Description: One of the most popular images in Thai tourism literature, the floating market at Damnoen Saduak has some degree of novelty value, but at the end of the day it's a tourist trap.
To see the most 'authentic' part of the market, you're best not to even bother with a boat but instead walk there and watch the main cluster of boats from the bridge that spans the canal.
Less contrived markets do exist, but nowadays most people choose to shop at the local Tescos rather than hop in a leaky boat to paddle around the block to get a six-pack and a bag of rambutan.
Most who visit the market do it on a day trip from Bangkok which requires an early start (normally around 06:00) followed by an hour or so bus trip to a travel agent near the market. There you board small wooden boats for the brief paddle to the market, before paddling off to another canal where the vast majority of stalls are on the land and are flogging goods such as postcards and miniature wooden elephants. You can even get a set of two plates made up bearing your image exploring the markets for a cool 160B. Though you may feel a bit overwhelmed by seeing so many tourists paddling about trying to take the perfect postcard snap, try not to be too cynical, you're probably in the same boat, maybe even literally.
If you're not on an organised trip, the standard fee for hiring a boat and driver is 150B an hour. This is worth it for the chance to take a spin around the back alleys of the market where there are mostly riverside houses instead of shops for tourists.
How to get there
To reach the floating market from Damnoen Saduak, cross the bridge and continue down the road until you reach the sign posted turn-off to your right. As you go along, there will be a number of signposts for boat hire to the markets. You can either take a boat or continue along the road until it crosses over the canal. From the bridge you can watch the market go on without paying for a boat. The best time to watch the markets in full flourish is between 06:00 and 08:00 preferably before the tourist buses arrive. Once you get to the immediate surrounds of the market, there are a whole world of choices for boat hire and the price is completely dependent on your bargaining ability. Many will offer to take you to the market for 50B per person for around 30 minutes, if you get there early, this can be bargained down to 30B. If you arrive by tuk tuk, chances are you will be dropped at one of the agents where the tour buses normally arrive. Here, hire of a boat will cost between 100B to 300B for an hour in which time you will visit the market and the paddler's friend's soft drink stand. There are a number of ways to get to the markets. You can either take a 1.5km stroll along the canal, or catch a canal taxi from the pier beside the bus station for 10B, or by tuk tuk for about 10B or the yellow songtheaw which costs 5B and leaves from in front of the 7-eleven by Seri Khemi Kaset pier. If travelling by tuk tuk or songtheaw, ask for talaat nam (floating market).