thailand: damnoen saduak floating market - still worth a visit?
Mention "floating market" when you are in Thailand and one place floats to the top of the list: Damnoen Saduak in Ratchaburi province, some 2 hours away west of Bangkok. But travel-savvy folks, and those probably on the jaded side of things, would be quick to retort: "touristy!", "fake!". So is this floating market still worth a visit?
For a first time traveller to Thailand, yes. If you are keen on taking photos, then its yes as well. You have to try the clichés at least once. And for some travellers with limited schedules, there is really not much of a choice since this is the only floating market that is open daily. The rest are usually open on weekends.
Touristy? Heck yes! By 10 AM, dozens of buses and vans from Bangkok arrive and unload a throng of tourists [ that is why its recommended to come here before 9AM - either you commute or go on a private tour ]. Soon the number of boats with tourists outnumber the local vendors and the canals turn crowded and at times chaotic.
Fake? Not necessarily. This is, in a technical sense, still a floating market - aptly a "floating souvenir market", but floating market nonetheless. By "authentic", some probably mean a market where locals actually go to, buying and selling food and other products (fruits, vegetables, etc) . But give these "authentic" ones a bit more time ....
The Damoen Saduak canal was build in 1866 primarily to serve as water highway. A number of interconnecting canals were later build, some for irrigation purposes. From the looks of what are being sold by the vendors, one could surmise that rich agricultural lands are just nearby.
Tourist traps. Where tourist go, more tourist traps are laid. So here in Damnoen Saduak they got all imaginable souvenirs, boat tours, side trips to fruit orchards, temples and gardens, elephant rides, snake farms, etc. If they can put a zip line somewhere they probably would.
Foodie's delight. This floating market's saving grace is probably the food boats - complete this stoves and burners and grills. Its the perfect place to sample local Thai food and delicacies.
The couple of hours I was here turned into something like: photos, photos, food boat, photos, photos, food boat...
There was one particular noodle boat I kept coming back to. I particularly like the "waterfall pork noodles" [as indicated on the translated menu], its taste more than made up for its confusing name. [ Later found out it is "bami nam tok" - noodle soup darkened in pig's blood. "nam tok" means "waterfall" ]. Got to squeeze in a couple of mangoes with sticky rice and coconut ice cream in between.
Daily life. If you rent a boat and go off the main canal, you'll have the chance to catch a glimpse of the daily life along the klongs.
Worth a (second) visit? I would say YES, a repeat visit would be nice. Its a vibrant and colorful place, there's plenty to shoot (and to eat!) and lots of unexplored corners. Just remember to come there early [ leave Bangkok early or stay at a nearby place ] if you want to avoid the crowds.