In almost every taxi in Bangkok you will see a picture promoting the floating markets of Thailand. Old-fashioned long-tail boats (without engines) are overflowing with vegetables, fruits, flowers and other products that elderly ladies in traditional clothes try to sell.
But when you get serious about going to visit a floating market, as I recently did with a Swiss friend, it is not so easy. The guidebooks tell you about some disappearing markets in Thonburi or the still popular market in Damnoen Saduak which is about 54 kilometers southwest of Bangkok. However, the authors caution the individual travelers to get there before 10 a.m. as after the Chinese tourists and other tour buses crowd the place and you have to be careful not to be pushed off the pier into the murky waters…
When I asked around for a good floating market, I heard about a few lesser known smaller floating markets in the vicinity of Bangkok that are still pretty traditional according to my friends and a few guidebooks.
We took a taxi to Khlong Chak Phra about 15 kilometers from the city center and decided to go to the smaller of the two markets there: Mayom. It took about 20 minutes to arrive in a sleepy village where a small road led to a huge unpaved parking field. We got out and were in the midst of the market within one minute. As the literature had warned us, most of the products were displayed on land. But there were still some small boats floating around, people offering fruit and vegetable from the boats and some of them even cooking meals to sell to the visitors.
At the pier, we were looking for a boat to take us around the Khlong (river channel) and almost hopped on a long-tail boat. It had just arrived and discarded a group of tourists. We did not know how long the boat trip was going to be, so we decided to get something to drink first before starting this little adventure.
When we walked back with our drinks the big boat was gone, but a smaller paddle boat was at the dock. We asked whether we could join the group getting on the boat and were told that we could for 20 baht each. This was even better than the previous one.
There were about 10 people on the boat. The boatman pushed off the shore and for the next 30 minutes or so, we glided through the still mostly undisturbed Khlongs in the surrounding area. The boatman explained in rapid Thai all the interesting sight-seeing spots such as a mailbox at the shore, a big house or some lotus flowers, and the duck house in a pond. It was super peaceful and relaxing.
When we got back to the village and market, it had gotten busier and more people were strolling through the market that is set up on both sides of the Khlong. The variety and amount of food that is displayed is astounding. We walked several times through the market and didn’t know where to start with our early lunch, because everything just looked so yummy.
Finally we settled down among the mostly Thai crowd for a delicious meal that we bought at different booth. Although we thought that we had bought quite a bit for two people, the lunch crowd around us totally outdid us. Even for two people, the tables looked like they were expecting six.
We wanted to keep some space to sample some other food later and kept our meal to about four dishes. It was heavenly.
To round off our meal, we went to have ice coffee on a small terrace overlooking the Khlong where we could observe the paddle and other boats.
On the way back to town, we came another way and passed the BTS sky train stations. It is possible to get very close to this market by going to the terminus station of the BTS. Then it would be a very short taxi ride to arrive there. It is definitely still a nice way to spend a Sunday morning, albeit the market doesn’t resemble anything that you see on the pictures in the taxi.