The Floating Market in Thailand is touristy and mostly aimed at tourists but it still had a very authentic feel to it. It was loads of fun and something I could have regretted not doing! There is almost no difference between what you can find in the floating markets and downtown Bangkok, but the experience of buying something from a store that comes to you—rather than a store that you come to is unique.
I also learned a few things on my visit there.
- Patience among the local people – The canal is narrow and there are no rules who gets to go first or which way is the right way. The wooden boats bump into each other but it’s interesting to see how the water taxi drivers maneuver their boats in the jam. Even when the canal is stuffed with boats and looks like a total zoo, there were no shouting or bad mouthing each other. They just go along with their business transporting people through the canals.
- Friendly vendors – they call out customers, yes but I did not feel they were pushy. They always had a smile of their faces and if you decide to buy from another seller beside one seller, they don’t make a fuss.
- Cheap eats – At the side of the canal are small open cafeterias offering a lot of cheap food from Thai noodles, cold teas and coconut ice cream! (Photo below is our local guide and coordinator enjoying a bowl of hot noodles for late breakfast) Also, it’s amazing how much you can stretch your money with the fresh produce available. And amazing how the fruits can taste so sweet! I also recommend the very popular Mango with Sticky Rice.
- Great photo opportunity – Although very touristy, the sights sounds and smells are just fabulous and needs to be captured.
Lastly, I am fascinated by these people who live with not much everyday yet manage to flash a smile to everyone. They seem to be happy, contented people always ready to embrace the start of the day, despite the chaos or the heat. That’s something missing in the people I see in richer countries (for example, in Japan).
If you are planning to visit the floating market, remember that this is indeed a tourist trap and it gets crowded. Go early or else the ability to linger and savor the experience will be diminished by the intense crowd.
Oh and before I forget, the most important thing I realized (yet again) is that I suck at haggling.
A short research on the floating market will give you a lot of information, especially from Tripadvisor including being ripped off when renting boats, overpricing of goods, etc. Be sure to do a research before you go. I went there with a local guide hired by the Tourism Authority of Thailand so we didn’t have to worry about these kind of stuffs.
Photos taken using Canon EOS 550D