Clad in the ubiquitous checked shirt of a floating market vendor, the woman deftly sliced the bananas. She dropped them into the sizzling pan of oil that occupied the centre of the boat. Minutes later she scooped crispy fritters from the fat and transferred them to a plastic bag. Hooked to the end of a long bamboo pole, she extended the bag of hot fresh treats, across the intervening boats, to where we stood on the banks of the canal. We retrieved our snacks, placing our payment in the cup provided. The pole was retracted and our transaction was complete. Fried banana was the perfect accompaniment to our exploration of the floating market at Damnoen Saduak.
Receiving Our Fried Bananas
The canals, or khlongs, that criss cross through the town of Damnoen Saduak are home to one of Thailand's famous floating markets. Every morning, dozens of boats loaded with colourful piles of fruit and vegetables ply the waterways. Some vessels equipped with stoves serve steaming bowls of noodles to passersby. Others grill skewers of meat or coconut pancakes. The banks of the canals are also packed with stalls, some only accessible by boat.
The Main Market Canal
Rush Hour at the Floating Market
After a hair raising high-speed minibus journey from Bangkok, we arrived early to find the market surprisingly quiet. By 10am however, coach loads of tourists had arrived for the last hour of market action. The narrow walkways were crammed with visitors and a log jam of tourist-filled paddle boats clogged the main canal. Smaller more mobile vessels selling coconut ice cream adeptly manoeuvred against the flow of traffic. They enthusiastically peddled their single product, presented in an eco-friendly coconut shell. Latching on to each tourist boat they passed, the snack vendors quickly completed each sale before moving on.
We were lucky to find a much quieter section of the market down a short side branch of the main canal. Here a handful of weary locals avoided the full onslaught of visitors as they went about their business at a leisurely pace. They traded amongst themselves, pulling up beside neighbouring boats for an exchange of goods and a chat. This relaxed pond of tranquility provided a refreshing change from the storm of souvenir sales elsewhere.
One Of The Quieter Canals
The Water Town of Damnoen Saduak
The small town of Damnoen Saduak has been built on a network of canals. With narrow walkways and infrequent bridges, boats are a useful mode of transport. Almost every house had at least one longtail boat and we saw other boats in various states of repair throughout the village. Floating markets were once common across this region. In many towns, including Bangkok, the markets and waterways have now disappeared to make way for more modern developments.
Damnoen Saduak Town
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Travel Tips
The floating market operates from around 0530 to 1100 daily. A lot of tour groups arrive at the market after 0900 so it is better to get there earlier if you can.
Coming from Bangkok, it's difficult to get to the floating market much before 0900 using public transport. Booking a tour won't get you there any earlier but it is easier and more direct. This is usually includes a minibus transfer, free time to look around the market and a short boat trip around the village. Do not expect a tour guide or any information about the market.
The longtail boat trips through the market are extremely popular. It's best to do this early as the boats fill up quickly once the coach tours arrive.