The mystical floating markets of Thailand

By Rachel Arandilla

 

THERE is something so romantic about river boat rides.

Even amidst the sweltering heat of tropical Thailand, we still found ourselves enamored by the river, by the strange blend of familiarity and expectation.

Maybe it is human nature that subconsciously draws us towards bodies of water. The human body, after all, is 60 percent water. We simply cannot live without water.

The earliest civilizations were built near bodies of water. The biggest and most successful civilizations were nearby rivers that provided potable water: Egyptians and the Nile River, Mesopotamians and the Tigris-Euphrates River, Chinese and the Yangtze River, Indians and the Indus River, etc.

Back then, areas adjacent to rivers are the first to be populated. Water was also the major means of transportation, hence riverside communities were bustling with commercial activity, the center of barter and trade.

Three thousand years after, humans have since developed such sophisticated systems and technology in irrigation and water filtration that we have spread throughout all corners of the world.

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Vendors at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
Vendors at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Damnoen Saduak floating market is the largest and most well known floating market in Thailand, but there are several others all over the country.

Damnoen Saduak was only open from 6:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Our tour guide told us to meet at 7 a.m. in the morning to make it to the Floating Market before closing time. The floating market was two hours away from the capital of Bangkok.

When we arrived at Damnoen Saduak, we rode a small boat that could carry 6 people. The boat ride took us on a leisurely ten-minute cruise that took us to the quieter areas of the village before it brought us to the market.
When we got to the market center, it was quite a sight to behold: kind of like the Southeast Asian version of Venice, Italy.

When we got to the floating market center, it was like awakening the slumbering riverfolk in my blood.ÊMost of human population nowadays do not live near bodies of water anymore, but our connection with water is still unmistakeableÐalmost innate.

Group pic for the fam tour

Shopping at the Floating Markets

The sights, sounds, smells and tastes were new, there were hundreds of boats with vendors selling all kinds of wares that were both new and familiar to me.

There are plenty of local goods you can buy here, but be warned: these floating markets operate mainly as a tourist attraction, which means they do business at “tourist prices.” You can certainly purchase the items for half the cost elsewhere. If you must, please haggle and start with 50 percent off their asking price!

I chose to invest in the authentic Thai culinary experience. There were plenty of Thai dishes and snacks to choose from, such as the coconut pancakes, coconut rice dumplings, coconut sugar, coconut ice cream. Thai food doesn’t use cream, dairy or cheese, but instead they use coconut milk, coconut curry and coconut sugar in their cooking. They use coconut in everything!

I opted to try their coconut ice cream, because it was almost 40-degrees Celsius that day but also mainly because it looked so photogenic, or in today’s terms, highly “instagrammable.”

The local fruits I saw were popular tropical fruits such as mango, banana, pineapple, coconut (of course!), dragonfruit and even durian. They also have their version of green mangoes and guavas, drenched in salt and chili. Yum!

Aside from food, you can also go shopping for souvenirs, artworks, clothes, accessories, bags, hats, postcards, among other things.

As I looked around, I noticed that even the rivers get riverboat traffic jams, especially towards closing time when the river becomes a floating circus. Moreover, I began to notice other types of vendors, such as savvy businessmen who let tourists take photos with a tarsier and albino python for a fee. In Bohol, we are not even allowed to touch our precious tarsiers. I am admittedly wary about these kinds of tourist ventures. While it is tempting to get photos with these exotic animals, we should do our best to be responsible tourists.

Tarsiers are endangered animals and being exploited for tourism and trade. They are nocturnal animals and are highly sensitive to sunlight, noise and physical contact. High stress can turn the tarsiers suicidal, with reported incidents of tarsiers jumping to their deaths. So please, take care of these adorable primates!

Locals with wildlife

Thai Floating Markets: Bucket List Check!

I highly recommend for everyone to come visit and see one of Thailand’s floating markets to be transported in time and experience how commerce was done thousands of years ago.

Our Bangkok Package was organized by Grand Holidays Travels and Tours, our sponsor for the trip. You can book the tour with them and make it easy and hassle-free.

Instagram: @ racheltagaisla
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