January 2017 – On our first days in Bangkok, Thailand, we got a huge kick out of everything we saw around us, because it was so familiar yet so different. We went to the 7/11 store (yup, 7/11 is huge in Thailand and can be found on every street corner) and we picked up one of every kind of beer they had in the cooler.
The beers are decidedly a lot lighter than we’re used to consuming at home, but what fun it was to sample such a wide variety. Three of them were named for large cats, from Leo beer to Singha (which refers to a mythical lion in Thai folklore) to Tiger beer (originally from Singapore)!
Lay potato chips are also easy to find everywhere, and what an interesting way Pepsico has modified the familiar red and white label on the bag to give it a Thai twist.
Mass market food products are a part of most cultures nowadays, but we wanted to try to get a little deeper than that in our introduction to Thailand. However, uncovering the “real” Thailand proved a little elusive at first.
In the olden days of a hundred years and more ago, Bangkok was a city of canals. “Floating markets” held aboard open boats were commonplace. However, since then, most of Bangkok’s canals have been filled in to make way for traditional roads and wheeled vehicles.
There are still many floating markets to be found, but they are a bit contrived as they are intended more for tourists to experience a touch of the bygone Thai culture than for Thai people to peddle their wares to each other.
I searched high and low for an “authentic” floating market, and found one called the Tha Kha Market just outside of Bangkok that seemed like it would fit the bill.
We hopped in a cab to make our way out to this unusual sounding market, but were alarmed when we drove right by the signs for “Tha Kha Market” and arrived at the parking area for the known-to-be-touristy Damnoen Saduak Floating Market instead.
I chastised the driver for taking us to the wrong place, but he kept insisting this market was better, especially for photography. In the end we relented and hopped in a longtail boat and were piloted along a canal system.
The jungle was thick, and the ride was actually very cool.
We passed the homes of people who live on these canals.
Then we arrived at our first “store.” A series of shops stood right on the water’s edge, tucked under a wide corrugated metal roof overhang, and vendors sat in each stall.
Negotiating is a natural part of shopping in Thailand, and we’d heard that the standard patter is to ask the price, counter what the vendor says with something outrageously low, and then accept his counter if you want to buy the item.
We had come to this market with photography in mind, however, and we weren’t looking to make any purchases.
Our pilot slowed down a little as we passed each shop, and we admired the many items but simply shook our heads “no.” After all, we wanted our luggage to be able to meet the extremely stringent international weight guidelines on our flight home!
But in the days that followed, as we talked with other tourists around town, we realized that lots of people come to Bangkok specifically to shop, and many go to these floating markets hoping to score a deal.
Ironically, we found that the asking prices on many items at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market were ten times higher than in other places!
We were surprised to see a monk out shopping too!
We had arrived at the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market very early, but soon we began seeing boats filled with other tourists.
We joked with each other that we were a long ways from home and never would have seen something like this if we’d gone to Quartzsite for the RV show as we have so many times in Januaries past! Even with inadvertently getting caught in a tourist trap, we were having a blast!
Besides trinkets sold in the shops along the sides of the canals, many vendors were cooking things in their boats and selling various edible goodies to passersby.
Beautiful tropical fruits and veggies were on full display.
As the morning wore on, the canals became busier and busier as vendors and tourist boats passed each other continuously.
It was a little early for a beer, but some tourists imbibed as they floated along.
Of course, the display of traditions from long ago was just a show, and modern life lurked just out of sight.
The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market could easily be a showpiece at Disney’s Epcot Center, but experiencing it on the outskirts of Bangkok gave it a certain kind of realism.
And what fun it was to immerse ourselves in an event that hints at a lifestyle lived long ago.
As we putted back to the parking area in our longtail boat, we passed some men holding jungle critters for us to see up close.
As our taxi driver took us back to Bangkok, we passed signs for the Tha Kha market, the slightly more authentic floating market that I had originally wanted to go to. I tried to find out from the cabbie exactly why he hadn’t taken us there but couldn’t really understand his response.
When we returned to our hotel, I asked the concierge about the Tha Kha market. I pointed out its location on the map and he called over some colleagues to discuss it with them. In the end, they all agreed that the Tha Kha market had been closed and there was nothing there to see any more.
Whether the Tha Kha Market is truly closed — or whether we were taken to a more touristy market in hopes we’d buy a few things — the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market was a great spot for photography and made for a memorable morning.
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Other blog posts from our travels in Thailand:
- Snorkeling Ko Rok with Dive & Relax – Underwater Magic in Thailand!
- Cheow Lan Lake Tour in Khao Sok with Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House
- Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House – Khao Sok National Park… Wow!
- Kanchanaburi, Thailand – History, Caves, Monkeys & Exotic Fruit!
- Huay Mae Khamin – Thailand’s Most Beautiful Waterfall – Mellow Adventures
- Erawan Falls – Jewel of Erawan National Park – with Mellow Adventures
- Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi – A Ride Through Thailand’s Countryside
- One Day in Bangkok – A trip on the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat!
More info about the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market:
- Reviews of the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market – Tripadvisor
- Location of Damnoen Saduak Floating Market – Interactive Google Maps
- Our hotel in Bangkok – The Sukosol – A nice hotel next to a main stop on the Skytrain!
Fun markets we’ve visited in our travels:
- An Amish Farmer’s Auction in the NY Finger Lakes
- Finding Treasure at a San Diego Farmer’s Market
- PV: La Cruz – A Fun Artisan Market & Cruiser Hangout in Mexico
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