Visit the most unique, vivid, and lively Thai markets for an exciting day trip outside of Bangkok
When most backpackers come to Thailand, most see the typical sites that Bangkok has to offer when visiting the city, like the ornate temples, the royal palaces, and the infamous nightlife of Khao San Road. For an authentic Thai experience, it is also recommended to venture outside of the city to see the traditional and more rural side of Thailand. One popular day trip outside of Bangkok is to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market and the Maeklong Railway Market, arguably the most popular markets in Thailand. If you want to escape the bustle of the city, visit the vibrant floating market or the unique train market for an unforgettable experience. Mad Monkey Bangkok is one of the few hostels that will organize this Thai markets tour for you.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
Damnoen Saduak is the most popular floating market in Thailand, which is great for photo opportunities, trying new food, and catching a glimpse of the traditional way of life. When you arrive, you board a decorated longtail boat, floating down a maze of narrow canals, past the small wooden houses on stilts and neighborhoods that are surrounded by water.
Once past the residential area, you will arrive at the market itself which is crowded with local vendors selling their goods in small rowing boats. The real highlight of the market is viewing the fruit, flower, and food vendors that trade directly from their small wooden boats to another.
You can also ride a paddle boat for 150 baht, which will guide you around the main markets and the smaller canals for about thirty minutes for another perspective of the market. Here you will witness vendors wearing bamboo hats, selling various fruit, noodles, souvenirs, and even ice cream from their boats. When you see something you want to purchase, vendors use a basket on the end of a long wooden stick to take your money and pass you your goods!
Once off the boat, you can wander the stalls located on the banks of the river. Most sell a variety of souvenirs like wooden handicrafts, handmade jewelry, and small knick knacks. For an unique culinary experience, pull up a plastic stool before a parked boat vendor and enjoy your meal as you watch the organized chaos around you.
This popular market is about 80 kilometers south of Bangkok and there are numerous ways to get to it. There are bus services to the floating market from the Southern Bus Terminal on Borommarat Chachonnani Road starting early in the morning. The bus will drop you about one kilometer away from the market and from there you can walk or catch a taxi.
Another option is to ride the mini-bus to Damnoen Saduak Thai markets. Their terminal is at the Victory Monument beside the Century Mall. We recommend a morning visit to the floating market to avoid the midday heat and to see the market during its peak hours, before too many of the colorful boats and vendors close up shop for the day!
Maeklong Railway Market
Not too far from the floating market, is the the Maeklong Railway market. This is the most visited railway market in Thailand, which is still in operation after a hundred years. A visit to Maeklong Railway Market is a truly unique experience and unlike anything you’ve ever seen before!
The market offers everything a traditional Thai market would have, but what sets it apart from other markets is that it is located directly on working railroad tracks. When there are no trains, you can easily forget that it’s on an operating railway line. When a train passes, vendors move their goods in an orderly but pretty nonchalant way, as if it’s something that they have done a thousand times before.
Walking through the small winding alleyways of the railway market, you can explore the stalls to view the fresh fruits and vegetables on display, as well as the fresh seafood, so fresh that some fish are still very much moving. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere that is until the whistle of the approaching train breaks the sounds of the markets, and then the sellers move with a new sense of purpose.
When the whistle is sounded, the vendors move some of their goods, the tracks are cleared, and vendors close their shop awnings away from the railway tracks to make way for the oncoming train. The baskets of fruits and vegetables are shifted just enough as to not be sliced by the metal wheels. This action is repeated throughout the day,which is why this market is called Talad Rom Hoop in Thai, which means the “closing of umbrellas.”
When the train does arrive, it is so close that you can reach out and touch it as it passes through the market (not recommended!) It’s an amazing sight to see because the train goes right over some of the produce that is displayed on the ground. Surprisingly, nothing is damaged or destroyed. As soon as the train passes, the shops are set up again and daily routine tasks of the market resumes. The vendors are pretty unimpressed, as they watch the train depart daily nearly eight times a day and get no thrill of the event!
There are a few ways you can get to this market. One of the most easiest ways to take the BTS Skytrain to the Victory Monument station and wait for the designated mini bus. These buses leave as soon as one is filled, so you never know when your departure time will be. Be sure to look up the train timetable before heading out so that you do not miss the departure of the train.
If you prefer not to figure out public transportation on your own, and would prefer to take a tour, talk to the receptionist at Mad Monkey to see how they can help book a tour for you. A tour is the most convenient way to get to the markets since they’ll pick you up from Mad Monkey in an air-conditioned van and the guide will give you a more detailed history of the markets and the surrounding areas.
Both of these sites would make great additions to your stay in Bangkok and can be a fascinating insight into Thai markets culture! Both markets are memorable day trips that provides lots of photo opportunities, so dust off that Bangkok hangover and get to these unique markets!
This post is a guest post written by Carrie Back
More information about Thai markets in and around Bangkok:
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