A trip to the City of Angels should not be completed without a visit to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. Established in 1981, the market is a top-rated tourist attraction and arguably the most popular floating market in Thailand.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is one of Thailand’s most famous, colorful, and chaotic markets. Within easy reach of Bangkok in Amphoe district of nearby Ratchaburi province – even if you would prefer not to make any purchases, it still makes for an exciting experience.
If you’re a James Bond fan and have seen the movie ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ (1974) featuring Roger Moore, you might recall the scene where Bond raced along a narrow canal in Thailand…that very canal is in Khlong Damnoen Saduak! If you take a canal boat to the markets, you will get the chance to ride that very same water.
You can experience floating markets in Thonburi without leaving Bangkok – see our Bangkok travel guide page for more details – but they are more functional and domestically oriented, while those at Damnoen Saduak are more showy and an event in their own right. Private tours of Damnoen Saduak floating market start at around $70 per person, but you can join a group tour from $55 per person.
If you are with a tour group, you will typically leave your vehicle a few kilometers from the floating markets and have a fast long-tail boat ride up the Khlong Damnoen Saduak, passing canal-side homes where life looks like it probably hasn’t changed much in centuries.
When you get to the floating market itself, you may need to transfer to a non-powered sampan as no long-tail boats are allowed through the market (though that rule is frequently broken). The market tends to get quite crowded, so make sure to keep your hands inside the boat or you might lose some fingers as another boat grinds past.
If you go to Damnoen Saduak Floating Markets on your own (outside of a tour group), be aware that you might get ripped off. It’s not uncommon to get there and find people trying to charge you several thousand Baht (US$100 or more) for a motorized canal boat ride. Don’t pay it! At most, it should be 500-1000 Baht depending on how hard you bargain and how many people you ask.
If there’s a group of you, it should come to about 100-150 Baht per person for a shared boat. The motorized boats are great fun, but you also have an option of a non-motorized boat which is more peaceful and offers more opportunity to see the lifestyle along the river … and it only costs about 100 Baht!
The market itself is very colorful and offers a reasonable range of craft and souvenirs, but at very inflated prices. All you have to do is point to something on a market stall and it will be handed down to your boat to look at. Prices are negotiable but the quality is likely to be disappointing, even if you can negotiate a reasonable price.
One of the nice things about this place is that when you get out of your sampan you usually have a bit of free time to explore the static market up above the waterway. Here you will find better prices but also some of the most delicious spring rolls anywhere in Thailand. They are plentiful, cheap and the dipping sauce is divine. There are also some nice snacks and drinks to buy from the passing market boats if you get the chance. The Thai Iced Coffee is worth a try, as is the Mango Sticky Rice.
An interesting sight once you are landside again is watching the locals buying things from the stalls on the other side of the canal. They shout to the vendor, who puts their purchase into a bucket that’s hoisted across the canal on a flying-fox cable. The money goes into the bucket which is then hauled back to the vendor.
The downside of going to Damnoen Saduak floating market in a group tour is that for some odd reason, most of the tour groups arrive and leave at about the same time of the day (around mid-morning), so the place tends to be wall to wall tourists during those periods. If you can organize a private tour of some kind you will get a much “kinder” view of the place. Try to get there so you’re in and out before 9.30 AM for the best experience.
If you can’t stump up for a private car, taxi, or tuk-tuk to get you there early, you can always jump on the bus from the Southern Bus Terminal (Borommarat Chachonnani Road) in Pin Klao. This service runs every 20 minutes or so from 6.30 AM and costs about 50 BHT.
The travel time is around two hours on the bus, so you should aim to get a very early bus there. You can also stay locally so you can venture out and explore the markets soon after sunrise – the best time of the day. It’s usually pretty hot at Damnoen Saduak, so don’t forget sunscreen and bottled water.
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