Lam Phaya Floating Market

Classic country market

What we say: 4 stars

Though Bangkok is home to some eight million people, the urban sprawl is replaced by picturesque countryside within a 45-minute drive of the city centre. Nestled along the Tha Jeen river in Nakhon Pathom province, the Lam Phaya weekend floating market is a meeting point for the abundant food that comes from this area and the people who produce it.

No foreigners in sight.

No foreigners in sight.

It’s obvious that this is a very small town by the fact that everything seems to have the same name — Lam Phaya market is near Lam Phaya temple in Lam Phaya village. We imagine the locals refer to them simply as “the market” and “the temple”. After arriving to the market by land, visitors must walk through centuries-old Wat Lam Phaya, where monks’ robes hang out to dry, temple dogs snooze under tables and faithful villagers keep things tidy. For those who want to pay respects to the resident Buddha image and perhaps be blessed by a monk with holy water, the temple’s attractive ordination hall is open throughout the day.

Wat Lam Phaya -- heart of the village.

Wat Lam Phaya — heart of the village.

Despite the relatively large size of Lam Phaya market, it’s one of the least touristy weekend markets we’ve visited. A fair number of Thai daytrippers fill in the space, but we saw a grand total of one other foreigner during our visit.

The market is divided into two sections — one on solid ground and another, more crowded one set on a series of docks that float on the river. The land section consists of a long and roomy roofed corridor lined by local vendors who sell everything from potted plants to curries for takeaway.

“Well what do we have here?”

The fresh fruit and vegetables that Nakhon Pathom province is famous for are often sold by the farmers themselves, many of whom wouldn’t have looked out of place in 1930s Thailand. Particularly special are the pomelo, or som-o in Thai. These sizable, bright green fruits look like a type of round melon but conceal an addictive sweet and sour citrus flesh reminiscent of (but 10 times better than) grapefruit beneath a thick and spongy shell.

Sam-mo -- with or without subliminal messages?

Som-o — with or without subliminal messages?

Often caught from the Tha Jeen and its tributaries earlier the same day, fish are another specialty that get so many Bangkokians off the couch and on their way to Lam Phaya. You can purchase whole fish — fresh, sun-dried, fried, salted and in some cases still alive — in the land section, or head to the floating section for whole grilled or steamed fishes brought right to your table.

Nothing to say but

Nothing to say but “Yum”!

In the floating section, the majority of vendors set up tables on the floating dock and offer finger foods to graze on. Popular snacks include brigthly coloured palm sugar and coconut sweets, iced sugarcane juice served in cups made from fresh-cut bamboo, savoury fish cakes, deep-fried pork fat and bite-size fried fish enjoyed head, tail and all.

Don't forget your sweet tooth.

Don’t forget your sweet tooth.

While many weekend markets claim to be “floating markets” (to be fair, the Thai word is talaad nam or literally, “water market”) due to them being near some body of water, Lam Phaya hosts dozens of vendors who row their boats into what could best be described as “boat parking zones” found throughout the floating section.

Walkways surround the boats and make it possible for visitors to look on as floating chefs grill seafood and chicken satay, pound spicy Thai salads and toss spring rolls into woks of bubbling oil. Vendors on boats who are beyond arms’ reach of the walkways utilise fishing nets with long handles to transport products to customers, who in turn place cash in the net and send it back to the vendors.

Must be a pain when they need to hit the bathroom.

Must be a pain when they need to hit the bathroom.

With our stomachs full of grilled skewered prawns, mini fried/salted fish, tender pork neck, sticky rice and pomelo, we paid 30 baht per person for a private boat ride on the Tha Jeen. A gentle and seemingly contemplative old fellow, our boatman rowed us to a Buddhist shrine, past a patch of blossoming lotus flowers and alongside rows of stilted homes. The century-old boat was made of golden teak wood and covered by a bamboo roof with open windows on either side.

Our trusted helmsman.

Our trusted helmsman.

Though we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this lazy rowboat experience, longer trips on bigger, engine-powered boats can also be arranged from the market for 70 baht per person. These depart six times per day from 10:00 to 14:00 and include stops at local temples. The 11:30 and 14:00 trips stop at Wat Bang Phra — Nakhon Pathom’s famous sak yant tattoo temple where Angelina Jolie once received “sacred ink” from a tattoo-master-monk. These larger boats have tables and chairs on board, so you can stock up on food and enjoy lunch as you soak up the scenery.

Don't fall in; those fish look hungry enough to eat a little boy or girl!

Don’t fall in; those fish look hungry enough to eat a little boy or girl!

In our humble opinion, Lam Phaya is exactly what a floating market should be. The food is fresh and local, the people are friendly, lots of vendors actually do float and the atmosphere is rural and authentic.

More details
Lam Phaya village
Opening Hours: morning to afternoon, Saturday and Sunday only
How to get there: The market is set along a country road some 50 kilometres northwest of central Bangkok and 30 kilometres northeast of Nakhon Pathom town. We were told it's possible to catch a minibus from Bangkok's Sai Tai Mai (Southern) terminal to the town of Salaya, then switch to a songthaew which passes through Lam Phaya, but that would be a lot of hassle even if your Thai language skills are strong. For travellers, the most realistic option is to hire a return trip by taxi from Bangkok for around 1,200 baht, including waiting time. If coming from Nakhon Pathom, expect to pay a tuk tuk or taxi around 700 baht for a return trip. You could also hit Air Orchid Farm and/or Wat Bang Phra sak yant tattoo temple on the same trip.

Last updated: 8th May, 2014

Last reviewed by:
Usually found exploring Bangkok's side streets or south Thailand's islands, David Luekens is an American freelance writer & photographer who finds everyday life in Asia to be extraordinary. You can follow his travails here.

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