The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is located 60 miles west of Bangkok, Thailand and is open only in the mornings seven days a week. Floating markets in Thailand are markets where small boats sell produce, crafts, and souvenirs alongside land based shops on the banks of rivers, streams or canals. The existing water markets have transitioned to selling mainly to tourists instead of locals.
The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is one of the top tourist’s hotspots where visitors to Bangkok can make an easy day trip to experience modern day version of a Thailand floating market. Most visitors to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market travel to the market through the canal system on a long-tail boat that uses an automobile engine. Others take a shorter trip using Thai style canoes hand paddled through the small canals near the market.
Changes over time
Despite having transitioned from being a market for local transactions to a market focused on tourists the basic structure of the market is essentially the same. Local vendor still sell fruits, vegetables and other produce along with fresh cooked food, snacks and souvenirs intended for tourists.
The main difference is that in the past most of the boats in the market were selling their products to locals but now there are fewer vendor boat and the tourist boats are approximately equal to the vendor boats. The photos above were taken in 2019 and the photo below was taken on my first trip to Thailand in 1988. This shows how the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market has changed over the years.
Many of the vendors sell fruits, vegetables and other produce. One of my favorite experiences of being in Southeast Asia is eating all of the fresh fruits that are grown locally in the region so seeing boats filled with some of my favorite fruits is irresistible. Many of the boats sell bananas, pineapple, watermelon, mangoes along with some of my favorites like sugar apples, rambutan, dragon fruit, mangosteen, longan, lychee and jackfruit.
Other than vendors selling produce, many boats in the market are a floating version of our food trucks as they cook food right on their boats and hand dishes directly to you. It doesn’t get any fresher than that!
Eating street food has always been a big part of my travels. I enjoy going from vendor to vendor sampling the food being cooked. This is the same experience so don’t miss out on tasting the local dishes straight from the grill.
While most of the boat vendors concentrate on selling food, the vendors along the banks of the canals primarily focus on selling souvenirs. Sometime items sold in local markets many not be found in other places so if you see something you like, buy it. You may not see anything like is again.
The main canals of the market are busy and full of tourists but some of the canals just off the main strip are less touristy and are still more of a local market. These areas are quieter and more resemble a current Thailand water market. So if you get a chance, go a little way off the beaten path and see today version of a floating market.
I have visited the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market twice separated by 30 years between visits.
While the market may not be the traditional market of the past it is a great activity for tourist to experience traveling through Bangkok’s busy waterway next to all forms of local river transportation and then enjoy eating local Thai food freshly cooked from a boat (floating food truck) and hand passed to be eaten.
Yes, the market can seem a little touristy, but it is a fun visit for a day trip from Bangkok. Going to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market may let you see a glimpse of how it was in the past but the best reason to go is to enjoy it for the way it is today.
Enjoy the boat ride, enjoy eating freshly cooked food from a Thai canoe and most of all enjoy an experience that you many never have a chance to do again!