Floating markets in Thailand offer a unique shopping experience where vendors sell various goods from boats along the canals, vibrant and colorful. Are you tempted by a unique experience? Follow our comprehensive guide to discover Thailand’s most enchanting floating markets, revealing all the charm of Thailand’s canals.
Thailand is full of canals, known locally as ‘khlongs’ thanks to its unique topography of vast river systems and wet lowlands. In the past, these khlongs comprising natural waterways and man-made canals, criss-crossed the city centres, allowing local people to use them for transport and trade.
1. History of Thailand’s floating markets
The origins of the floating markets date back to the end of the 19th century, during the reign of King Rama IV in Thailand. At a time when roads and modern transport systems were virtually non-existent, rivers and canals were the main means of getting around. Bangkok and the provinces of Samut Songkhram, Ratchaburi and Nakhon Pathom to the west were dotted with miles of rivers and canals, used by Thais to travel, fish and trade. Did you know that Bangkok was nicknamed the “Venice of the East” because of its abundance of canals?
Floating markets have long played a central role in Thai life. However, with the increasing urbanisation of major cities such as Bangkok, many traders have gradually moved their activities to the mainland. Some floating markets have been relocated to land, while others have sadly disappeared. To preserve these floating markets and their heritage, the Tourism Authority of Thailand decided in 1971 to promote the most famous floating market, Damnoen Saduak, as a tourist attraction for foreign visitors.
Today, Thailand has around twenty floating markets, most of which are located in Bangkok along the two major rivers, the Chao Phraya and the Mae Klong. Each market has its own atmosphere, and some retain a more authentic feel than others. To help you decide which floating market to visit during your stay in Thailand, we’ve compiled a list of some of them below.
2. Most beautiful floating market in Bangkok
2.1 Damnoen Saduak floating market
- Map: Damnoen Saduak District, Ratchaburi
- Open: from 8am to 4pm
Without a doubt, Damnoen Saduak is one of most renowned floating markets in Thailand. Located in Ratchaburi, just outside Bangkok, it’s easily accessible in about an hour and a half from the Thai capital. Tuk-tuks and public buses run to it daily. Damnoen Saduak is the only floating market near Bangkok open every morning from 8am to 4pm. To fully enjoy the lively atmosphere without the massive influx of tourists, it’s best to get there early.
This floating market is a paradise for those looking for souvenirs and local handicrafts. It is particularly famous for its vendors selling a wide range of colourful products. Be sure to capture these bursts of colour for some great shots.
You can also sample a host of authentic Thai specialities, such as delicious khao lam (coconut milk and glutinous rice infused with bamboo), as well as fresh fruit such as mangoes and pomelos. What’s more, you can enjoy relaxing activities such as traditional Thai massages aboard the pirogues. It is this perfect harmony that makes Damnoen Saduak the most famous floating market in Bangkok, if not the whole of Thailand.
The majority of visitors to the floating markets go to Damnoen Saduak, which means you’re likely to see more tourists than locals here. When the tourist buses arrive, the waterways fill up with western travellers. It’s common to be overwhelmed by the crowds, so keep your wits about you to avoid tuk-tuk driver scams, bargaining and pickpocketing.
2.2 Amphawa floating market
- Map: Amphawa District, Samut Songkhram
- Open: Friday to Sunday, from 10 am to 9.30 pm
Located 80km south-west of Bangkok, along a canal that connects to the Mae Klong River, the Amphawa floating market is the second largest floating market in Thailand, just after Damnoen Saduak. A go-to floating market for capital dwellers looking for a short-ride out-of-town charm, this floating market reflects the region’s natural abundance in the available fresh produce and seafood. Lined the two sides of the canals are old wooden houses, many turned into cafes and restaurants for the convenience of the time.
For a lively and unforgettable experience, head to the floating market after 2pm. This is when the place starts to bustle with visitors strolling around and sampling local dishes. If you opt for a late afternoon stroll, you’ll be enchanted by the illuminated shops reflected in the water, while the sunset paints an idyllic landscape of Thailand’s capital.
The scenery in Amphawa is sure to enchant, particularly with its many small bridges spanning the river. From these bridges, you can admire the bustle of the floating market below. As with all floating markets, it’s essential to take a boat trip to soak up the authentic atmosphere of this river region and immerse yourself in local life.
As soon as you arrive in Amphawa, you’ll be greeted by the delicious smells of grilled seafood. This market is renowned for its fresh, fragrant seafood, served directly from the boats and prepared using a variety of methods, including grilling. As well as seafood, you can also find a variety of traditional dishes and Thai specialities, such as Thai coconut cream, mango sticky rice and many others. On the edge of the market, you’ll find charming souvenir shops, cafeterias and many other attractions.
2.3 Taling Chan floating market
- Map: 333 Chak Phra Road, Khlong Chak Phra, Taling Chan
- Open: Saturdays and Sundays, from 8am to 5pm
Located just 12km from the centre of Bangkok, the Taling Chan floating market is one of the easiest to reach from the capital, offering an authentic Thai experience. Unlike the hustle and bustle of Thailand’s larger floating markets, Taling Chan is smaller and more peaceful. You won’t need to get up early, as its proximity makes the journey extremely convenient.
Taling Chan retains the original, rustic features that are rare in Thai floating markets. With its calm atmosphere and wide variety of products, it’s the ideal place if you prefer to avoid crowded places and want to enjoy an authentic local experience. You’ll be able to discover the daily life of the locals and immerse yourself in their culture.
The market also offers a full range of typical Thai dishes, such as tom yum, khao soi and Pad thai, as well as delicious fruit and snacks such as mango sticky rice and durian sticky rice. You can sample these traditional dishes while soaking up the peaceful atmosphere and observing the friendly exchanges between the vendors and locals.
2.4 Khlong Lat Mayom floating market
- Map: 30/1 หมู่ที่ 15 Bang Ramat Road, Taling Chan
- Open: only weekends and public holidays, from 8am to 5pm
If you’re looking for a more authentic experience in one of Thailand’s floating markets, head to Khlong Lat Mayom. Although the market has a few floating vendors, most stalls are located on the banks of the river. The waterway here is narrow, limiting access for boats. The Khlong Lat Mayom floating market is only open on weekends and public holidays, from 8am to 5pm.
The area surrounding the Khlong Lat Mayom floating market is linked by a series of boardwalks. You can walk along the canals in all directions until you finally reach a dead end.
Walking along the canals of Thonburi, you’ll discover a hidden side of Bangkok that you didn’t expect to find in this big city. Leave the cars and traffic jams behind and immerse yourself in the peaceful atmosphere of rowboats, fishermen and dogs lounging by the water. If you want more floating, you can combine your visit with one to the nearby Taling Chan Floating Market to enjoy the best of both worlds.
2.5 Bang Nam Pheung floating market
- Map: 98 Bang Nam Phueng, Phra Pradaeng District, Samut Prakan
- Open: Saturdays and Sundays, from 7.30 am to 4 pm
This is another of Bangkok’s floating markets, located in Bang Kachao. This area is nicknamed the ‘green lung’ of the city because of its magnificent natural setting, often explored by bicycle. Open only at weekends, this floating market offers a more peaceful atmosphere than others.
Although small in size, this floating market is packed with culinary delights. It’s the perfect place to sample traditional Thai dishes such as hoi thot (Thai-style fried mussel pancakes) or savour delicious Asian fruits.
3. The best floating market in Pattaya
- Map: 451 304 หมู่ที่ 12 Sukhumvit Road, Muang Pattaya
- Open: 9 am – 7 pm
When visiting Pattaya, don’t miss the famous Four Regions Floating Market. Opened in 2008, this market is a vast complex divided into four distinct areas representing the different regions of Thailand: the north, centre, south and north-east. This is why it is known as the ‘Four Regions’ Floating Market.
As with other floating markets, you’ll find a variety of items from souvenirs to food and fruit. What sets this market apart from Bangkok’s floating markets are its four areas, each with its own unique architecture and style of decoration. This gives you the opportunity to discover the different styles of each Thai region.
In the southern zone, for example, you’ll discover carefully designed roofs with precise lines and delicately sculpted motifs. The North, on the other hand, favours a simple style, with pointed roofs and simple designs.
At the Four Regions market, you can enjoy attractive artistic performances, ranging from the traditional to the modern. There are also unique cultural performances and other interesting activities, such as Muay Thai on the water and cultural shows.
Please note that a ticket is required to visit this floating market.
4. Visit the Ayutthaya floating market
- Map: 65/19 Phai Ling, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya District
- Open: 9 am – 6 pm
Discover the Ayothaya Floating Market, a cultural site of remarkable importance nestled in the heart of Ayutthaya’s largest historical site, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Inaugurated in 2010, this colossal floating market covers more than 28 hectares, making it the must-see tourist attraction in Ayutthaya province.
This spacious area offers visitors a complete experience, allowing them to shop, enjoy delicious food and soak up the rich heritage of this ancient capital of the Ayutthaya kingdom. As you stroll along the man-made canal, you’ll come across quaint shops and street vendors offering a variety of products, light snacks and a wide range of food.
The market also offers live theatrical re-enactments of the historic Burmese invasions of the Ayutthaya kingdom, which take place at weekends. Plan your visit accordingly if you want to see history come to life before your eyes.
5. Tips for visit to floating markets in Thailand
- Always check prices before taking up a service or buying a product.
- Plan to arrive early to avoid crowds and take full advantage of the beauty of the floating markets, especially Damnoen Saduak.
- Protect your personal belongings and valuables with care. Carry your bag on the front for added security.
- Choose comfortable clothes to make it easier to get around.
- Don’t forget to bring sun cream if you visit the floating market during Thailand’s hot season.
Thailand’s floating markets offer an unforgettable Asian experience that harmoniously combines the country’s rich culture with a variety of delicious local produce. Located in the heart of river regions, these markets are steeped in the authenticity and legendary hospitality of the Thai people, making them a memorable adventure every time you visit. Don’t forget to check out our list of floating markets in Thailand for your next trip!