Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
Damnoen Saduak, Damnoen Saduak District, Ratchaburi 70130, Thailand
Constructed between 1866 and 1868 the Damnoen Sadauak Canal connected two rivers, the Mae Klong and the Tha Chin. Floating markets soon began to crop up along the well-traversed canal with the main one called Lad Plee that sat next to a Buddhist temple. The markets remained active until 1967 when road transport and other infrastructure improved and became more efficient thus trade for the floating markets dropped.
Four years after the demise of traditional commercial trading Lad Plee was made a tourist attraction for foreign visitors. A decade later a new road was opened to create easy access, establishing what is now a tourist mecca in Thailand, and a must visit attraction for anyone looking for that all-important souvenir.
The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is easily accessible by road and is about 100km, just over an hour’s journey from Bangkok. The earliest coup in terms of marketing of this amazing tourist attraction was it being used in the 1974 James Bond movie “The Man with the Golden Gun”. Today the market attracts thousands of visitors, many still today thanks to this very movie scene. Many travel companies provide tours that allow tourists to explore the market and many tourists will whisper stories of Bond, James Bond as the market becomes familiar.
The market is an unusual and unique shopping experience and the many, often female vendors often wearing traditional and familiar blue farmers shirts sell a variety of items from sampans. Everything from fresh vegetables to live chickens can be purchased alongside numerous, very touristy and often overpriced souvenirs. Haggling is part of the fun and part of the tour for those who visit. Souvenirs are often a fixed price; however, vendors allow some negotiation leading the buyer to believe they got a bargain.
Simple and delicious cooked meals are impossibly cooked on board small boats or transported from a floating platform to other boats for selling are well worth trying. The fruit and vegetables on offer are surprisingly very fresh and their colours alone make for great photo opportunities often with smiling vendors making sure your photo costs you a piece of fruit.
The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market actually comprises a number of smaller markets, Ton Khem, Hia Kui, and Khun Phitak. The entire market is heavily visited and very busy all year round. Between 7am and 9am the crowds are at their most intense and it is advisable to visit around 10am to get the most out of the visit without crazy crowds. If you must visit as the busy times, it makes sense to travel a short distance down river to the smaller Khun Phitak market. Here the crowds are smaller, the prices a little better and the experience a little more enjoyable, especially when travelling with kids.
Many hotels offer full day and half tours to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market using experienced tour guides. The market really is an experience not to be missed and tours are affordable and advisable. Remember the vast majority of traders will not accept bank or credit cards and accept only local Thai Currency, Thai Baht. It is well worth making sure you have plenty of cash, not so much for souvenirs, but to sample and purchase some of the local foodstuffs that make the market so special. The market is open until around noon and any experienced tour guide will ensure any visit is optimised for enjoyment, photographs and to get the best prices on the best products.
If you are really lucky you may have a boat operator who still recalls the James Bond movie and your day will be that little bit more exciting as the motor is opened up and you race down the river… now that really is an experience not to be missed, Mr Bond!