Thailand’s floating markets are practically a hallmark of the country. Despite having transitioned from being places of meeting and commerce for local communities to becoming tourist attractions for the entertainment of international and domestic tourism, floating markets are still important in Thai culture. They have undergone a transformation, but are still very popular.

The origin of floating markets

Traditionally, Bangkok and the 3 provinces to its west, Samut Songkhram, Ratchaburi and Nakhon Pathom, had miles and miles of rivers, streams and canals that Thais navigated with their boats to move around, fish and trade.

history of floating markets

Back in the days when there were hardly any roads, highways, or any kind of modern transportation system, rivers and canals were the best way to get around. This is this reason why Europeans even dubbed Bangkok the ‘Venice of the East’.

In the past, most of the houses in these areas were built on the banks of the canals and had small wooden piers where they moored their little boats. When the inhabitants of the houses needed to go somewhere, they only had to get into their boat and row towards their destination.

The canals in the most strategic locations received a lot of traffic, and in some of their sections markets were created to take advantage of this large influx. They were authentic floating markets in Bangkok (Thailand), in which the locals exchanged goods, especially food, without even getting off the boat.

thailand's floating marketsThe communities that inhabited these areas were practically considered aquatic societies, amphibious communities in whose lives rivers and streams played a central role.

With the rapid growth of Bangkok and the development of the country during the 20th century, many canals of Thailand’s capital began to be covered and paved. Boats started to be replaced by cars.

In the mid-20th century, the construction of highways and roads to encourage motorized transport caused floating markets in Thailand to decline, and the traditionally wealthy trading communities established near canals gradually disappeared.

floating markets of thailand

🧘‍♀️ Visiting a Floating Market is our list of the 20 best experiences you can have in Thailand

How are the floating markets of Thailand today?

When tourism arrived, everything changed. In 1971 the Tourism Authority of Thailand started promoting Lad Plee Floating Market (now Damnoen Saduak) as a tourist attraction. And it became a big success. Over time, the old floating Thai markets revived and many new floating markets appeared, only now they aimed at attracting domestic tourism.

Therefore, Thailand’s floating markets have transitioned from being places of commerce to places of leisure. In modern day Bangkok there are dozens of floating markets, and almost all of them are aimed at Thais looking to spend the morning in a picturesque setting, have a nice lunch and buy some souvenirs.

Some of these markets, such as the one in Amphawa, even offer a wide range of accommodation in small hostels and resorts by the canal and close to the market, for tourists who want to spend the whole weekend there.

bangkok floating markets

Floating market, a bad translation of Taladnaam

Floating market is, in my opinion, a bad translation of the Thai word ‘Taladnaam’.

Taladnaam is a compound word made up of the Thai words ‘Talad’, market, and ‘Naam’, water. Therefore, it refers to markets both ‘on’ and ‘near’ the water, so they are not necessarily ‘floating markets’. So the original Thai concept is that of a ‘water market’, and includes both markets where small shop-boats sail on water, and markets located on land alongside a river, stream or canal.

Actually, many of Thailand’s floating markets hardly have any shop-boats, and they are just located next to a water stream. An example of this is the Bang Nam Phueng (ตลาดน้ำ บางน้ำผึ้ง) floating market in Bang Kachao neighborhood, one of Bangkok’s green lungs.

floating market boatThese floating markets with very few boats often confuse (and sometimes disappoint) some Western visitors, who expect to find the typical old-fashioned travel catalog image, in which dozens of boats row along a canal while selling colorful fruits and vegetables. Even so, the touristic concept of “floating market” keeps being deeply rooted in Western imagery.

Today there is only one floating market that has dozens of boats: Damnoen Saduak, the most touristy and the only one that opens daily. Most of the boats in Damnoen Saduak no longer sell vegetables and other fresh produce, but rather snacks and souvenirs intended for tourists.

The best floating markets in Thailand

As I said before, Bangkok and the provinces of Samut Songkhram, Ratchaburi and Nakhon Pathom, have dozens of floating markets. In my already many years residing in Thailand (since 2010) I have visited most of them, many of them more than once, and others I know very well because we offer them almost daily as day trips with my tour operator InThailand Travel.

Keep in mind that one of the main reasons to visit Thai floating markets is to eat and sample the local delicacies. If you go to a floating market and don’t try at least a few snacks and sweets, you will miss out on an significant part of the experience. Don’t forget that Thai food is simply delicious! Here you have a list of 10 Thai food dishes that you can try.

thai food floating marketDamnoen Saduak Floating Market

Damnoen Saduak is the largest of all the floating markets in Thailand, and the only one that is open daily (among those that literally float). Specifically from 8.00 to 12.00 in the morning.

It is the most touristy floating market in Thailand, and the only one aimed, perhaps, more at international visitors than Thais, although the latter also go on weekends. It is located 100 kms from Bangkok.

damnoen saduakDamnoen Saduak is the market that you’ll see in the pictures of all the travel agencies, and the only one where there are still dozens and dozens of boats selling different products, which nowadays are mostly tourist souvenirs, although some still sell fruit and even freshly cooked food.

On the banks surrounding the canals you will see many shops, cafes and small restaurants for visitors.

If for some reason international tourists stop arriving, this market would almost certainly only open on weekends. So yes, it is very touristy, but it is a fun visit for a couple of hours, in which visitors can take a boat to sail along its canals and get an idea of ​​what these markets were like in the past.

Quite a few films have been filmed in this floating market of Thailand, such as ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ of the James Bond saga, or Nicolas Cage’s ‘Bangkok Dangerous’.

  • Opening hours: open every day from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
  • Location: 100 kms from Bangkok. GoogleMaps location.
  • How to get there: by shared van from Mo Chit bus station, or with an agency tour like the one we offer at InThailand Travel.

aerial damnoen saduak marketImportant info about Damnoen Saduak

You are likely to come across some local peolple holding exotic animals such as snakes, which are used as a tourist attraction for visitors to take photos with them in exchange for a tip. It is advisable to avoid participating in these economic activities, in order to make them disappear for the welfare of these animals.

damnoen saduak market thailandThe second warning is that you should be vigilant, whether you go on your own by taxi or join a cheap tour like those sold in Khao San Road, so as not to fall victim to a very common scam. It works as follows: the driver takes you to a jetty before reaching the market, where there are large motor boats, and tells you that the only way to get to the market is by hiring one of those boats. Which is a lie.

Then they ask you for an exorbitant price of up to € 50 or € 100 per person, to get on the boat and visit the market. Their long experience and skills developed after years or even decades of fooling people can make you fall for it and end up paying.

Be careful with this. Damnoen Saduak floating market can be reached in those same boats by paying a fraction of what they ask, or simply by road to its entrance and then hiring a boat there.

Amphawa Floating Market

I am precisely writing these lines from my room in a small hotel next to the canal where Amphawa floating market is located, in Thailand.

It is the most famous market among Thais, and the second best known in the country after Damnoen Saduak. It is also the only one that is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons and evenings, instead of mornings.

It is very famous among Thais for having dozens of delicious local food stalls at great prices, as well as a wide variety of cafes and local clothing and souvenir stores.

amphawa marketAlongside Amphawa’s floating market and in its surroundings, many hotels and hostels have appeared to cater to Bangkokians coming to spend one or two weekend nights to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the capital.

Very early in the morning, when the sun rises, some monks usually arrive at the market in boats to collect the morning alms. Some hotels even sell traditional alms to the visitors who want to join in the ceremony.

amphawa market at nightImportant info about Amphawa

If you visit this market, do not expect the typical photo with dozens of boats. There are only a few boats here, and all of them are moored by the banks, while cooking and selling food. The only boats you’ll see sailing are larger tourist boats, in which you can ride for a small fee to take a scenic tour of the river and surrounding canals, or to go see fireflies (which are only seen on some nights of crescent moon).

  • Opening hours: open only on Fridays and weekends from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
  • Location: 100 kms from Bangkok. GoogleMaps location.
  • How to get there: By shared van from Mo Chit bus station.

amphawa market thailandTha Kha Floating Market

Tha Kha floating market is somewhat similar to Amphawa, but much smaller and local. It is found in the same area, and there you will also find some stalls and food boats.

Like I said, it is very small, so in a way it is less touristy than the previous two. It is rare to find a foreigner here, and if you see one he’ll probably be an expat living in Thailand, or the odd tourist interested in visiting a really local floating market.

  • tha kha market thailandOpening hours: open on weekends from 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
  • Location: 100 kms from Bangkok. GoogleMaps location.

Taling Chan Floating Market

Taling Chang Floating Market is famous for being inside Bangkok. Specifically in the Thonburi area. It is a very small market and has few boats, and it usually disappoints tourists if they are not warned that it is not the classic floating market shown in the pictures of every tourist agent. If you go there knowing what (not) to expect, you are more likely to enjoy the experience.

  • Opening hours: open only on weekends from 8am to 3pm approximately.
  • Location: in Bangkok. GoogleMaps location.
  • How to get there: by private long-tail boat from the jetty under Thaksin Bridge (Saphan Taksin Skytrain stop) or by taxi (if you want to save money, first take the Metro to Bang Khun Non, and once there take a taxi or find a bus route with Google Maps – number 79 stops nearby).

taling chan thailandKhlong Lat Mayom Floating Market

Khlong Lat Mayom is another floating market in Bangkok, in fact only 8 kms from the one in Taling Chan. Tourists tend to like this one more than the previous one. If you decide to visit these floating markets in Bangkok, it is a good idea to visit both on the same day, as they are very close to each other and is feasible to do so.

Again, it is a small market with basically food stalls, where Thais go on weekends for lunch.

  • Opening hours: open only on weekends, from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
  • Location: in Bangkok. GoogleMaps location.
  • How to get there: by private long-tail boat from the jetty under Thaksin Bridge (Saphan Taksin Skytrain stop) or by taxi (if you want to save money, first take the Metro to Fai Chai stop, and take a taxi there).

khlomg yat mayomDon Wai Floating Market

Rather than a floating market in Thailand, Don Wai is a market located next to a fairly large river. It is one of the best examples of the misunderstanding caused by the mistranslation from ‘Taladnaam’ to ‘Floating Market’, that I have explained earlier in this article.

don wai market bangkokDon Wai is a large market where you will find a wide variety of sweets and Thai food. Ideal for lovers of local Thai food, and perfect for having a good lunch and a beer in a pleasant atmosphere by the river. The crowd is mainly Thai.

  • Opening hours: open every day from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • Location: 30 kms from Bangkok. GoogleMaps location.

Bang Nam Phueng Floating Market

bang nam phuengBang Nam Phueng floating market is a fairly large market only active on weekends, in one of Bangkok’s main green lungs: Bang Kracaho area. It is a pleasant, quiet and very green neighborhood of Bangkok that can be explored by bicycle.

Bang Krachao and this market make an excellent plan for a weekend. It is yet another of those markets called ‘floating’ in English, but in which there are hardly any boats.

  • Opening hours: open Saturdays and Sundays from 8:00 to 15:00 approximately.
  • Location: in Bangkok. GoogleMaps location.
  • How to get there: you can read this article about Bang Krachao.

Definitely, if you visit Thailand, you should visit its floating markets, I am sure they will surprise you!

Pol Comaposada

Pol Comaposada

Pol has been traveling and creating content about Thailand and others parts of Asia since 2010. Founder and manager of Mundo Nómada Travel, a DMC (tour operator) with office in Bangkok that offers high quality tours and tailor-made packages in Thailand.

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