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Bangkok floating markets?

Posted by blyths24 on 19/12/2013 at 08:57

Hi,

I am heading to BBK 26th Decemember and would like to visit a floating market. When I search for them around 8-10 pop up. Im struggling to choose one.

Does anyone have any reccomendations or tips?

Many thanks,
Jack

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Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 19/12/2013 at 18:48

Not sure what the fascination is. Taking a market from land to water doesnt make it better. Never met a person that raved about any of them. Normally people say average or not worth it.

Bangkok has street food along many roads and many markets around.

But tripadvisor would cover such things. Personally I wouldn't bother and would not make a special trip for it.

If you walk around Bangkok at night you will come across 2 or 3 market areas in a 45 min walk. They will sell the same things that the floating markets do.

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Posted by DLuek on 19/12/2013 at 21:31 TF writer

Here's the wrap that we did on floating markets around Bangkok (it covers most of them with links to more in depth stories on each):

https://www.travelfish.org/feature/311

If you're up for a full day (or even overnight) adventure, I felt the best floating markets were those found down in Samut Songkhram province southwest of Bangkok. You can take a bus, minibus or train to Samut Songkhram town (Mae Khlong) then hire a tuk tuk for a day to take you to Amphawa, Tha Kha and/or Bang Noi. I think Tha Kha is best in terms of a "traditional" floating market -- as in, actual farmers selling their produce on rowboats -- but it wraps up early so you have to get there before 10 am or so.

If you go to Mae Khlong, you might also check out the train market.

Of those that are closer to Bangkok (Thaling Chan, Khlong Lat Mayom, Kwan Riam and Bang Nam Phueng), I probably like Bang Nam Phueng the best, though it's more of a land market with vendors set up alongside canals -- you definitely won't get the quintessential "floating market scenes" that you will in Tha Kha. Khlong Lat Mayom is great for food, but it's a bit more of a pain to get there. Then again, none of them are simple to reach.

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Posted by MADMAC on 19/12/2013 at 23:19

Last night I don't know why but this thought popped into my head. I've never been to a floating market, nor do I have any inclination to go and try and find one. Is there something sold at floating markets that can't be found in a regular market? What's so special about stuff being sold off of a boat?

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Posted by DLuek on 19/12/2013 at 23:47 TF writer

I would say that the general atmosphere of most floating markets is more attractive and relaxing than regular street markets. They also tend to be showcases for the local foods and other products that are produced in a given community. The food is usually very good, typically with a lot of grilled seafood, and unlike many street markets, there are often clusters of communal tables so you can order a bunch of food from different vendors and have one big lunch. At traditional floating markets like Tha Kha, you still see weathered old farmers rowing long wooden sampans that brim with brightly colored fruits, vegetables, handmade baskets and the like, which can be very picturesque. It's also very popular to go on boat rides that start at floating markets and cruise to local temples and other attractions. Overall I usually find them to be very pleasant experiences.

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Posted by MADMAC on 20/12/2013 at 01:06

We don't have them in Mukdahan, since the Mekong isn't used for that purpose and it's the only river that can accomodate boats here.

I never really got the attraction, but I guess it holds appeal for some.

In my wife's village we have a once a week market on the street with no shortage of weathered old farmers selling brightly colored fruits, vegetable and the like - though it's hardly picturesque.

I did ride a long tail down from near That Phanom back to Muk - that was fun. We were hauling ass. But not much related to a floating market.

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Posted by captainbkk on 20/12/2013 at 01:52

Dluek hits the head right on the nail-thats it. They mainly aim local BKK cityfolk daytripping, beside that by now overtouted Amphawa there are also some in eastside-Chachoengsao. Just a little step back in time, old ways, old customs, a pleasant boattrip and of course food+more.
You may also consider, now that the citybuses have gone to there (I aim the local poor bekpekkers) near Wat Ray KIng, west of BKK, just in Nakorn Phatom.
Take bus 556 till far end (more as 1 hr), coming FROM Makkasan-pass the main rd near KSR. OR ORange AC bus 84 (and NOT the blue/cream nor the 84 KOH) from beside the WongWien Yai BTS-also more as 1 hr-+see all the new skytrain extensions being built. Can now also join this bus at far end-bang Wa.
BTW-this ''overview'' looks suspiciously like the one of David Barrow from Bangkokdaytrips.
You may note, that many local councils are trying to set these up-some succeed, some do not and just float away after 2-3 years-this of coruse is never noted in TA and the like and people keep on parrotting about things long gone.
Is Madmac the German also posting on reise-preise?? That Panom-with the giant Isany wat, once had the lao market 1-2 times/week, when they came from over the river, Dont know if that still is with all the bridges.

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Posted by MADMAC on 20/12/2013 at 03:02

Nope - I am definitely not German. I don't know if anything is coming to That Phanom from Laos now or not, but I haven't heard of it. But I don't live in That Phanom, so it's possible.

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Posted by exacto on 20/12/2013 at 12:12

Wow D. Beautiful prose and an insightful description of the attraction to floating markets.

Weathered old farmers selling brightly-colored produce not picturesque? I guess that's a matter of perspective, but I'd bet it is at least interesting and would be all the more so for folks on holiday from Frankfurt or Chicago. I go on vacation looking for something different, be it close to home or overseas. The Thai daytrippers visiting these markets are doing the same.

Backpacker. Say it. Backpacker.

Definitely not German? But you served with their Army for five or so years und Sie sprechen auch Deutsch, nicht wahr?

Cheers.

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Posted by Tilapia on 20/12/2013 at 18:44

MM, when I was at Inle Lake in Burma about 11 years ago I went to a floating market. The folks there had boatloads of tomatoes, eggplant, flowers, and all kinds of other produce. I thought it was good, but wasn't really knocked-out until I saw the floating gardens. These were masses of long, narrow strips of floating plant life covered with topsoil which were staked to the bottom of the lake with long bamboo poles so they wouldn't float away. This is where the people grew and harvested their produce. The teak canoes would be pulled-up beside and the guy in the back would guide and push the boat along while the guy in the front picked the veggies or fruit or flowers or whatever. Then they paddled off to the gathering place (the market) where all the other "farmers" were gathering to sell their stuff. People came from all over the lake to shop. It was very interesting.

Most floating markets in Thailand today might be curiosities or throwbacks for some, tourist traps to others, just as "pioneer villages" here in North America and Europe can be to folks who live there. Places where one can go and see how candles were made with beef tallow, or how beer or bread or were made, or how a blacksmith shop worked a couple of hundred years ago. Don't forget that in and around Bangkok transport was mainly by water until the Europeans arrived and roads were built. Floating markets were more the norm than anything else. They do have historical significance, just as sod houses on the prairies have, even though most people are unaware of what that significance is. But having them is better than letting them go the way of the dodo, IMHO.

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Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 20/12/2013 at 20:12

So fruit and flowers are exciting on boats? Weird.

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Posted by MADMAC on 20/12/2013 at 22:53

"Definitely not German? But you served with their Army for five or so years und Sie sprechen auch Deutsch, nicht wahr?"

Yeah, I studied German in college, then lived in Germany for a long time and developed fluency. My son is German too (although he lives in Thailand now). So I got a freak opportunity to serve in the German Army. And it was great. But I myself am not actually German, although obviously I am comfortable with that environment. But I'm sort of a cultural chameleon.

"Backpacker. Say it. Backpacker."

I know - they do seem to have weird interests. I was also thinking about this. I guess going home and having photos of you sitting in a mall at Starbucks with Thai people dressed like you are, half of them on their iphones or chatting on facebook wouldn't look very exotic.

"How was your trip to Thailand? Hit a lot of beaches?"
"No, I wanted to experience real Thai culture. So I went to the provinces to see how Thais live out there."
"And how was it?"
"Well, they like to go to Big C a lot. The women love to shop. They have clubs with live bands that are popular."
"It sounds just like here."
"Not so different."

Yeah, that wouldn't be a good highlight reel for your cultural vacation.

"just as "pioneer villages" here in North America and Europe can be to folks who live there. Places where one can go and see how candles were made with beef tallow, or how beer or bread or were made, or how a blacksmith shop worked a couple of hundred years ago."

Huh, this explains it. I was never interested in those places either. I like to walk old battlefields and I like old architecture for sure.

"Don't forget that in and around Bangkok transport was mainly by water until the Europeans arrived and roads were built. Floating markets were more the norm than anything else."

You were on a roll my friend until you got to this. Roads were not a foreign concept to Thailand and they were not built to apease foreigners in Bangkok or anywhere else. Thailand had the same love affair with the automobile that Germany and the US did.

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Posted by DLuek on 21/12/2013 at 00:09 TF writer

Don't forget that in and around Bangkok transport was mainly by water until the Europeans arrived and roads were built. Floating markets were more the norm than anything else. They do have historical significance ... having them is better than letting them go the way of the dodo, IMHO.

This is a good point. Those farmers who cruise to Tha Kha every full/new moon for the floating market are just doing what they've always done. It's nothing special to them and I imagine they find it curious that foreigners now gather round with their cameras.

As captainbkk alluded to, some of the old riverside markets are interesting if you're into the historic side of things. Places like Don Wai, Khlong Suan and Bang Phli have markets that have hardly changed for over 100 years. They might seem out of the way now, but if you look on a map, you can see how they're strategically placed along waterways between Bangkok and the farmlands. I find it intriguing that, just as they were a century ago, they remain places where Bangkok daytrippers come to buy the abundant produce that still comes from those rice basket provinces -- Chachoengsao, Nakhon Pathom and Samut Songkhram to name a few. The only real difference is that now the city folk come by road rather than river. I also find it interesting how the "modern" floating market, like Kwan Riam and Khlong Lat Mayom, don't attempt to re-create the traditional floating market that you still see in Tha Kha. They've kept the floating market tradition alive while adapting it to modern Thai tastes -- a sort of agreeable confluence of the old and new.

Roads were not a foreign concept to Thailand and they were not built to apease foreigners in Bangkok or anywhere else.


I don't doubt that Thailand had (and has) a love affair with the automobile, but I would argue the point that roads were not a foreign concept to Thailand. Many historical accounts from the late 19th / early 20th century point out that there were basically no roads, and the only ways to travel were by boat, elephant or on foot. What's generally considered the first road in Bangkok, Charoen Krung (New Road), was built in the mid 1800s by King Rama III at the behest of Bangkok's European and American residents who wanted a place to ride their horses. The first major highways were built by the American military in the early days of the Vietnam War, with the Mittraphap corridor through Khorat being the first. Before then, the provinces were mainly connected by dirt tracks, rivers and canals. At least this is what I've read in academic volumes on Thai history, like Cambridge Press' A History of Thailand and Tiyavanich's The Buddha in the Jungle.

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Posted by Tilapia on 21/12/2013 at 07:02

MM, I wasn't suggesting that there were no roads (though on re-reading what I put down it could have been taken that way), and I was referring to before the advent of the automobile.

By the time the motorized vehicle came along, the concept of the floating market was well established in Bangkok where more canals were dug than roads built in an effort to replicate Ayuthaya. I'd add John Crawford's book, Journal of an Embassy to the Courts of Siam and Cochin-China (1830), to DLeuk's reference.

I like visiting those old battlefields, too. I grew up on Canadian side of the Niagara River which is, more-or-less, an 1812 graveyard.

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Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 21/12/2013 at 15:44

So you can go to a floating market and dream it's the 1700s.

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Posted by neosho on 21/12/2013 at 20:42

Tilapia, my mother lived in a sod house for a while when she was little. Out in the Oklahoma panhandle.

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Posted by MADMAC on 21/12/2013 at 23:35

"So you can go to a floating market and dream it's the 1700s."

That's not a dream, that's a nightmare. I think of dentistry in the 1700s or simple infections prior to anti-biotics and conclude life back then sucked.

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Posted by Tilapia on 22/12/2013 at 10:36

Neosho, my friend's mother also lived in one not far from a place called Watrous, Saskatchewan, in the early 30's. Straw bail houses are starting to become quite popular in and around the area where I live.

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Posted by DLuek on 22/12/2013 at 21:16 TF writer

Leave it to Travelfishers to go from Thai floating markets to Watrous, Saskatchewan in one quick thread. :)

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Posted by MADMAC on 22/12/2013 at 23:07

"But having them is better than letting them go the way of the dodo, IMHO."

If they are economically viable, either from tourists or otherwise, they will remain. If not, they are joining the dodo.

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Posted by lanathai on 23/12/2013 at 05:12 TF writer

I enjoyed an afternoon visit to Khlong Lat Mayom. Not the most picturesque but the food market along the edge of the klong had some excellent fresh local food. We took a boat tour to visit some old houses -- the tour was in Thai language only, however. Those who can't understand Thai will probably feel a little lost, but anyway a neat experience if you have some time to spare in Bkk. Some good bargains for handicrafts, too.

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Posted by Pedroinspain on 24/12/2013 at 09:13

An interesting thread with, it seems, more than a dollop of "us-and-them" in it. Some see floating markets simply as another place to buy things. Others, like DLuek see it as a change to broaden one's cultural horizons. I tend to side with him. One of the first things I do when travelling is to visit a local market. I learn and experience more in an hour than in days on an AMEX tour.

So that is why I went to the Ampawa floating market a few Sundays ago. I certainly did not go there to stock up on flashlight batteries, disposable diapers or plastic freezer containers. Also, someone forgot to tell the 95% of Thais who were there that that market was now too "touristy". I found dozens of great photo opportunities for my water-colour painting. I found an atmosphere and vibrancy that no Walmart could ever match. I ate 5 large grilled prawns for 100 BHT. I was fascinated by the entire scene.

Now, were I to live in Thailand would I be sure to visit it every week? Obviously not - it would jade with time. But that does not mean that it has no value to Travelfish travelers because it is becoming too "well-known". That type of reasoning would mean that we would have to scrap Barcelona and San Francisco from our bucket lists and perhaps opt for Bangui in the Central African Republic.

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Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 24/12/2013 at 09:17

What about the markets with 100% Thais? Not important enough?

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Posted by Pedroinspain on 24/12/2013 at 09:27

If I went to one, LC, it would no longer be 100% Thai, so that rules them out for me.
But if you can suggest a 99.8% Thai market that is convenient, interesting and has more bang-for-the-tourist buck than Ampawa, I am all ears ... for sure. Reasons would be particularly welcome.

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Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 24/12/2013 at 20:57

What did u buy in Amp that was so good?

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Posted by Pedroinspain on 25/12/2013 at 01:28

Sights, sounds, shades, shapes, shadows, .... rhythm, atmosphere, customs, movement, memories, experience, contrasts ..... I bought them all. The value that I place on them and that you might do, is bound to be different. That way we don't all end up wanting to be on vacation on the same square meterage of this planet. I mean that would just be TOO touristy, wouldn't it?

Oh, I also examined some Damascus steel kukris. Probably a mistake not to have bought one. If I had I could have been truthful and said I purchased something physical there also.

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Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 25/12/2013 at 02:03

Every suburb of Bkk has sights and sounds.

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Posted by MADMAC on 25/12/2013 at 03:30

Perdo - are you saying there's something wrong with Bangui, CAR?

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Posted by Pedroinspain on 25/12/2013 at 09:07

What do you mean by "wrong", Mac?

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Posted by MADMAC on 25/12/2013 at 23:58

Well you were implying that a vacation in Bangui is a bad thing. What's wrong with Bangui? I like the Central African Republic.

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Posted by Pedroinspain on 26/12/2013 at 09:56

Sorry to disagree - I made no such implication. I have no idea where you got that from. My implication was clearly that Bangui was not "tourity". I offered no judgement as to why.

Glad you like it, though. Was your visit recent?

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Posted by MADMAC on 26/12/2013 at 11:19

No, I haven't been back to Africa since 2005. I just thought your selection of CAR was interesting.

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Posted by chinarocks on 26/12/2013 at 15:21

I think Pedro is referring to the ongoing Civil War in said country. How dare he demean the bastion of stability that is wonderful Africa.

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Posted by Pedroinspain on 27/12/2013 at 11:56

@chinarocks: *wink*

I started a post on 'Touristy' under the "More Still" forum section - in "Idle Banter". Maybe we can continue this theme there and not hijack the Bangkok Floating Markets further.

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Posted by somtam2000 on 27/12/2013 at 16:05 admin

Thanks PedroinSpain - link to related conversation is here

Locking this one off.

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