Many people who come to Thailand want to see a floating market. And many of those who want to see a floating market, want to see an “authentic” floating market, rather than a “tourist” floating market.
If you want to see an authentic floating market . . . too bad. At least in Thailand. Try Vietnam. The floating markets around Bangkok are all touristy. So get over it and go anyway. The floating markets are lots of fun, and the Thais know how to do tourism better than just about anyone.
Now, if you want to see a floating market where most of the tourists are Thais rather than foreigners, try Amphawa. Here is how to do it
Nuts and Bolts of Amphawa
Amphawa is a weekend market. We went on a Friday afternoon and came back to Bangkok Saturday afternoon. I have no idea what will happen if you show up on a Tuesday.
Getting to Amphawa
Getting to Amphawa is half the fun. It sounds a little complicated, but it was all really quite easy. Just give it a try and everything will work out!
First, the best combination of price and comfort for getting to Amphawa is a minivan. Regular minivans leave Bangkok’s Victory Monument for Amphawa. The problem is, regular minivans leave Bangkok’s Victory Monument for what seems like everywhere. It is a huge and complicated system. Just do what we did. Go to Victory Monument. Look down from the raised walkway and find a group of minivans. Go there, and say “Amphawa.” Unless you are very, very lucky you will not be in the right place, but Thais are a friendly bunch and they will direct you to the correct place (a group of women actually walked us all the way around the monument to the right spot).
A ticket to Amphawa costs 80 baht (a little over US$2).
The minibus will take you to a place called Mae Klong. You will be dropped off at a spot where you can use your minivan ticket to get a ride on a songtaew (a pickup truck with seats in the bed) to get the short distance to Amphawa. By the way, if you have seen film of the market in Thailand along the train tracks where the venders pick up and move their wares each time a train comes through, that market is in Mae Klong, very close to where the minivan will drop you off.
The songtaew will drop you off very close to the market area of Amphawa. A tuk tuk driver was waiting there and took us to our hotel.
Sounds complicated, but it was all easy. Probably.
What to Do
The market. Amphawa is not the canal choked with boats that you may have seen pictures of (that is Damnoen Saduak). The main grouping of boats clusters around a set of concrete steps that lead from the raised walking area down to the canal. You can order wonderful seafood from these boats. We ate slipper lobster, squid, and our favorite, blood cockles (look scary but they are so good).
There is a long strip of the canal lined with restaurants and shops to take up the majority of a day.
The fireflies. At night, you take a boat out along the large canal/river to see the fireflies. The fireflies around Amphawa tend to like certain trees, and they coordinate their glows. It is quite a site when you pass a tree swarming with fireflies all blinking on and off in conjunction with each other.
The boat rides last about an hour and cost 60 baht (about US$2) per person. The boats are easy to find if you walk the market area during the day, and the scheduled departure times will be listed.
Get up early to see the monks. The monks in Amphawa do their morning alms collecting by boat. Be out in the main market area around the time of sunrise to catch it.
My daughter’s greatest nightmare: swimming monkeys. This is loads of fun (unless you are afraid of monkeys, and then it is terrifying!). We went back to the place where the songtaew had dropped us off at and found the same tuk tuk driver who took us to our hotel. We pantomimed swimming monkeys as best we could, and eventually he got it (and loaded a video of the swimming monkeys on his phone for us to see—I guess we could have done that easier than pantomime “swimming monkey”—on the other hand, pantomime is fun!).
The seven of us (two of my students were with us) packed into a tuk tuk meant for about 5, and proceeded on a wild ride (including a short section of going the wrong way down a divided highway with semi-trucks barreling straight at us). Along the way, we stopped and bought a bag of rambutans (a tropical fruit), and a bag of small cucumbers.
We went to the docks and chartered a boat and off we went.
I love monkeys. But they can be a little creepy. Especially macaques. And these were macaques that swam out to the boat to meet us. Some were polite, you could reach out with a rambutan and they would politely take it from you.
Some were greedy, forcing their way into the boat and trying to steal more than their fair share (I beamed more than one monkey in the face with a rambutan trying to deter them, but here is a tip: monkeys don’t care if you beam them in the face with a rambutan).
The monkeys liked the rambutan far more than the cucumbers, and when we were out of food for them they left us immediately, retreating to shore to do whatever it is well-fed monkeys do with their free time.
We motored back to shore.
For this trip, we shelled out 700 baht for the tuk tuk driver (remember there were 7 of us, you may be able to do better if you have fewer people), 1000 baht for the boat, and a couple of hundred baht for bags of fruit (it was cheap because it was “monkey fruit,” not fit for sale to people—it looked fine to me).
We had a great time at Amphawa. My wife went crazy over the swimming monkeys, and we loved the food we had there. So go to Amphawa and relish the opportunity to beam a monkey in the face with a rambutan because travel.