Local vendor in a pensive moment. Photo by Aloha Lavina.
For a floating market that you can walk end-to-end in twenty minutes (and float in an hour), the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Rachaburi, Thailand has a lot of amusement value. I’ve been seven times, and every time, I get to see something new.
Here’s how you can maximize your stay at the floating market.
1. Have a coffee at Gossip Cafe
Gossip Cafe is a little stall near the entrance of the floating market. It’s open around 8.30 or 9.00 am, and the latte there (none of that iced stuff, we are talking real lattes) is a generous helping of foamy goodness. Sit on the carved wooden bench in front of the Cafe and read the paper, or people watch. You’re bound to see something interesting, such as an elephant and its mahout in the trendy political colors of the times.
A mahout in colorful shirt with his elephant. Photo by Aloha Lavina.
2. Have a noodle bowl or two at Priew’s Place
This large area in the northeastern part of the market is an organized commercialization of the floating market noodle vendors. Here you can sit on long picnic benches, elbow-to-elbow with strangers, and slurp some great tom yum noodles or if you’re more adventurous, the suspicious looking nam tok noodles. One bowl is hardly enough, so you might sample two kinds of noodle dishes.
3. Take photos, but pay attention first
A lot of tourists who go to the floating market snap photo after photo without paying attention. Trust me, you can’t take the sound and excitement home unless you pay attention first. If you sit near the bridge area on the southeastern side, you can watch the vendors paddling back and forth, and sometimes you might see conversations, laughter, interactions that could tell you a lot about the local culture.
4. Buy some fruit and take it home
Damnoen Saduak is near Petchaburi, which is the fruitbowl of Thailand. The orchards in Petchaburi produce some of the juiciest and biggest guava, mango, and other Thai fruits. Although the tourism at the floating market has inflated the prices, you can still get a kilo of fruit for less than it would cost in Bangkok’s supermarkets.
5. Explore the area
Salt farmers harvesting salt in Samut Songkhram. Photo by Aloha Lavina.
There are quite a few floating markets around Damnoen Saduak, such as Ampawa, which is a night market, so if you have a couple of days, you can stay over the area. The only hotel literally in town (3 kilometers from the market) is called the Nok Nok Little Bird, and although it’s basic accommodations (a place to sleep and clean yourself with water and soap), it’s reasonably clean. If you want to spend some more Baht for more comfort, the Baan Ampawa is a boutique hotel with cozy Thai style houses, and it’s right on the Ampawa floating night market.Â About half an hour from the Damnoen Saduak site is Samut Songkhram, and along the highway, perhaps as you are coming back from Ampawa, are salt farms. The salt farmers harvest at about any time, as far as I can tell, and when I stopped by, some of them were working in high noon heat. Rest, spend a little time with them, share a liter of a cold drink perhaps, before you move on back to Bangkok.
Trying to spend a little more time at the floating market could be worth it. After all, you can always buy great looking photos of it from a postcard seller, but experiencing the market and its environs might give you a more insightful glimpse into its charm.