Among many other floating market sightseeing excursions, Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, located about 100 kilometres southwest of Bangkok, is one of those that is known for its maze of canals. Numerous box office movies filmed on the actual location in the past years have made this floating market even more prevalent and stirs mylifestylenews’ curiosity to find out more of this established tourist attraction.
The Beginning of Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
From 1866 to 1968, by order of King Rama IV, the 32-kilometres long Damnoen Saduak Canal was constructed to connect t he Mae Khlong and Tha Chin rivers. Many floating markets arose from the canal, and about 200 ancillary canals were dug by villagers. The main floating market was called La Plee market which adjoined a Buddhist temple and remained active until 1967, when the development of roads replaced the need of water transportation. This pattern was seen with other old floating markets which disappeared by the mid-twentieth century due to the development of modern land infrastructure. In 1971, the Tourism Organization of Thailand (now Tourism authority of Thailand) made the Lad Plee market a tourist attraction for foreigners. The market had boat vendors and shops on the canal banks. In 1981, a new road was built to Ton Khem canal, and private entrepreneurs established the modern Damnoen Saduak Floating Marketing along the canal.
It was 7:50am in the morning, our cheerful guide Khun Nok came with her driver in a spacious van to pick us up from our hotel in Bangkok and greeted us with her sun shiny smile. We were booked on a seat-in-coach tour, that means it includes other passengers that are booked for the same tour on the same day. Therefore, we were the second stop being picked up before we were headed to another two more hotel stops to collect the rest of the passengers.
We left the city in a total of 7 curious tourists including Khun Nok and the driver and heading southwest to Ratchaburi Province – home of the famous Damnoen Saduak Floating Market on a highway without much traffic due to a public holiday in Bangkok. Lush countryside and salt farms are seen along the way, the further we headed southwest of Ratchaburi Province, the more village houses emerged and bid farewell to the concrete jungle.
After 90 minutes journey with Khun Nok’s struggling jokes and gave us a potted history of Thailand, our first stop before the anticipated floating market was a small coconut farm amidst a Thai village house to see how brown sugar is being made by the locals, plus it was also a good short stopover to stretch our legs and a preview of the local tradition and culture.
A further 10 minutes drive, tours buses and groups begin emerging to our eyes and our driver drove straight through those line-ups of souvenir stalls and we knew that we had arrived. Khun Nok quickly led us to the bridge to give us a brief introduction of the surrounding as well as the little memorial statue of the lady paddling on the canal. People were so busy flashing their cameras from atop the bridge while other tour groups were also flocking in from different directions.
A boat vendor selling barbeque meat skewers on his floating kitchen.
It began to feel congested, not only from the bridge that we were standing but also hearing and seeing sights of the real business being carried out along the narrow canals that were constantly filling up with long tail boat vendors selling their goods to passing tourist boats as well as other vendors and visitors alike who were minding their stores and strolling on the canal bank. This is exactly why everyone is coming here to see the real chaotic sight, hear the shouting sounds and smell the air from the muddy canal and surrounding vicinage. This “crime scene” may seem to be topsy-turvy but it was in fact pretty organized when it comes to a real business transaction. Such a chaotic colorful life is happening and full of excitement.
The roar of the engine continues from the vociferous canal and outdoing the other traditional paddling boats. Khun Nok was familiar with the drill and there was nothing strange to her. In fact, she had already pre-organized two separate decorated long tail boats for us to hop on and to begin our floating tour. “Do not hold both sides of the boat and keep your hands inside!” Khun Nok keep reminding us for that to avoid being hit and knocked by other passing boats, as it is really a shoulder close floating experience.
The stench of the canal may not be as pleasant but was quickly replaced by the smack of smell of the food being prepared and cooked on the boat and those on the bank by the vendors. While we were still on the main canal where the most action is, you will know what you would want for your late breakfast or a quick bite of snacks. The food will find you instead of you go looking for it.
A tourist enjoying his Phad Thai noodle on the boat.
As our boat glided down a maze of narrow khlongs (canals) and left the noise behind, small wooden houses fringed the banks and Khun Nok summoned the boat driver to slow down the speed in order for us to have a better glimpse at the living lifestyle along the river.
Beside the daily fresh farm produce like vegetables that are mainly for the residents who live nearby, fresh coconut juice and tropical fruits are readily cut and packed for easy consumption. Merchants from wood carving decorative, Thai souvenirs to even a-la-minute boat noodle soups in their rich meaty broth (which it is reknown for), Phad Thai and deep-fried snacks prepared and cooked from the floating kitchens right on the boat. Savories and desserts like mango sticky rice, mini pancakes, coconut ice cream are the popular fast-selling items among others and more to discover as we were navigating. We picked up a bowl of boat noodles as well as some barbeque pork skewers and mango sticky rice as snacks. The vibes is definitely alive here.
The quiet ride lasted for around 20 minutes and a few more turnings made and we were back to the hectic pace of the main market canal before we stepped off the boat. Khun Nok allowed us to have another 40 minutes free time to wander around the market.
We were not so keen on those Chatuchak weekend market commercial products on sale and none of them were on our shopping list. We sat down at one of the boat noodles stalls to have another savory dish while watching the world goes by. The 50 Bath noodles rhapsody is simply irresistible.
The action is on.
Female traders, often wearing traditional mo hom apparel (blue farmer's shirts) with ngob (wide-brimmed straw hats) and use sampans - small wooden boats to sell their wares, often produce that which comes directly from farms. These boats are often full of vegetables and colorful fruits that are quite photogenic.
The market is often the busiest in the morning around 7am to 9am, and is active until noon. Despite the floating market being noted to lack cultural authenticity and may not be the thriving and vital part of Thai daily life that they were once, yet the vibrant social hub remains a popular destination for both foreign and domestic tourists flocking to this enchanting floating market everyday. There is always a jovial atmosphere and it guarantees the floating market experience for an insight into a bygone way of life. We had a good time!
The coconut farm
A detour to the nearby Tree Temple enroute before heading back to Bangkok. Hundreds of cock fight statues on display that significant victory in Thai's believe.
A Muay Thai training academy and worshipers inside the Tree Temple.
Tried & Tested:
Value For Money: 4.5/5
3rd Floor Eastin Makkasan Hotel
1091/343 New Petchburi Road
Tel: +66 2 651 7638
mylifestylenews travel as a guest of Amazing Asia Tours.
Reviews are based on actual day of visit and experience. mylifestylenews reserves the right of final decision in case of any disputes. All images are photographed by mylifestylenews team without any photoshop enhancement and are the property owned by mylifestylenews unless otherwise stated.