Before visiting Bangkok, I had of course seen plenty of the popular images of the city’s bustling floating markets, with small boats crowded into canals selling all kinds of Thai food as well as other local goods to Thai people as well as tourists. But for a boy from London, where you will find markets aplenty but no floating ones, it is very hard to imagine just what a Thai floating market is really like. I had to find out for myself.
With so many floating markets existing on the waterways of Bangkok, it can be hard to know which one to visit if you are only in the capital for a matter of days. I’m no Bangkok expert, but Mark from Migrationology certainly is, and so I leaned on his many brilliant articles about the city’s floating markets to decide which one I would visit. In the end I opted for Khlong Lat Mayom, a market in the Western suburbs of Bangkok, and it ended up being a major highlight of my stay in the city.
If you are staying in a hotel or hostel in Bangkok, there is a good chance that they will offer a floating market tour at an inflated price, and take you to a market that basically exists to serve tourists. There is nothing wrong with taking one of those tours, but getting to Khlong Lat Mayom by myself was so simple that it seems silly that more people don’t do it. I simply took the BTS to Wong Wian Yai station and then took a taxi that cost 120 baht. Bam – simple as that.
Venturing inside the market.
I arrived at 9.45, and by this time the market was already bustling but not so full of people that it was unbearable. Truth be told, this is more of a market by the side of the canal than a floating market, but I was so enraptured by the multitude of stalls selling Thai foods that I didn’t know existed and couldn’t guess what they consisted of, that this really ceased to matter for me. And there were of course still a few boats on the canal selling hot food, veggies and herbs for that all important photo opportunity. But actually the market didn’t feel like a set-up photo opportunity at all, but like a real market that attracted tonnes of local people who were simply enjoying sharing food with their friends and family on a Saturday morning.
That is one serious looking stew.
When I say they share food, I really mean it. I saw numerous couples taking over a table for six once they had all of their food spread out. At floating market prices it is affordable to do so, and while I only tried a couple of dishes, all the food looked spectacular. Seafood was really the star of the show here, with the smell of grilled fish wafting through the entire market. I also managed to spot the hugest crabs I’ve ever seen in my 27 years on this planet. At least I think they were crabs – they were so different from anything I’d ever seen that I really couldn’t be sure. As I walked past them I let out a small yet audible scream much to the amusement of stall owner. Not embarrassing at all. I also spotted massive prawns, snails, bubbling stews and curries, sweets and biscuits, hunks of meat, salads, and fresh juices. Even the fussiest of eaters would be able to find something edible here.
Are these even crabs? They are the biggest I’ve ever seen!
Oh hai there, grill-y fish man.
Once I’d filled my belly with Thai grub, I decided to take an organised tour on one of the canal boats, which cost just 50 baht for one hour and a half – bargain! All of the other people on the tour were Thai, and throughout the whole of my morning exploring the market, I only spotted six Westerners – a great find if you want a “real” Bangkok experience. The tour took us through the waterways of the area and then to a traditional Thai house and through a few houses in the village. The tour guide only led the tour in Thai, but that didn’t bother me greatly – a cliché, but I was just happy to be there.
Even though I get a bit annoyed by travelers who insist on “getting off the beaten track” at every moment, in this case I was really pleased that I did just that, and I’m looking forward to making my way back to Bangkok sooner rather than later so that I can make a return visit.
Khlong Lat Mayom market is open on Saturdays and Sundays, and it’s best to get there in the morning time.