To get an idea of what shopping in Bangkok used to be like before all the canals were tarmacked over, many people take an early-morning trip to the floating markets (talat khlong) of DAMNOEN SADUAK, 60km south of Nakhon Pathom and easily accessible from Bangkok on a day-trip. Damnoen Saduak is the most popular floating market in Thailand, great for photo opportunities, food, and for giving you an insight into a bygone way of life. An early morning start is worth it to avoid the heat and catch Damnoen Saduak at its liveliest. Most visitors who come to Thailand want to visit a floating market and many of them will end up here.
Vineyards and orchards here back onto a labyrinth of narrow canals, and every morning between 6am and 11am local market gardeners ply these waterways in paddleboats full of fresh fruit, vegetables and tourist-tempting soft drinks and souvenirs. Most dress in the deep-blue jacket and high-topped straw hat traditionally favoured by Thai farmers, so it all looks very picturesque, but the setup feels increasingly manufactured, and some visitors have complained of seeing more tourists than vendors, however early they arrive.
Stepping off the boat, you find yourself amongst the busy stalls selling similar products to those you can find at Chatuchak weekend market, small toy elephants, tiger balm and the compulsory ‘I was here’ T-shirts. It’s not surprising to find this at the most famous floating market in Thailand and it can feel a little commercialised but if you walk further, you will find the food-sellers, who not only look more photogenic, but also have some far tastier goods. Unlike most of the other floating markets, the popularity of Damnoen Saduak attracts many fruit sellers rowing their boats along the narrow canals, meaning that you’re guaranteed great pictures. There is plenty of tasty food to try along the docks, from freshly-made mini coconut pancakes to boat noodles in their rich meaty broth.
The best way to see the markets is to stay overnight in Damnoen Saduak and get up at dawn, well before the buses and coach tours from Bangkok arrive. But for a more authentic version, consider going instead to the floating markets of Amphawa, 10km south of Damnoen Saduak.