Best floating markets in Thailand. Amphawa vs Damnoen Saduak
Don’t know about you but we are big market and street food lovers for this reason South East Asia in general is a paradise for us. Floating markets sound even more interesting and appealing that’s why to visit at least one of them was in our bucket list for Thailand. There are two main floating markets near Bangkok Damnoen Saduak and Amphawa. The first one is the most famous and touristy, the second one is supposed to be more local and authentic. We went to check and compare two of them and on the way stopped at two railway markets. Here is our Best floating markets in Thailand guide with itinerary, comparison and tips.
Two days market itinerary. Floating markets Amphawa vs Damnoen Saduak
The first market on the way was at Maha Cha station, we didn’t even know about it, just got off the train to switch the station and found ourselves in the middle of the market. The main product is fish and seafood, dried, fried and fresh. I’ve never seen soo many different dried fishes! If you want to try some this market is the best one to buy, here everything is cheaper than in the other three.
Maeklong train market
Late afternoon we arrived at Maeklong market, it was such a contrast, after absolutely local authentic market at Maha Cha, without any tourists, Maeklong wasn’t great. Exactly the same type of market, along the railway, with same kind of goods to sell but mentioned in tourist guides. Imagine our surprise when on arrival at the station we saw hundreds of tourists with cameras taking photos of a train going “through” the market. Some even ‘ventured’ to climb on the train when it stopped and took photos inside like if the train was anything special, just a normal non AC train you get everywhere in Thailand.
From Maeklong we headed to Amphawa market. The market is opened only at the weekends, Fri – Sun, the main show starts when it gets dark. Other days it’s very quite with almost nobody around, typical small town in Thailand. We arrived at Amphawa on Friday around 5pm., walked through the market in search of accommodation and it didn’t look very alive.
Two hours later we went for a walk and the market was all shining and sounding, with hundreds of stands and vendors. We’d recommend to stay overnight here to enjoy its vibe and flavor. At Amphawa you can see whole variety of Thai food from their favorite squid to deep fried sweet dough, many things you can try before buying. The majority of tourists here are locals, mostly from Bangkok, not many foreigners. For us the best time was on Friday late evening, the market was full with vendors, boats, food stands but not very crowded yet.
Next morning we woke up very early, really early, at 5.30 all to see the monks! Early in the morning Thai people come to the river with some kind of donation, mostly food. Monks paddle around in small boats and collect donations, all this action is accompanied with some praying. Very interesting culture experience.
After watching the monks we went to another market, famous Damnoen Saduak, 15min. by van from Amphawa. Unlike Amphawa Damnoen is a morning market, main action starts at 8.00 and finishes at 12.00. We took a van from Amphawa (20 Bhat/0,5$) and arrived at Damnoen around 8.00-8.30, just before the majority of tourists from Bangkok.
We just got off our van when a Thai lady ran for us, almost drag us to the counter saying we have to take a boat for 40 Bhat to get to the market. When we refused she tried to assure us it was impossible to get there on foot, we ignored her and kept walking on the road towards the market. It’s about 800m to get there and to see everything you don’t need a boat, there are plenty of walks through and bridges. By 10am the main canal got soo crowded with tourist boats they couldn’t even drive through.
The market itself caters for tourists, snakes for photos, souvenirs, magic medicine etc. We found it less interesting than Amphawa and more expensive and touristy.
Tree temple Wat Bang Koong
On the way back we got off the van half way to see some Wats including famous Wat Bang Koong, temple covered with tree roots. It was quite a walk from the main road, about 5km. You can take a tuk tuk or try to catch one of local truck-buses.
On the way to Wat Bang Koong we visited two other temples, as always quite impressive and beautiful. First was Wat…, beautiful white building, meringue looking roof, nobody around except for about 10 dogs sleeping quietly next to the Buddhas.
Next was Wat Phraya Yat, very interesting temple, beautiful and elaborate decoration of its facades. Was as empty as the first one.
Near Wat Bang Koong you can find dozens of sculptures representing muay thai fighters.
Across the road there is some kind of a zoo Bang Kung Camp with goats, pigs, donkeys and one camel, you can buy some grocery and feed them.
To finish our intense day we went for a night walk on the market and jumped for a boat ride to watch fireflies. And we saw really many fireflies along the river banks, it was a very good end of our market adventure in Thailand.
How to visit two railway and two floating markets in two days, cheap and fun
From Bangkok take a train to Maha Cha station, get off there, it’s the first market on the way. Then continue by train to Maeklong, the second train track market. From Maeklong go by bus to Amphawa, stay here overnight, walk around the market or go for firefly watching. Next day early in the morning catch a bus to Saduak market. On the way back to Amphawa you can visit some temples including Wat Bang Koong, temple covered with tree roots.
What market is the best?
If you have to choose only one market go to Amphawa, it’s the most interesting, colorful and bustling out of four. Let’s compare two railway markets and two floating markets.
Maha Cha vs Maeklong
Maha Cha is the winner. Why? 1. There are no tourists walking in hundreds around and taking photos. 2. For mentioned above reason everything is cheaper. 3. It’s easier and faster to get there, just 1 hour train ride from Bangkok, for 10Bhat. 4. They don’t sell T-shirts, caps and other crap touristy staff, only fish, seafood and fruit.
Amphawa vs Damnoen Saduak, the beast floating market
Definitely Amphawa. 1. Less touristy, mostly Thai people from Bangkok. 2. Opened from morning till late, 9-10pm, at night gets very colorful and bright. 3. Here you can find a lot more typical Thai food, all these squids, shrimps, dried fish, pork balls, fried dough etc. 4. Food is cheaper at Amphawa. 5. You can walk around, take photos, videos and nobody tries to insist on buying something. 6. Can taste many things for free. 7. Nobody tries to charge you more because you are a tourist.
The good things about Damnoen Saduak is that it’s opened every day, from 8.00 to 12.00 and there are more selling boats than in Aphawa.
Beyond the floating market
In Amphawa there are more things to do and to see except for the market.
Wake up early to watch Buddhist monks collecting donations on the river and to experience different atmosphere of Amphawa market early in the morning.
Visit Wat Bang Koong and other impressive temples around. You can do a tour (100 Bhat/3$) or go on your own jumping on local jeep-buses (10 Bhat/0,2$).
Visit quite Rama 2 park and nearby temple Wat Amphawa Chetiyaram, right at the end of the main market street.
Watch fireflies on the river banks. The tour costs 60 Bhat, you drive in a speed boat along the river with some stops at the spots with many fireflies. Additional to fireflies you’ll get a chance to see many bats specially when go under bridges. We liked this tour, many fireflies, pleasant trip through night market, on the way you can see some temples and a huge sitting Buddha, the statue looks quite impressive in the dark.
Where to stay in Amphawa
We stayed at Apinaya guest house right next to the river and the bridge, 400 Bhat/11$ for a double with fan, 700/20$ with AC. Our room was very basic but clean with shared bathroom. What we really liked about the place it had very good wi-fi, the best we had in Thailand. How to find Apinaya? Coming from the bus go along the main market street across the bridge, the first turn on your left. There is a sign on the wall ‘500m to the guest house’.
How to get from Bangkok to Amphawa
There are many options from hiring a car to using public transport
We chose probably the most complicated thou the most interesting and the cheapest way, trains. It took us a half of a day to get from Bangkok to Amphawa but the journey was an experience on its own.
- First step. Get to Wongwian Yai train station in Bangkok. You can get by MRT, nearest station has the same name Wongwian Yai, price from 21 Bhat/0,5$. We took a bus №4 (more options bus №149 or 173) from Lumpini park, 8 Bhat/0,2$.
- Second step. Train Wongwian Yai station to Maha Cha, takes 1 hour, price 10 Bhat/0,3$. Check trains timetable at the end!
- Third step. Go from Maha Cha station to Banlaem train station. Need to cross a river, short ferry ride (3 Bhat/0,1$). After the ferry about 10 min. walk to Banlaem station.
- Forth step. Train Banlaem to Maeklong, 1 hour, 10 Bhat/0,3$. Once in Maeklong check famous railway market, you arrive right there.
- Fifth step. Bus (van) Maeklong to Amphawa, the bus stop is one block away from the train station. Bus costs 8 Bhat/0,2$, van 20/0,5$.
Food prices at Amphawa market
- Good portion of vegetarian fried noodles – 20 Bhat/0,5$
- Portion of fried rice with chicken/shrimps – 30/0,8$
- King size prawns, 7 pieces – 150/4,2$
- Noodle soup with pork – 25/0,7$
- Tom Yam – 30/0,8$
- Dishes with seafood/fish from 80/2,2$
- Pork balls (3 pieces), chicken sausage – 10/0,2$
- Corn in sweet soy sauce – 15/0,4$
If you want to go off the beaten trek and see a bit more then ordinary tourist, Amphawa is the place to go, great experience with Thai people.
Wongwian Yai (Bangkok) – Maha Cha
leaves 05.30 06.25 07.00 07.40 08.35 09.40 10.40 12.15 13.20 14.25 15.25 arrives 06.23 07.27 07.58 08.39 09.28 10.36 11.39 13.10 14.15 15.22 16.27 continue leaves 16.30 17.05 17.35 18.35 19.10 20.10 arrives 17.26 18.02 18.36 19.30 20.04 21.00
Banlaem station – Maeklong
leaves 07.30 10.10 13.30 16.40 arrives 08.30 11.10 14.30 17.40
Maeklong – Banlaem (return)
leaves 06.20 09.00 11.30 15.30 arrives 07.20 10.00 12.30 16.30
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