Bangkok has a crazy number of things to see and do, whether that be temple hopping, eating creepy crawlies on Khao San Road, relaxing in a rooftop pool or singing the night away in one of the live music bars. However, it’s the floating markets where you will get a taste of the authentic Thai culture.
A visit to the floating markets is usually a high priority on most tourist’s list when they visit Bangkok. With so many well-known markets such as Damnoen Saduak and Amphawa, it’s not surprising that holidaymakers flock there in herds to get a glimpse of something unusual and different to home.
Read on to find out all about two lesser trodden, local floating markets as well as how to get there without a time-constricted tour.
How to get to downtown Bangkok from the airport
Most backpackers begin their trip around Southeast Asia in Thailand’s capital, Bangkok. Bangkok is the perfect starting point as it makes for the perfect central hub for flights from all over the world. Getting to the tourist hub of Khao San Road from Suvarnabhumi airport is made simple with the many transport choices such as bus or private car. All you need to do is book beforehand so you can arrive at your hotel with ease, ready to explore the trodden and untrodden paths of Bangkok.
Taling Chan Floating Market
Taling Chan Floating Market is a local market located just 9 km south of central Bangkok. The first thing you will notice is the umpteen stalls that are selling the same trinkets that you will have seen a thousand times dotted along the tourist dominated streets in Bangkok, the only difference being the prices of items, which are clearly labelled. Bonus for tourists as there is no need to haggle down the price of that way over-priced purse, elephant pants or plastic bracelet.
After passing through the indoor market area you will come out onto the pier where you can see boat after boat docked up with vendors vigorously wafting smoke from the sizzling freshly caught fish on a skillet. It’s here you can pitch up for a break from shopping on the jetty and play seafood roulette by tucking into all the seafood your heart desires, whilst sitting crossed legged on the 5-inch tall Japanese style seating. Prices of dishes range from 30 Bhat ($1) upwards, depending on the dish and size.
Embarking on a bus trip to Taling Chan Market
Getting to Taling Chan Market from the tourist area of Bangkok is straightforward. Head to Ratchadannemoen Road, just a 5-minute walk from Khao San Road, and look out for bus number 79. If you see the large Royal Hotel, you know you’re in the right place. Bus number 79 will take you directly to Taling Chan market without the need for you to make a change.
The bus costs 15 Bhat and is a nice way to cool off from the walk, as it has the privilege of having air-conditioning fitted.
Opening hours: 9 am – 5 pm, weekends only
Entrance fee: Free
Khlong Lat Mayom Market
Upon arriving at Khlong Lat Mayom Market, you will quickly feel like you’re in a world far from the hustle and bustle of Khao San Road; no foreigners in sight, no English menus in sight, and no familiarity of home. Just a market filled with locals, quirky seafood in colorful boat shaped dishes and a few bands playing different styles of Thai music.
This market is much larger than Taling Chan Market, so it’s worth dedicating more of your time here to navigate up and down the endless lanes of food stalls and seating areas. If you’re spoilt for choice, opt to tuck into some well-known local Thai foods such as green curry or pineapple fried rice along the canal banks whilst sitting on tiny stools.
Opening hours: 8 am – 5 pm, weekends only
Entrance fee: Free
Take a longtail boat ride at Khlong Lat Mayon Market
Whilst at the markets, take the opportunity to hop into an engine-screeching longtail boat for a scenic ride along the alley of canal roads. Whilst cruising along the canal with the wind in your hair and the waves from the boat gently spraying up on you to cool you down, make sure to take note of the friendly waving locals and peer into true Thai life; their unique Thai style houses and lifestyle.
It’s fascinating to see how home owners dock up their row boats in front of their houses or watch as a monk hangs up the laundry at the local Buddhist temple. Whilst on the boat ride, it’s also possible to hop off to stretch your legs and take a walk around a local temple and orchid farm where you can take the opportunity to buy snacks and souvenirs.
The prices of the longtail boat rides range from 70 Bhat ($2.32) to 1,000 Bhat ($33.15) for a shared boat and 700 – 2,000 Bhat ($23.21 – $66.31) for a private boat. Depending on the price and the amount of stops you make, the boat trip will last an enjoyable 40 – 90 minutes.
Take a bus to Taling Chan Market
Getting to the markets from the tourist area of Bangkok is straightforward. Head to Ratchadannemoen Road, just a 5-minute walk from Khao San Road and look out for bus number 79. If you see the large Royal Hotel, you know you’re in the right place. Bus number 79 will take you directly to Taling Chan market without the need for you to make a change.
The bus currently costs 15 Bhat ($0.50) and is a nice way to cool off from the walk as it has the privilege of having air-conditioning fitted.
Mastering the Songthaews to Khlong Lat Mayom Market
The best thing about these two markets, is that they are within close proximity to each other. After a wandering around Taling Chan Market, you can easily head over to Khlong Lat Mayom Market. But not before hopping into a songthaew, a type of tuk-tuk that caters more for the locals than tourists and carries more than two passengers at a time.
What’s great about a songthaew is that there is a set price of 8 Bhat per person, each ride [10 Bhat ($0.33) during the hours of 10 pm – 5 am]. So, there is no need to worry about being overcharged. You can hop onto a songthaew at the same place you disembarked the 79 bus near Taling Chan Market, heading in the same direction.
The songthaews don’t have a number nor any English writing on them. So, you have the task of waving down each one that goes past to ask the driver. It’s a good idea to have the name of Khlong Lat Mayom Market written on a piece of paper in Thai or have a print-screen of the address on your phone. Don’t be afraid to ask the locals that are waiting at the bus stop too; they are usually very helpful.
Once you have overcome the task of taking a seat on the correct songthaew, you can sit back for the 20-minute journey. The songthaew will eventually drop you off outside of the market. At a set rate of 8 Bhat per ride, you can’t go wrong; a cheap ride and the experience of getting down with the locals and riding a songthaew.
Getting back to Bangkok after a fun-filled day at the floating markets
To get back to Bangkok, you can opt to take the above journey in reverse. Alternatively, you may be worn-out from walking around the market in a comatose state from too much delicious food. In this case, it’s probably easier to just hail down a taxi. The starting asking price for a taxi back to Khao San Road area starts at 200 Bhat ($6.50), but with a little haggling skill you could get this for 150 Bhat ($4.90).
All in all, a trip to these floating markets will allow you to see an aspect of Thai lifestyle that is far from the tourist traps in Bangkok. Just remember to enjoy the hectic floating markets and enjoy over-indulging in all the seafood and Thai food that you can. If you’re looking for more cool things to do away from the tourist hot spots, make sure to leave a day to check out the mysterious Dragon Temple.