In your research for Thailand, you may have come across an anecdote calling Bangkok the Venice of the East. Well, that was once true, but not so much anymore. Back in the day, Bangkok was veined with canals (called khlongs in Thai) and boats were the primary means of getting around. But over the past 100 or so years, the khlongs and markets beside them have been filled in with cement to build roads, as well as the pylons for the snaking network of highways and tollways that connect the city today.
There are still plenty of places where you can experience Bangkok as it was. There are many, many floating markets that advertise themselves as a unique place for tourists to have a traditional shopping experience, with waterborne commerce rules the day. Although each offers roughly the same thing, there are also quite a few differences you should be aware of. Here’s a breakdown of some of the more popular markets in and around Bangkok.
Taling Chan Floating Market
Taling Chan is one of Bangkok’s western districts, and has traditionally been known for its orchard farms. The floating market here, though not huge, specializes in all kinds of homemade snacks, veggies and grilled seafood, peddled from boats on the water as well as stalls that line the road on either side. It’s a bit of a haul to get here, but it’s a great way to get out of town and see one of the lesser-crowded markets in Bangkok. Bonus: there are still many canals out here that haven’t yet been filled in for road works, and tours are available. See them while you can!
Kwan-Riam Floating Market
This floating market is one of the newest in Thailand, opened to provide an option for people who don’t want to travel too far out of town to find one. It’s in Bangkok’ eastern suburbs but still well within the city limits, along Khlong San Saeb, on which runs the (in)famous Bangkok khlong ferry service. This market’s standout feature – besides a huge selection of food – is its alms rounds for monks, which take place early in the morning on weekends, and sees dozens of monks pass by in boats, accepting offerings from laypeople lining the khlongs.
Wat Sai Floating Market
In Bangkok’s western suburbs, this market was once the place to come for a blast from the past, but development in the area caused it to fall out of favor and it was eventually abandoned. However, in recent years it’s got somewhat of a second lease on life and is now quite popular, mostly for Thais, but also by tour groups, so go early for the best experience.
Mahanakorn Floating Market
This one is located near to Suvarnabhumi Airport east of Bangkok and is open every day, so it’s a good spot for people who don’t have much time and want to get one last stop in before they fly out. Not so much a floating market as a nice little canal-side community, but there are some nice shops lining the khlongs and it’s a quiet, relaxing break from the noise of the airport.
Bang Khu Wiang
If you’re a morning person, then this market is for you. Operating from around 4am – 7am, including a morning alms round by monks, it offers all the favorites of other floating markets – tons of food, few foreigners, and a nice canal-side community feeling. It’s up in Bangkok’s northeast suburbs though, so some planning on the route and perhaps a GPS marker is definitely recommended if you want to tackle it on your own.
When visitors to Bangkok talk about “the” floating market, it’s usually this one, the granddaddy of all of Bangkok’s floating markets. Not everyone knows just how far away this market is – about 100km southwest of Bangkok in Ratchaburi Province. To be very honest, the market once was an amazing place, but is now so busy with tour buses and minivans and groups of flag-waving tour guides that the onlookers often outnumber the vendors. Still, there are some great photo ops here, and if you’re in the area, there are worse places to stop and grab some food.
Tha Kha & Amphawa Markets
These two markets are about 5km apart, and Tha Kha itself is only about 5km from Damnoen Saduak. However, while two of the more popular markets near Bangkok, they still largely retain their old-school charm and traditional qualities. Tha Kha is the smaller of the two, and is open on the weekends as well as various days throughout the month, depending on the lunar cycle. Amphawa is busier and very popular Thai weekenders, but is actually a bustling canal-side community rather than simply a market. Plenty of places to stay, shop and eat – and don’t forget to take a night tour to see the fireflies!
Sometimes, the best way to get a feeling for a place is to see photos. Check out our online floating market galleries here.
We’ve also have an entire blog post about Talad Klong Lad Mayom, which is even further down the river from Taling Chan, you can see the story Here
All decided and know where you want to go? Contact us and one of our adventure travel consultants can help you plan the perfect day at the market!