The other name for Thailand is “Venice of the East. ” Aptly named, the topography of Bangkok City and Thailand in general will reveal many waterways, canals, rivers, and tributaries. The waterways were used and are still in use as a convenient way of getting around the cities, as well as to get from one province to another. It is the shortest and fastest route to move around the large expanse of land in the Kingdom of Thailand. Therefore, these waterways are also the life-blood of the country.
When you visit Thailand, make it a point to check with your tour and travel agent in Thailand on sightseeing and tours to floating markets in Thailand . These companies offer sightseeing and tours to Amphawa Floating Market, tours to Pattaya Floating Market, tours, and sightseeing to Ayutthaya Floating Market as well as tours and sightseeing to Damnoen Saduak. These floating market tours normally take half a day or a full day depending on where it is located as other sightseeing places are also included in the packages. The Pattaya and Ayutthaya floating markets are open throughout the week but the other floating markets are only available during the weekends.
The Thai people are rather innovative; their ability to adapt to circumstances has led to a very unique lifestyle that is both amazing and exciting to see. A visit to the floating markets of Thailand will reveal a different lifestyle that is still kept very much to the old traditions. Off course, there are the more commercialized versions such as those found in Pattaya and Ayutthaya but the other ones such as Amphawa, Damnoen Saduk , and Taling Chan are more in the traditional style albeit with slight touches of modernization in the infrastructure of the floating market place.
The difference between the commercialized floating markets and the more traditional ones are the setup of the place. A traditional floating market is where the small canal boats are still using the old original canal routes whereas the new ones are located in fabricated ponds and canals. If you want to feel the authentic ambience of a traditional wet market then make your way to Damnoen Saduak, Taling Chan or Amphawa on a weekend. It is advisable to go early as these places can get very crowded and seating space to enjoy your meals are rather limited.
The floating markets of Pattaya and Ayutthaya are fairly new. Aside from the simulated “klong” or waterway, it is more spacious, cleaner, and easily accessible even for the disabled. They offer almost the same variety of products, produce and food as the more traditional ones but variety is off course more limited. The advantage is that they have more entertainment in the form of variety and cultural shows as well as traditional folk art and craft demonstrations. There are also cleaner amenities such as washrooms and rest areas with ample seating. Compared to the older more traditional floating markets , most visitors do opt for the new more modern versions. On the other hand, the traditional floating markets are a cacophony of noise, smells, sight, sound, colors and taste that is very uniquely Thai. IF you want a more authentic feel to your visit, then choose the floating markets in Damnoen Saduk, Amphawa, and Taling Chan.
The older floating markets are where the locals come and ply their trade in a variety of products. Most of them gain access to the floating market via the canals, their little boats laden with all the goodies they bring. Some of these boats even have a mini kitchen onboard where they prepare piping hot meals ranging from noodles, green papaya salads, and desserts to grilled seafood. An all-time favorite is off course the traditional green papaya salad known as “SomTum” that comes with sticky rice and grilled chicken or pork. Another food attraction is the “satay” or skewered pieces of chicken or pork served with a piquant sauce and vinegar cucumber salad. Most will also make their way to the grilled seafood boats that offer a variety of fresh seafood such as sea bass, local fresh water fish (both encrusted with salt and grilled), fresh and seawater prawns, crayfish, large cuttlefish and squids, sea and mud crabs as well as different types of shellfish. The seafood is normally accompanied by a spicy homemade sauce that brings out the flavor of the seafood plus of course the novelty of eating your meal by the side of a “klong.” Please note that seating in these older floating markets are rather low. You have to sit on very short stools to get at your meals, so for the disabled it may be an inconvenience.
There are also permanent stalls and shops at both the new and older floating markets. These shops sell everything from snacks to souvenirs and t-shirts. They are great mementoes to remember your trip there. The Ayutthaya Floating Market also has other activities such as elephant rides and baby goat feeding that will amuse the kids. The colors stemming from the variety of shops, boats, stalls, and goods on display makes it a great photo opportunity for those who are interested in photography. In the older floating markets, there are sometimes vendors who sell live fish, turtles, frogs, and eel just by the canal side. You will notice them from the many tubs on display containing these creatures. No, they are not meant for eating, but rather for merit purposes. The Thai believe that if you let them go it will take away all your bad luck and bring you good luck! Therefore, you might want to give this a go while you are visiting the floating market.
All in all, a trip down to these floating markets are a must to get a taste of Thai culture and traditions while you are in Thailand. There are not many places in the world where you can still observe this tradition but Thailand has definitely kept this tradition very much alive and thriving.