, take a train from Thon Buri to Ratchaburi, then a taxi to the market (from £5, three hours)

We love: Crispy mussel pancakes (THB 15), beef noodles (THB 15), and squid dressed in lime and chilli (THB 100)

 

Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market

Best for getting off the beaten path and seeing a slice of everyday life 

A boat ride through the backwaters of Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market

If you’re after the typical floating market experience, this isn’t it. You won’t find thousands of longtail boats or a dizzying variety of products. Instead, you’ll find a relatively local and untouristy market in the outer district of Taling Chan, where hundreds of people gather at the weekend to grab a bite, have a natter, and bag fresh local ingredients for supper. The market is just far enough away from the skyscrapers of the centre to feel like a small village, and is a great place for a breather from the frenetic pace of the city.

Khlong Lat Mayom is built around a series of residential canals, and a lot of the action takes place on the riverbanks, so prepare for a lot of climbing in and out of boats. Still, the canal network makes the area very easy to explore. A round-trip cruise departing from the centre of the market takes travellers on a relaxing journey through thatch-roof neighbourhoods, small orchards, and riverside gardens — and there’s even a local farmyard where visitors can feed the resident sheep. We recommend doing this trip in the morning, while the village is still sleepy, then heading to the market proper in the afternoon, where you’ll find all kinds of prepared foods from sticky rice to banana pancakes. Be warned: English is not widely spoken, but food is a great leveller.

Opening hours: Saturday-Sunday, 7am-5pm

How to get there: A taxi from central Bangkok takes about 15 minutes and costs around £3 each way. Tell the driver to take you to Talad Nam Khlong Lat Mayom

We love: Sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves (THB 10), fried fish paste balls (THB 20), and grilled giant river prawns (THB 200 for a set of seven)

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Best for getting that photo you see in all the travel guides

Traditional wooden sampans at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

When you think of floating markets, you’re probably thinking of Damnoen Saduak. It is the oldest and the biggest market in Thailand, it featured in the James Bond film "The Man with the Golden Gun", and it practically guarantees photographers the atmospheric shots plastered on all the postcards. However, tourists have somewhat loved the markets to death — the buses that disgorge their loads daily mean the waterways are about as congested as roads in the city centre, and the market is really a picturesque traffic jam geared towards peddling overpriced kitsch. Some locals visit the auxiliary canals at the crack of dawn, before the tourists flood in, but the set-up feels manufactured, and some aggressive touts make it difficult to soak up the vibes.

Still, for all its flaws, this is the place to go if you want that traditional floating market aesthetic. Thousands of paddleboats are crammed into a labyrinth of narrow waterways, stalls are decked with fresh flowers, and most vendors dress in high-topped straw farmer's hats — all of which make for great photos, especially from the vantage point on the main bridge. Delicious food is on offer if you high-tail it past the naff souvenirs, albeit at higher-than-usual prices. If you’re a photographer, Damnoen Saduak is worth a visit, but we’d recommend hiring a local guide for a private paddleboat tour — far less noisy than a motorised boat, with a better chance at making a real connection with the local culture and uncovering some hidden gems.

Opening hours: Monday-Sunday, 7am-5pm

How to get there: The easiest way to reach the market from central Bangkok is by taxi (£15 each way, 90 minutes). Alternatively, take a train from Bang Bamru station to Ratchaburi, then a taxi to the market (from £5, two hours). You can also arrange a guided tour, including round-trip transportation, from £35 per person

We love: Coconut ice cream (THB 40), mango sticky rice (THB 50), and boat noodles (THB 60)

 

Find out more

For further information and inspiration, see our travel guide to Thailand, and search our collection of holidays to Thailand and Bangkok.

You can also discover more places to eat in Bangkok, and plan your own visit to the Grand Palace.

Nick Elvin contributed to this post.

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