Damnoen Saduak, a renowned floating market in Thailand, offers a resplendent panoramic scenery of the hustle-bustle of colourfully clad vendors, wearing Thai hand-woven bamboo hats, sitting in the shade of an umbrella, paddling along the ‘Klong’ (canal) in long and sturdy boats to vend their merchandise.
The floating markets had emerged due to the call of time and the geographical limitations of Thailand. The past civilisations not only settled around rivulets but also, used it as an intrinsic part of trade. They used boats to move around and peddle their produce and crafts locally.
Today, floating markets, like Damnoen Saduak, have become a hallmark of Thailand’s rich historical past and are maintained for display for the tourists. Since Damnoen Saduak and other floating markets annually receive a huge footfall from around the globe, it has contributed immensely to the tourism industry of Thailand. This has lead to better job opportunities for the local Thai community in countryside, huge investment by the state in terms of infrastructure in villages and promotion of the vibrant Thai culture. I stayed in Amari Watergate and was picked by a pre-booked taxi bright and early. A word of caution for the night owls. You would want to tour the market as early as possible for an unfettered shopping and exploration experience. Once the crowd rolled in by 9 a.m, it became a huddle of boats in a narrow strip of water, creating a bottleneck, and it reminded me of the horrors of New York’s rush hour. However, it would be polite to apologise, saying ‘Khwato’ in Thai(which means sorry), whenever you bump into a fellow person’s boat! Its very interesting how in the midst of the floating market tour you’re taken to a Coconut Sugar Farm. You get to see how the locals make sugar from coconut and also get to sample the product for free.
Damnoen Saduak has elements of a typical local Asian market. The difference however is that, the shops are makeshift arrangements on a boat. There are pedlars hawking their wares including cooked food, desserts and fruits from little canoes plying up and down the klong. The canoes were laden with exotic varieties of tropical fruits and vegetables like Banana, Oranges, Mango, Coconuts and Star Fruit. There was a wide range of locally produced merchandise up for sale and bargaining. For someone who is into interior decor and wants to take home some authentic indigenous handicraft and artwork this place is a paradise.
You can find wooden statues, metallic figurines, lamp hangings, paintings of Buddha and Dragons (which are typical symbols of South-East Asian artworks) etc. Damnoen Saduak is a haven for people who are obsessed with street shopping. For someone who is an excellent haggler, this place would be an exhilarating experience. The vendors prepared local dishes on the spot with the required paraphernalia on the boat itself . I relished the highly recommended ‘Pad Thai’, which is basically stir-feed rice noodles with shredded meat pieces of choice and vegetables. There were several other delicacies that I could go on about namely Green papaya salad, prawns and spring rolls.
I could also see the Stilted houses, raised on plies on a body of water for protection against flooding, from a distance. You can see through the windows, the routine work being performed by the households.
For touring the market, for an hour or two, anything from a cheap row boats and paddle boats to a long tail motorised boat can be hired. I went with the latter as it is more efficacious. On the flip side, the market has lost its authenticity due to huge tourist inflow . Thus, the overpriced items can be likened to a tourist trap.
However, the positives of the visit more than offset a few downsides. With this experience, I am intrigued by what its counterparts in Cambodia and Myanmar have to offer.This was the first time I’d been to a floating market and the Thainess of this afloat market belt left me asking for more. Its definitely worth the visit and unleashing the foodie and shopaholic in you!
Hope you enjoy the pictures I managed to click from the moving boat. All of these pictures have been captured by phone.