Avoiding the Tourists at Markets in and around Bangkok
Everyone wants to visit a floating market during their time in Thailand – they provide the sort of postcard-perfect photo opportunities that travel dreams are made of. But it is all too easy to end up booked on a group tour to Damnoen Saduak, the floating market tourist trap of all floating market tourist traps. You’ll spend a day divided between being squished up in a minivan and squished up between the hordes of others all looking for that one shot that no longer has quite the same appeal. Fun for no-one. Instead, check out these three less frequented alternatives and come away with a different type of memory altogether – and no shortage of photo ops either.
Mae Khlong Railway Market
This is the sort of place you just couldn’t make up – a narrow market with railway tracks running right through the middle.
Railway tracks that are still used by a full-sized passenger train that rolls past eight times daily. The market was there before the track was laid and it hasn’t budged since, simple as that. Instead, stallholders roll up their awnings and pull in their produce (anything that is above the height of the bottom of the carriage, anyway) for each of the train’s four return journeys. This is one of several parts of the Thai railway system that are cut off from the main network.
Getting there involves taking a 10 baht train from Bangkok’s Wongwian Yai station to Mahachai, jumping on a 3 baht cross-river ferry and then catching a second train, also 10 baht, to Mae Khlong; at the end of the line you will run right through the market before reaching the terminal station just a little further on. Locals are friendly and the market, though attracting more westerners in the past few years, visitors are still predominantly Thais and other Asian tourists. If you don’t fancy the two-hour journey by train, a minivan from Bangkok’s Victory Monument will have you out here marginally quicker for 70 baht.
Taling Chan Floating Market
A visit to a floating market needn’t mean leaving Bangkok at all – not properly, anyway. Set in the suburbs on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River, the floating market at Taling Chan is a calmer scene than you will find at Damnoen Saduak or even the tamer and more pleasant Amphawa. In reality much of the market here is on land, but there are still a few vendors selling noodle soup, grilled seafood and the like from their moored boats, and longtails run trips around the villages along the area’s canals – all at noticeably uninflated prices, largely thanks to the fact that Taling Chan is still primarily off the radar of foreign tourists, and visitors are mostly Thai.
Early morning boat trips also run to the nearby, even smaller scale Khlong Lat Mayom floating market. At Taling Chan you can relax with a massage and live Thai music – the market runs every weekend, and a 17 baht ride on orange-coloured, air-con bus number 79 will get you there. Catch it from outside the front entrance to Central World, just around the corner from Siam Paragon; the conductor will be able to tell you where to get off the bus.
Talat Rot Fai
Another railway market of sorts (‘talat’ is Thai for ‘market’ and ‘rot fai’ means ‘train’), this is the market of dreams for hippies after funky cast-offs and more. It is located at the northern end of central Bangkok and has grown considerable in the couple of years since it launched; it is now packed every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The market kicks off at around 2pm, but it is best to arrive just before dusk, by which time there is an ever-growing choice of food stalls and a pleasing number of side-open camper vans specialising in ice-cold beer. Bring a couple of friends, wander the aisles of the market and then sit back and enjoy the refreshing atmosphere that prevails here – it’s confidently cool but totally unpretentious. Take the Skytrain to Saphan Kwai and jump in a tuk-tuk – the drivers know the market well (and better than taxi drivers) and the ride will cost you 50 baht.
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