Damnoen Saduak, one of Thailand’s most popular floating markets, is in the Ratchaburi province about 100 km outside of Bangkok — just a 90-minute drive away. The market is surprisingly smaller than the Internet makes it out to be. And there aren’t as many tourists as I expected; surprisingly, there are more tourists on boats than vendors. Over the years, it’s grown into a tourist trap, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see it.
In the maze of narrow canals, cheap tourist souvenirs are sold everywhere alongside countless colourful trinkets, clothes, deep-fried treats, dried seafood, oodles of noodles and fresh fruits straight from local farms.
The market is one short block long. It’s quick to walk on foot, or you can see it from the river by renting a cheap row boat for ฿200 to 300 or taking an hour-long ride through the market and a nearby village on a motorboat for ฿600 to 800. In my opinion, neither are worth it. Costs will range hugely depending on how the vendor feels, so bargaining is totally acceptable.
As with most tourist attractions, it’s best to arrive as early as possible. Around 9, bus loads of tourists fill in.
Jazz (my childhood best friend/travel buddy) and I got to Damnoen Saduak at 8 a.m. sharp. For breakfast, we indulged in Pad Thai from a vendor on land. On the table, sitting directly across from us, a local Thai man had his pointing finger all the way up his right nostril. He left it there for a good 10 minutes. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.
Once our bellies were full, we walked through the market and discovered all it had to offer. Bananas, mangoes and coconuts marked real estate on the majority of boats. Soups, noodles, and rice bowls were prepared on the docked boats. The vendors on canoes farther away used long sticks to both hand goods to their customers and collect money.
We tasted khanom krok, coconut custard cakes served in bamboo leaves. I was not a fan. It had an awfully similar consistency to oatmeal and I don’t like oatmeal at all.
Here’s a closer look into the market and the many faces that make it what it is today.
How to Get There
Commuting to Damnoen Saduak might take some time and could burn a hole in your wallet. Here are your options:
1. Renting a Taxi
Use the local “Uber” called Grab, but do not expect to get a ride back to Bangkok. There are no available drivers near the market. If you do take this route, you need to ask the driver who takes you there to stay and offer to pay him extra, obviously.
You can also drive there by renting someone else’s car on Drivemate — basically AirBnB for cars. The cheapest cars cost ~฿1,000 a day, but not all have insurance included, so look at the price again before you check out.
2. Book a Full or Half-Day Tour
A non-touristy half-day Airbnb Experience, visiting two floating markets and an orchid farm. Or a 6-hour tour with Get Your Guide where you see the making of brown sugar. Each includes a pick up from a central meeting place in Bangkok and a boat ride at the market.
With this option, you risk reaching the market when it turns into a full circus.
3. Take Public Transport
Busses are complicated but this is the cheapest option. You have to take a taxi to Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal Sai Tai Mai or Siam Square (next to the tourism kiosk) to catch bus #78. It costs ฿64 and takes roughly 2 hours. But the bus will drop you about a mile away from the market, and you’ll have to hire another taxi or motorcyclists to finally get there.
If you’re anal, you can check the schedules and book your tickets far in advance with 12Go Asia. I always prefer to buy tickets in person, though. The bus begins running at 6 a.m. with intervals of 30-40 minutes in between.
Other Floating Markets
Aside from Damnoen Saduak, there are two other floating markets: Amphawa Floating Market, which is more authentic but even smaller. The Taling Chan Market is the closest to Bangkok, exclusively serving seafood on weekends, but the boats are all docked there.