Want some fruit? Maybe a slice of roast pig? How about some flowers or even a fan? We saw everything for sale in one of Thailand’s largest floating markets.
The Damnoen Saduak floating market is about 100 km from Bangkok and offers a window into Thai life before trains and highways. The canal was originally dug to provide a means of transportation (there are about 31 km of smaller connecting canals) as well as a source of irrigation for farmers. Today the market is mostly about selling to tourists.
Chaos is almost too blasé to describe the floating market. When we arrived there were tourists and vendors everywhere, and shops crammed full of goods lining the canal. We walked around for a bit to watch the market from above, and then hired a paddle boat to make our way through the market on water.
We were told as soon as we got in the boat to keep hands and all other appendages safely inside. No sooner had we heeded the warning when another boat crashed in to us. The Korean lady sitting in the front screamed, and then we both laughed and had the best conversation in two different languages.
The vendors don’t even try to move in the chaos, preferring to tie their boats to the side and shout out goods for sale at passersby. Every so often you hear the unmistakable scraping of a longtail motor making contact with another boat.
Once we had our fill watching the hawking, we turned onto another canal that was much more quiet. We passed by homes lining the river and saw orchards and farms where the local food comes from that is sold at the market. We saw people’s kitchens underneath their homes and could judge the size of the family by the number of pots piled up.
While the floating market was no longer authentic, earlier in the day we had walked through Maeklong Railway Market. This market is solely for the benefit of Thais, and everything from fresh fish to piles of chicken, fruit, and vegetables were lined up ready to be sold (no refrigeration, of course!).
The market gets its name from the railway that passes right through the vendors. Four times a day they pack up their goods and let the train pass before reclaiming their spots. Space is at a premium in Thailand!
I asked whether there is a problem with people getting hit by the train. Our guide shook his head and said only with tourists. He’s had to pull more than one overzealous photographer back from the brink staring down the train for the perfect shot. Guess it was a good thing we weren’t there as the train passed…