First-time in the Amphawa Floating Market
Floating markets are not uncommon in Thailand. While I’ve been to this Southeast Asian country several times, visiting a floating market is one that remains unchecked in my must-do-in-Thailand list. This time around, I made sure that I visit a floating market, so my sister and I booked a tour to the Amphawa Floating Market in the Samut Songkhram Province, about an hour and a half from Bangkok.
Amphawa is a weekend floating market that is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the afternoon until early evening. It is one of the suggested floating markets near Bangkok because of its authentic vibe, especially with the old wooden houses built on its river banks.
How to get to Amphawa Floating Market
Join a tour. The fastest and easiest way to go to the Amphawa Floating Market is to join a day tour where transportation and an English-speaking guide are provided. There are many local tour agencies, smartphone apps or online platforms that provide day-tour packages. This is what we did, and it was a hassle-free way of traveling to Amphawa. We were able to do both the Maeklong Railway Market and Amphawa Floating Market in one afternoon.
By train. If you want to take the train, you can take it from the Wongwian Yai Railway Station in Bangkok and get off at the Mahachai Station, transfer at Samut Sakhon and head to the Maeklong Railway Market where you can take a short bus ride to the Amphawa Floating Market.
By bus. From Bangkok, you can ride a minivan at the Mochit New Van Terminal or at the Old Southern Bus Terminal at Sai Tai Kao Pinklao.
By taxi. This is the fastest yet most expensive means of going to Amphawa Floating Market.
If you prefer something cheap, then you can commute by bus or train, but it may take you longer and may entail some transfers, which can cost you a lot of time. If you want to get there fast, then driving or hiring a car or taxi is your best bet. However, if you want something fast but may not be too expensive, then you can take local tour packages.
The history of Amphawa
Over the years in Thailand, places near bodies of water flourished into economic centers. They really put into good use their rivers and waterways as means of transport and trade. More than that, they have also become cultural havens of past and present kingdoms. The river played an important factor in the growth and development of Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Thonburi and Chiang Mai. Amphawa is no exception.
Amphawa, used to be known as Bang Chang which literally means a place for elephants, is the hometown of King Rama II. His mother, Queen Amarindra, formerly called Nak, was a native of Samut Sakorn.
The Amphawa Floating Market at the Amphawa canal and the Maeklong River depicts the local way of life over the years. The market has grown, which is believed to have existed since the 17th century.
What to see and buy
As we arrived at the parking area for the bus, we walked a bit towards the streets where people started to thicken. Food stalls appeared at the sidewalk until we got to the pier where the bustling crowds and boats fill the scenery. We were given instructions that we could roam the area before we converge at that meeting point by 6:00 pm. So we had more than two hours to explore the market.
We walked around the streets, across the bridge, and through the stalls and shops. We even found some beautiful pouches at a great bargain that we took home to our relatives. There were also clothes, souvenir items, toys, school supplies, home essentials and a lot more. Of course, everywhere we trained our eyes there were always various food dishes around us, which leads me to my next point.
If you are a foodie, Amphawa Floating Market is a paradise. There were fresh fruits, dried fruits, candies, bread, and even some weird and uncommon food that I haven’t seen before. Of course, there were also meat dishes, fishes and different types of seafood available at the stalls, restaurants and boat vendors. We saw people sitting by the concrete steps and wooden benches facing the canal while enjoying the food from a nearby restaurant or boat.
While walking and checking out the food choices that were being cooked by vendors and eateries, we came upon a restaurant with an ice cream fridge outside their shop. They had interesting flavors so we decided to try some. And while they were filling our cups, I noticed photos of their menu on the wall and the shrimp dish got me interested. We occupied an empty table inside and made our orders while enjoying our ice cream.
I ordered the spicy raw shrimp in fish sauce and I was really surprised at how delicious they were. The shrimp were soft and chewy while the fusion of spicy, sour and mint flavors exploded in my mouth. I can say that this was the best food I have ever eaten during our entire vacation in Thailand.
The sky changed colors as the sun was setting at the horizon, with the breathtaking view of the Amphawa Floating Market and the Maeklong River at the foreground. When darkness started to seep in, more and more people gathered at the pier. Finally, our group’s turn to board our boat came. We got in one by one, donned our life jackets and went through the length of the market.
Stores selling different items, well-lit bridges, restaurants filled with diners, and boats selling food at the waterways were our view as we traversed the canal. We turned around as we reached the end of the market to get another view of the market. At the other end, we got to the mouth of the canal that opened to the river.
It was even darker but it gave us a better view of those around the river. From the black landscape, a giant statue at the Wat Bang Ka Pom enthralled us. Then we went closer to the trees at the river banks to watch the glittering fireflies. It reminded me of my trips to Donsol where I enjoyed firefly watching at the river.
Apart from fireflies, there were also endemic birds at the area. They were huge white ones resting on trees when we saw them, a huge flashlight focused on them by the boatmen. Our boat drove away so as not to disturb them.
It was a pleasant experience, seeing and being part of the local way of life. I’m glad I finally made a trip to a Thai floating market, not to tick off an item on my checklist but to cherish a memory that will make me appreciate life more and more. This is the beauty of traveling, it allows me to marvel at the different colors this world brings.