If you’re looking for an authentic floating market (it’s not included in any of the guidebooks I’ve seen) and on a manageable scale (i.e its not too large to walk the whole market in the heat), Amphawa is the floating market for you.
Located in the coastal province of Samut Songkhram (the home of the first Siamese twins), it is close to Bangkok, and the market itself is next to the King Rama II memorial park, so you can spend your time visiting both of these great locations (old post on King Rama II park here).
A little floating market history – Bangkok, prior to becoming the seat of governance in 1782, was a small but popular trading post that ships would stop by en route to Ayutthaya. Due to its many networks of canals, it quickly became known amongst Western visitors as the ‘Venice of the East’.
Change began in the 1950’s after WWII, when the population began to expand and grow outwards from the centre of the Chao Phraya river, bringing business centres, housing and roads to what were previously farming fields and rice paddies.
Consequently, this spread also meant that many of Bangkok’s canals had to be filled in.
But thankfully many floating markets inside and on the outskirts of the capital remain, and the Amphawa market is the perfect size for visitors to have an interesting walk up and down on the shaded wooden promenades that run on either side of the river, crammed with various gifts and offerings on land as well as in the water stalls.
There are also various river trips on offer that are very reasonably priced and which run to several locations outside of the market tributary. The boat drivers like to put their foot down, so if you find yourself sitting at the front of a boat trip then prepare to get a little wet.
At the weekend, I drove down to Samut Songkhram to visit the King Rama II Memorial Park Fair. But, I also wanted to take this opportunity to visit the nearby Amphawa Floating Market. Unlike the famous one at Damnoen Saduak, this one doesn’t start to get going until the late afternoon. Very good news for late risers. It also means you can visit the nearby park first before finishing your day with a meal at the floating market. I am not going to pretend that Amphawan Floating Market is more photogenic than Damnoen Saduak. That isn’t true. You won’t see as many boat vendors here which means you will get a different kind of photograph. So, by all means, still go to Damnoen Saduak for your photo opportunity. But, if you have the time, also come to this floating market for the atmosphere which is so much better. It is also more authentic as you won’t find the rows and rows of stalls selling the same tacky souvenirs. The best thing about Amphawa Floating Market is that it is still relatively unknown among Western tourists as it isn’t featured in Lonely Planet yet. There must have been a thousand people there, but I didn’t spot one European face. This is where the Thai tourists come to experience a floating market.
Source: Amphawa Floating Market by Richard Barrow
Gallery by Sarah Bloom