One of the many charms of Bangkok is its canals. Once sprawling networks of commerce and transport, the ones that have survived urbanisation are now predominantly found on the outskirts of the city. Did you know that not too long ago, Bangkok was known as the Venice of the East? This name was primarily given because, once upon a time, the main mode of transportation across the city was by boats, via the many canals that eventually fed to the Chao Phraya River. Back then, the canals were used for far more than transport. Thriving communities grew around key locations along major canals and intersections, often centred around a marketplace where farmers and tradespeople could sell their wares.
This bustling social scene known as “talaad nam” or floating market (actually, “water market” if you want a more direct translation), still exists in many locations outside of Bangkok’s modernised center. Unfortunately, a lot of them have devolved into picturesque tourist traps. Vendors are there to cater to visitors looking for an “authentic” experience, but it ends up being packed mainly with hawkers selling souvenirs or barely edible Thai food and snacks. Luckily, there are still some floating markets that are true to their heritage, catering to a mainly local population. Among them is Lat Mayom, a “water market” just across the Chao Phraya River.
Lat Mayom translates to Gooseberry Slopes, referring to the fruit trees that once flourished in the area. While the idea of slopes may bring hills and steep gradients to some minds, this region is mostly flat plains, so it doesn’t take much of an incline to qualify as a slope here (in Thai, it now just generally refers to higher ground). On the slopes, a burgeoning weekend floating market thrives surrounded by a community that has, for the most part, continued traditional practices of life along the canals.
The “floating” part of a floating market doesn’t mean that the entire market, including buyers and sellers, are on the water. Lat Mayom is no different. It means that the main access for vendors is by boat. Some will paddle or motor up to small piers to sell their wares from their boat. And the variety of wares may surprise you. Of course, there are boatloads of fresh fruits and flowers, but there are also some logistical marvels such as a noodle soup which serves piping hot noodles from a traditional boat. You may also see second-hand electronics on sale from the repair shop just downstream.
The market also takes place on land. There are over seven sections along both sides of canal, with footbridges connecting the two sides. Fresh produce and meats are on sale. There’s also an incredible food court-like set up with delicious fresh grilled prawns, roasted duck, made-to-order noodles, and so much mouth-watering dishes.
And while the market can take hours of exploration, a side trip along the canals offers insights into a vanishing culture. It’s like you’ve stepped back in time here. Quaint wooden homes and peaceful orchid and banana groves reveal satellite dishes and laughing teenagers trying to capture you in their selfies as you pass. Little old ladies selling traditional coconut ice cream treats to children at the temple may charm you just as much as the bustling boat repair shop, even with the cacophony of the angle grinder!
So, if you must visit a floating market, make sure it’s Lat Mayom—a floating market that truly provides a taste of Thailand.
Smiling Albino searches for these authentic experiences to ensure your trip reveals the true heart of Thailand to you. If you would like to discover the delights of Lat Mayom Floating Market or want to embark on a genuinely Thai journey, contact us today!