May 14 2012
When visitors come to Thailand, they tend to have a mental to-do list, derived from overheard stories at hostels, or the pages of a guide: ride an elephant, pet a tiger, eat a ripe mango, lay on the beach, and of course, visit a floating market. All of these things are possible, but the problem is, everyone else has the same idea too. Take Damnoen Saduak floating market, a Venus flytrap for swarms of tourists and avoided by Thais. But luckily, Bangkok, once called the ‘Venice of the East’, has rivers and canals twisting through in curlicues, and with them, numerous floating markets, including Bang Khla, Amphawa and most recently Bang Nam Phueng.Bang Nam Phueng is relatively new to the floating market scene, and unlike Damnoen Saduak, actually caters to locals. Situated just south of Bangkok in Phra Pradaeng, Samut Prakan province, Bang Nam Phueng is a designated agricultural zone, and the floating market was created to showcase the products of the region and stimulate the local economy. What makes Bang Nam Phueng different than most tourist destinations within Thailand is its emphasis on sustainability and eco-awareness, opting for banana leaves and coconut husks rather than the typical plastic bags in plastic bags in plastic bags. The region is rich in natural resources, producing crops such as lemon, bitter gourd, bananas and mushrooms. Many of the stalls within the market sell only one kind of produce, or specialise in crafts made from raw materials native to the land, inspired by the One Tambon One Product initiative.
The floating market, which does not technically float, is an argosy of handicrafts you can’t find elsewhere, fresh produce, and delicious prepared food you can enjoy by the silty waters. The best way to tackle the market is by coming with an empty stomach in the early morning, and eating your way through to the very end. Once you’re full, eat more. My floating market favourites? Tod man (fried catfish covered in a delectable sauce), oyster omelettes made to order, juicy Isaan sausage and coconut ice cream.Reaching the floating market is no easy feat, but worth the trek. To make a day out of it, you can rent bicycles or a boat to journey down the river, visit the local Mon-style Buddhist temples, meander through Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park and Botanical Garden, or even visit a haunted building and mystery lake. For a full Bang Nam Phueng excursion, stay overnight at Home Stay Bang Nampheung, or if you’re feeling like splurging, Bangkok Tree House, a luxury eco-hotel immersed in palms.
The market is open weekends 07:00-15:00, though vendors start packing up as early as 14:00. To avoid crowds and get the freshest foods, come as early as possible.
The easiest, yet most expensive way to reach Bang Nam Phueng (a 45 minute drive from central Bangkok), is by hiring a taxi for the full day (try Mr Kampol Srisomboon at 086 750 3634), as it will be more difficult (though not out of the question) to find a return taxi back to central Bangkok once you are there.
If you’re not up for a pricey full-day taxi fare, take the BTS skytrain to Bang Na station, take the stairs down exit 2 and catch a taxi to Sam Phawut pier (tha sam phawut). From there, catch a mint green cross-river ferry for four baht to Wat Bang Nam Phueng Nok, then a motorbike taxi for around 20 baht to the market.
You can also take the MRT subway to Klong Toei station, and from there, take a taxi to Klong Toei pier (Tha Klong). From the pier, take a longtail boat (10 baht) to Bang Kachao Pier, then a motorbike or songthaew to Bang Nam Phueng. You can also take an air-con bus to Phra Pradaeng town from Victory Monument (#140), Chatuchak district (#138), or Banglamphu (#82), and catch a motorbike or songthaew to Bang Nam Phueng from the centre of town. Motorbike taxis are widely available at the market’s main entry points.
Home Stay Bang Nampheung
33/2 Moo 3, Bang Nam Pheung, Phra Pradaeng, Samut Prakan
T: (08) 9825 0107, (02) 461 0843
Bangkok Tree House
Moo 1, Bang Nam Pheung, Samut Prakan
T: (082) 995 1150
Doubles from 4,690 baht/US$150
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