Dates visited: December 31, 2014
Until this SE Asia vacation, I had no idea about the fascinating world of night markets so I was quite enthralled visiting these markets in Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand… …the crowd, the food, the energy, the lights, the vibe, the smells, etc. etc.! But then, I heard about floating markets, and that just sent me into a tizzy! So when you are done with shopping on land, you then shop on water? Oh, ok! Sounds simple enough!!
And so we went to Damnoen Saduak (about 65 miles southwest of Bangkok) to see the famous Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. Now, there are lots of floating markets close to Bangkok, but this one in Damnoen Saduak is the most touristy. Typically, I avoid tourist-focused attractions as they lose their authenticity over time but in places (such as markets) where I don’t mind crowds, I am okay being a part of their gullible target audience. In fact, we visited the sections that tourists frequent and the section where locals shop; the former was electrifying and buzzing with activity while the latter was pretty darn empty and low-key.
In any case, it was a fascinating experience as we got into a row boat to ride through the market. Damnoen Saduak is actually the name of the canal where the market assembles, and this canal provides water for agricultural use. Once you leave the market, you can see people living on both sides of the canal. This canal is extremely congested and extremely dirty so if you fall in, I doubt you’ll have many people jumping in to help you out… …so you better don your biohazard suit before getting on the boat! But there’s enough action to keep you focused on the real beauty here—the countless vendors in lampshade hats (at least that’s what I call them) as they ply their row boats through the canal selling fruits and vegetables. There are boats that cook and sell food as well… …fried shrimps, calamari, chicken, pancakes and other delicacies. And the best part is that you do not have to get off the boat; they row their boats towards you and you buy what you want.
We even encountered a traffic jam of boats with each boat driver skillfully maneuvering to get him/her-self out of the mess. Since everyone has the right of the way, the only way to get through is based on who had the loudest voice to plow through and a bigger boat to match! If it wasn’t for the scorching heat, we’d have joined in the shouting match as well! On the banks of the canal, you have stalls with people selling all kinds of trinkets, clothes, statues and souvenirs. One noticeable thing was the number of eateries serving piping hot delicacies. After seeing the utensils being washed by the side of the canal (see pic below—I got a not-too pleasant look when I photographed the cleaning lady), I chickened out yet again and did not try out anything. We ventured past the market to see the non-touristy sections where locals shopped and lived. Sure, the conditions weren’t the most hygienic, but they had made the best with what they had. This was evident with the way they had decorated their houses and made it a home.
I’d highly recommend a visit to any floating market while you are in Thailand. I love the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market—it is a congregation of people from all backgrounds, a panorama of synchronized chaos, a concerto of loud and lively chatter, a rainbow of vibrant colors… …making it a truly unforgettable experience occasionally marred by the stench of gasoline fumes ejected from those damn long-tail boats.