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Everything you need to know about Thailand's floating markets
Posted on 14/02/2019


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Thailand's floating markets have made the rounds on Instagram time and again, but are they really worth the trip?

Major tourist attractions

Major tourist attractions
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At first glance, it's easy to see how these floating markets became such a major draw for visitors. For many foreign tourists, the long, wooden boats floating by filled to the brim with tropical fruit, luscious vegetables, and home-cooked meals is a sight almost too whimsical to believe. But the floating markets are nothing new to Thailand and its neighbors, where they've been serving their communities for centuries.

A centuries-old tradition

A centuries-old tradition
© Arisara Tongdonnoi/123RF

The floating markets have been gracing Thailand's waterways since the mid-1300s, and there are about 14 still in operation in and around Bangkok. The majority of Thailand's inhabitants originally populated the banks of the rivers and canals that thread through the country, and one of the easiest ways of getting around and transporting goods was by boat. The markets quickly became an integral part of life for these shoreline communities and remained so until the mid 19th century.

Many of the floating markets were forced to close or move onto land when urban areas began to develop more rapidly, so there aren't as many of them left as there once were. Nevertheless, they hold a special place in Thailand's rich cultural landscape.

Where to find the best markets

Where to find the best markets
© Seksan Srikasemsuntorn/123RF

Most markets are clustered relatively close to Bangkok, and some can become crowded or are expensive to get to. Damnoen Saduak is the most famous and "tourist-friendly" of the floating markets, located 100 kilometers south of Bangkok, although its primary purpose is tourism. Since it's the largest tourist market, scams and overcharging are common, and motorboats are also prevalent along the otherwise peaceful canals.

Tha Ka offers a much more pleasant experience. Since it's more difficult to reach, it's not as frequented by tourists. Laid back and charming, the market wends its way through a tiny village in Samut Songkhram province, and offers the experience that most tourists are looking for in Damnoen Saduak. Although much smaller, it's as close to the true spirit of the floating markets as one can get.

For something different, head to Bang Noi. Frequented by Thai and foreign visitors alike, prices are sometimes a bit higher, and it isn't nearly as picturesque as some of the other floating markets around the country. But the quality of the goods sold here is generally much better than what's found elsewhere. Also, there's been a market on this canal for over a hundred years. The local government has renovated it in an attempt to revive the time-honored tradition, and a visit here will help to maintain this beautiful piece of history.

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