Amphawa's is probably the most popular floating market among Thais from Bangkok. While most foreign travellers still get their floating market kicks at the hyper-touristy Damnoen Saduak, Amphawa floating market has gradually gained in popularity among foreigners as well -- and for good reason.
Unlike Tha Kha and many other floating markets, Amphawa is an afternoon market (no early am wake up!). There is undoubtedly a touristic element but, unlike Damnoen Saduak, here the tourists are mostly Thai and the foreign faces usually come with tour groups from Bangkok.
The market itself sits on the quaint Amphawa canal, part of a network of more than 300 canals jutting out of the adjacent Mae Khlong river. With elevated banks boasting teakwood heritage houses and canal-side seating, it really is a picturesque spot that hasn't changed all that much over the past century. Instead of Beer Chang T-shirts and Muay Thai shorts, shops here sell trendy Thai favourites such as vintage toys and artsy postcards.
One of the market’s main draws is its endless spread of khanom or Thai sweets/snacks, which the town is known for (there's even a "Thai dessert museum" nearby). Streams of people wander the banks stopping frequently to sit on benches and chow down on dried pork, sweet sticky rice grilled in bamboo and all manner of colourful treats made from rice flour, coconut, mung bean and more. On steps leading down to the water groups gather to buy whole steamed crabs, fried mackerel fish (also famous here) and som tam from sellers floating in their wooden sampans.
The market truly overtakes the entire town; there are no clear lines as to where it begins and ends. It's a very photogenic scene and a phenomenal place to sample the area's specialties. While the crowds can detract from the experience, it's always easy to pop into a little coffee shop or restaurant for a breather. For more space, walk over to nearby Rama II Park, which features a memorial to the birthplace of this important Thai king. Often drawing members of today's Thai royal family, cultural performances take place here on holidays.
Boat trips to nearby temples are touted throughout the market and cost 50 baht a journey, though there is definitely enough to see without getting on the water. In the evenings boats take visitors to see the incredibly popular fireflies. The motorised tourist boats have unfortunately gotten a bit out of hand in recent years, making the market noisier than it used to be.
Three to four hours at the market should be enough but if you wish to spend the night there is a sampling of homestays and small hotels to choose from. The full-scale market only takes place on Saturdays and Sundays, with Friday afternoons also seeing some action.
By Elena Sheppard
Last updated on 7th March, 2015.