A floating market is usually high up on the list for a first-time Bangkok visitor, and they can make for refreshingly laid-back day trips for long-term travellers and residents. But with so many to choose from, how do you avoid the tourist garb and get off the trodden path?
One of the easiest to reach from downtown Bangkok, Taling Chan isn’t the best or the biggest but it does have a good selection of well-priced seafood dishes and other Thai meals. Eating lunch on the barge-like platform surrounded by cooks in their little boats can be a pleasant way to spend a weekend afternoon. The entrance walkway, lined with vendors selling everything from fruit shakes to vegetable seeds, terracotta pots and wooden kitchen utensils, is slowly being redeveloped with a purpose-built shelter, and it looks as though Taling Chan will continue grow in the near future. There is often live music to the side of the canal and a shaded bamboo platform offers a little respite for a Thai massage. Longtail boat tours take in the surrounding canals for between 99 and 160 baht.
Take bus number 79 from the front entrance to Central World and ask for Talat Nam Taling Chan – the fare is 17 baht.
Once upon a time the quieter alternative to Damnoen Saduak, while Amphawa still attracts a very different clientele it has undoubtedly grown in size and popularity. Worth heading to as much for the artsy handicrafts as for plates of freshly grilled seafood and countless bowls of boat noodles, this floating market is popular with Thais from the capital looking for a Sunday breather. The market really gets going in the early afternoon, and boat trips to spot fireflies along the canal’s backwaters are popular by nightfall – equally worthwhile is a stay in one of the burgeoning number of guest houses and homestays, from where you can experience the tranquil Amphawa mornings and grab your breakfast from a passing boat vendor.
Minivans run frequently from Victory Monument – the journey takes under an hour if the traffic is on your side, and costs 80 baht. Alternatively, take the train from Bangkok’s Wongwian Yai to Mae Klong – see this post for the details – and then catch a small blue songthaew shared taxi truck to Amphawa from outside the Mae Klong market, for 8 baht.
Khlong Lat Mayom
Well off the tourist circuit, Khlong Lat Mayom is perhaps my favourite floating market within easy reach. Well out in Thonburi’s far reaches, this market is big – it spans both sides of the country lane that loses its usual emptiness as crowds of in-the-know Bangkokians head out for good food and a local atmosphere. As well as all manner of homewares, CDs and other less-than-artisan products, Khlong Lat Mayom is packed to the rafters with just about every type of Thai market food imaginable. As well as the obvious seafood and noodle soup, the khao soi northern curried noodles just inside the entrance to the left-hand section (as you approach from downtown) are excellent. The market has an environmentally friendly focus and is much of a fresh market as one for prepared foods, so it’s the perfect place to pick up your veggies – including the distinctive and relatively uncommon fuk kao gac fruit. Make sure you also hobble over the steep bamboo bridge to the other side of the canal, where you can pick up cute postcard prints and join the grannies for a half-hour massage for a bargain 80 baht.
Head to Taling Chan floating market first (see above), then from just outside the market take a red songthaew shared taxi truck with a white sign above the driver’s cab, heading further in the same direction you travelled from central Bangkok. Keep an eye out for English-language signs to Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market as you draw closer – though it’s likely plenty of locals will hop off here, too – the journey takes around 15 minutes and the flat fare is 7 baht.
Less than 15 minutes from the Skytrain and yet seemingly on a different planet from downtown Bangkok, Bang Nampheung floating market is set on a leafy island in the Chao Phraya river known as the city’s ‘green lungs’. The island of Bang Krachao is good to explore on foot or by bicycle at any time – it boasts a park and botanical gardens, pathways elevated above mangrove swamps that are perfect for cycling along, and even an eco-minded treehouse hotel that just begs for a stop either for a coffee or perhaps overnight. But the floating market at Bang Nampheung takes place of a weekend, when the number of people on the island suddenly multiplies as in-the-know Bangkokians hop across the river by ferry for a couple of hours wandering around the countless stalls touting cheap and delicious Thai fare, with a particular focus on local produce. The scale of the market is impressive, and you certainly won’t run out of stalls to peruse – as well as food, there’s clothing, a significant number of plant stalls and more. Hidden deep in the market is a massage hut – stop for a back rub as soon as you spot it, because you’ll certainly struggle to track ti down again in this labyrinth.
To get to Bang Nampheung floating market, take the Skytrain to Bang Na station and leave through exit 2. Walk 100m from the bottom of the stairs and take a 20-baht motorbike taxi to Sanphawut pier; from where the bike drops you, take a 4-baht cross-river pier to Bang Krachao. If you come at the weekend, you’ll have a hard time not following the crowd as you leave the boat – everyone is going to the floating market, so go with the herd and jump on another motorbike taxi for the 15-baht ride. Bicycles are also available for hire just alongside the pier.