Damnoen Saduak: Cruising Through A Thai Floating Market

Lady cutting mangoes on boat at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Thailand

The bananas were deftly sliced and dropped into the sizzling pan of oil that occupied the centre of the boat. Minutes later crispy fritters were scooped from the fat and transferred to a plastic bag. Hooked to the end of a long bamboo pole, the bag of hot fresh treats was extended, across the intervening boats, to where we stood on the banks of the canal. We retrieved our snacks and placed 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 The pole was retracted and our transaction was complete.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.

Buying fried bananas at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Thailand

Buying 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 veg ply the waterways. Some vessels equipped with stoves serve steaming bowls of noodles to passersby. Others grill skewers of meat or fresh coconut pancakes.  The banks of the canals are also packed with stalls, some only accessible by boat.

Rush Hour at the Floating Market

After a hair raising 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 the flow of boats slowed to a crawl. A log jam of tourist-filled paddle boats clogged the market's main canal. Smaller more mobile vessels selling coconut ice cream adeptly manoeuvred against the tide. They enthusiastically peddled their single product, presented in an eco friendly coconut shell. Latching on to each tourist boat, the snack vendors quickly completed each transaction before moving on.

Looking down on boat umbrellas and canopies at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Thailand

Rush Hour Boat Traffic

We were lucky to find a much quieter section of the market down one 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 was a refreshing change of pace amidst the storm of souvenir sales.

Locals in boats chatting at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Thailand

Away from the Crowds

The Water Town of Damnoen Saduak

The small town of Damnoen Saduak has been built on a network of khlongs. 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 boats in various states of repair throughout the village. Floating markets are a convenient method of trading and were once more widespread. In many towns, including Bangkok, the markets and waterways have gradually disappeared to make way for more modern developments.

Canals and Houses on Stilts at Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

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. It may be easier to book a tour, which usually just includes a minibus transfer and a short boat trip.

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