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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, eat a ripe mango, lay on the beach, and of course, visit a floating market. An often overlooked floating market that draws plenty of weekending Bangkokians but not many tourists, is Bang Nam Phueng.
Bang Nam Phueng is relatively new on the floating market scene, and unlike the mega-touristy Damnoen Saduak, actually caters to locals. Situated just south of the city in the designated agricultural zone of Bang Kachao, 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 agriculture, producing crops such as lime, 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. While some of the food is prepared on boats, travellers seeking a true floating market might head further southwest to Amphawa. 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. Floating market favourites? Tod man (fried catfish covered in a delectable sauce), hoy tod(oyster omelettes made to order), juicy Isaan sausage and coconut ice cream.
Aside from the hundreds of vendors hawking prepared foods, local produce, clothing, jewellery and a range of knick-knacks you won't find elsewhere, the market contains simple sit-down restaurants and coffee shops, Thai massage, a couple of old teakwood homes turned museums/cafes, and even the chance to row an old wooden boat through the canals for 40 baht per hour.
Betraying its country charm, Bang Nam Phueng is just across the river from the urban jungle in Khlong Toei, not far from Sukhumvit Road. See the Phra Phradaeng transport section for info on getting here.
By Emma Rosenberg
Last updated on 8th March, 2015.