Okay, so we’ve all seen a Floating Market or two in the movies, they look fun, busy and exotic and to be honest, they are all of the above. If you ever go to Thailand or any other South-East Asian country, you are more than likely going to come across a travel agent or tuk tuk driver advertising them for to you to go on. Our advice? Do it!
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Because its fun and you won’t regret it! You’ll either be with friends, family or partners and it’s a great way to immerse yourself in the country and practise your haggling skills. You’ll find everything from fresh coconuts, spices and sweets to artworks and collectables, so go and treat yourself.
To be honest this is easy. It won’t take you long, especially if you’re in Bangkok, to find an advertisement for one. They’ll be posted in the street next to travel agents, you’ll be enticed by one of the many tuk tuk drivers or encouraged to go on one from your youth hostel. The best thing to do is explore your options, they’ll more or less all be taking you to the same damn one anyway! So walk around and try and find the best price for you. And be sure to haggle the price, you’ll be surprised at what you can get it down to!
We went to a floating market tour from Bangkok. Luckily for us we haggled the tour down to a good price. I think, if memory serves correctly, we paid around a thousand baht (£25). This sounds pricey, but it was for a group of four of us and included a private taxi from Bangkok and back and a private boat to the market. At the time we weren’t backpacking so we loved to flash our cash a little.
Where is it?
So it’s a bit of a drive from Bangkok. It’ll take just over an hour depending on where you are staying, so again, we had great value for money, just for the private taxi alone. We have included a map so you can see the distance. But if you are with a great group of people, this time will fly by.
What to expect?
When we arrived, we were eager to get on the boat and get started! You’ll be escorted onto a long-tail boat which is roomy and comfortable, given cups of drink and have your photo taken, (which they’ll show you at the end of the trip).
Once on the boat you’ll start your journey down a jungle-esque canal system and to be honest it was magical, you’ll instantly be transported to another world. After a few minutes you’ll be stopping at a refreshment stall, where we all had to buy a fresh coconut to enjoy on the boat, it’s a must! Soon you’ll expect to see the odd house on stilts and the returning boats. Eventually as the canals widen slightly you’ll be greeted by the hustle and bustle of the markets.
At this point you need to get your eyes tuned and look at all the stalls to see what they are selling, you can point to the stalls you want to visit and the boat captain will guide you there. Then the real fun starts, you can look at the goods on offer and decide if you want to buy anything, only problem is, we wanted everything! Of course, the stall owners will try and advertise their goods to you and try to negotiate a good price. You’re not obliged to buy anything at all, but if you do want something, then why not!
The market does get bigger and bigger, more stalls appear, seemingly out of nowhere and you even have the opportunity to get off the boat and walk around some of the ‘land’ markets they have there. Where they also conveniently have toilets for ten baht a go. Take your time here, take in the smells of incense (probably covering the smell of animal poop) and grab a plate of noodles.
Eventually we found ourselves on the boat again, sailing through the market at a glacial place and bumping into other boats and having a raucous laugh, if you want, buy a couple of beers to find yourself having an even greater time.
The tour will also take you on the other side of the market, where the canals open up greatly and the wind will be hitting your face as you take in the views of the great Thai countryside. Let yourself breathe here and take it all in. Honestly, just do it!
Our boat driver also took a stop at a local temple. I’m not sure if all the drivers do this, but we were thankful that ours did! It was during the blistering afternoon sun, so a little walk around here was tough, but worth it. The temple included a mini version of a reclining Buddha, a bird rescue centre and a little shop (also toilets again, thank the lord!), you could also get blessed by a monk if you feel the need!
So the temple was the last ‘pit-stop’ for us. We spent the rest of the journey sailing through the countryside enjoying the views and having a laugh. We did pass a few market stalls offering the same sort of trinkets etc that they were selling in the main part of the market, just in case you wanted a last minute purchase!
On our arrival back with empty coconuts, beer cans and bags full of goodies a lady stopped us and showed us to our ‘photo’ that we had taken earlier. It was a cute faux wooden plate with our picture in the middle, offered to us for the small price of five hundred baht. We weren’t huge fans of the photo, so we passed the offer up, but the lady wasn’t having it. She was adamant that we buy the photo and her price got so low (we weren’t even haggling, we just didn’t want the photo) that we eventually gave in and brought it for a mere one hundred baht, bless, god loves a trier!
So that was our floating market tour over. We all napped in the taxi on the way back and tipped our driver after leaving, we encourage you to do the same as the driver really does contribute a lot to the fun, bantering with your group and showing you all of the best stalls.
This was one of the best experiences we had in Thailand, if you ever have the opportunity to go, we highly recommend it! Go and immerse yourself, get embarrassed trying to haggle the price down and enjoy a beer on a boat in the Thai sun, what more could you want from travelling the world?