In times gone by Thailand’s rivers and canals were lively hives of activity, with farmers transporting their wares by boat to trade them in the cities and then heading back home a little richer.
While Thailand’s floating markets may not be the thriving and vital part of Thai daily life that they once were, they are nevertheless still vibrant social hubs where merchant communities gather to sell, trade, eat and chat, and there is always a jovial atmosphere.
There are a number of floating markets near Bangkok, and they are a major attraction for many tourists. Visiting these unique markets is well worth a jaunt out of the city, and can make for a fantastic day trip.
The Best Floating Markets Near Bangkok
Amphawa Floating Market
Amphawa is one of the largest Bangkok floating markets.
At weekends it can get crazily crowded with locals who come to enjoy the scenic setting amongst the traditional teak wood shops, sample the delicacies like freshly grilled mackerel, shellfish and prawns, and splash some cash in the boutiques lining the narrow waterside walkways.
From here it’s possible to take a 1.5 hour longtail boat trip to explore the surrounding canals and rivers, and nearby temples.
Despite the crowds the atmosphere here is fun and laid back. Souvenir shops and food sellers are interspersed with hip boutiques selling fashions and other goods, and shops spread away from the river to stretch up side streets all around the town.
50 kilometers southeast of Bangkok (about 1.5 to 2 hours drive away), Amphawa floating market is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 8am to 9pm. To beat the crushing crowds it’s best to come earlier in the day.
Tha Kha Floating Market
Not far from Amphawa (only 10km) is the smaller and far less touristy floating market of Tha Kha.
There are a good number of floating vendors here and the atmosphere is more tranquil than the bigger market at Amphawa. Although the choice of products to buy here is decidedly more limited, it’s still possible to eat well and more cheaply than at Amphawa. What’s more, a visit here feels like you’re sampling truly authentic Thai rural living.
A ride on a rowboat here is a blissful experience through winding little waterways dripping with exotic overhead foliage.
Tha Kha floating market opens once every 4-5 days according to moon phases, so you’ll need to check that it will be open before you go.
Bang Nam Phueng Floating Market
Things get off to an early start at Bang Nam Phueng floating market situated a mere 20 kilometers east of Bangkok. It’s small in size, and there is little in the way of floating boats selling their goods. Instead the market is clustered on the edge on the canal.
Although Bang Nam Phueng is not big compared to other Bangkok floating markets, there is a wide choice of interesting foods to sample here, and it offers the opportunity to see a slice of genuine Thai village life.
Local foods like sweet treats and exotic fruits, spiced grilled meat, steaming bowls of noodles and seafoods are all begging to be tasted.
Bang Nam Phueng is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 8am until 2pm.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
Arguably the most famous floating market in Thailand, Damnoen Saduak is also one of the furthest from Bangkok – approximately 100km to the south west of the city.
That said, it is most definitely worth the trip to make it here and experience the brightly colored boats jostling for position along the canal, mostly manned by Thai women in traditional bamboo hats selling their own local produce. It’s an unforgettable sight and it offers up some fantastic photo opportunities.
Aside from sellers offering multihued fruits, vegetables and flowers, there is a vast array of delicious food for sale on the banks of the canal including meaty noodles and coconut pancakes.
You’ll need to get here early (it opens at 9am) to get the full experience as the market closes at 12pm.
Here’s a look at the thriving market in action:
Bang Khu Wiang Floating Market
You’ll need to set your alarm clock to visit Bang Khu Wiang floating market, as monks arrive here before the break of day to receive their alms and to sell their fresh produce.
The action starts at 4am and continues for a brief period of three hours before closing at 7am. This is a very traditional and un-touristy market, with the novelty of the monks receiving alms making it worth the visit.
It’s also easy to get to by boat from Bangkok, and the journey takes around 45 minutes. Water taxis can be caught from Wat Chalo Pier, departing every 15 minutes from 5am.
Bang Khla Floating Market
Bang Khla floating market is perhaps the most picturesque floating market in Bangkok, and it’s bursting with country charm.
It’s relatively small and not many tourists make the 100km journey east here from Bangkok.
The locals are full of smiles as they serve you up fabulous fish and seafood, freshly caught and freshly grilled. Shellfish in spicy sauces, papaya salad with pickled crab and fermented fish sauce and other local delicacies are also on the menu.
Chow down and enjoy as you take in the scenic mangroves and winding waters in an authentic, cheerful atmosphere.
Bang Khla is only open at weekends, from 8am to 6pm.
Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market
Located on the outskirts of the city of Bangkok about 20km from the center, Khlong Lat Mayom is within easy reach and has a wonderful low key ambiance. There might not be many vendors selling things out of their boats here, but there is a fantastic market on land next to the water to make up for it.
This market has charm and personality, and nearly no tourists come here which makes for a very genuine Thai floating market experience. A visit to Khlong Lat Mayom is fun and also cheap, and offerings such as tempting oyster omelets, Phad Thai noodles and hot, aromatic soups only cost around 30 THB.
There’s a diverse selection of unusual and intriguing fruits and vegetables, inexpensive clothing, homewares, and plants and flowers for sale on the market stalls here, and it’s no surprise that this market is incredibly popular with locals at weekends.
Khlong Lat Mayom is open on Saturdays, Sundays and on public holidays from 9:30am to 4:30pm.
Taling Chan Floating Market
This prosperous floating market has a vibrant energy. It’s large, but not too popular with tourists, which is surprising considering its proximity to Bangkok city.
Pretty, intensely colored flowers and leafy plants are the first things you’ll see for sale here, but as you venture further in, appetizing aromas from the plethora of food stalls entice you to partake in some of the many culinary offerings this market is known for.
As you would expect there is plenty of fresh seafood to eat including large succulent prawns and whole crab, as well as traditional Thai noodle dishes and sweet snacks. Take a pew at one of the low tables on the wooden platforms and eat to your heart’s content whilst watching the world go by.
Don’t be alarmed if you see a writhing mass of catfish in the water around the market, they are just opportunists waiting to be fed. Purchasing a bag a fish food and watching the feeding frenzy take hold is an original and fun part of a visit to Taling Chan market.
Taling Chan is located in Thonburi, just outside of Bangkok and can be reached by car in just 25 minutes. The market is only open Saturdays and Sundays from 7am until 4pm.
What’s your favorite floating market near Bangkok?