A floating market was a must do on our itinerary ( I mean hello, that has to be one of the iconic images that comes to mind when you think of Thailand) and Damnoen Saduak is the largest and best known.
Originally, I had planned for Haley and I to take a half day tour to the market before we flew out of Bangkok that evening, but when the tour operator quoted me 3500 baht on the phone ($100 USD) I thought that sounded a bit steep. Still feeling the sting of our canal tour scam on day 1 I decided to do a little research and find a cheaper option. Thank goodness for google. After stumbling upon a few backpacker blogs I learned that it was very possible to get to the market on your own for only a fraction of the price, despite what the Thai looking to make a buck may tell you. I decided I would chronicle our budget journey in hopes that it may help other travelers, enjoy!
First of all, prepare to wake up EARLY (I never said this journey was convenient, just a lot cheaper). If you are still jetlagged like we were, this shouldn’t be a problem. You will be traveling to the market by mini bus, and the first one leaves at 6, with another leaving roughly every 30 minutes thereafter. The mini bus station is located at the Victory Monument. Our hotel was located within walking distance of the skytrain so we incurred our first expense and caught the first one at 6 AM. Skytrain Ticket : 30 Baht ($.85 USD)
We got off at the stop for Victory Monument and asked around until we were pointed in the correct direction of the mini bus station. By the way, I use the word ‘station’ rather loosely here. Don’t expect a bus terminal, it’s really just a lot of large van’s parked all over and 100’s of people under umbrellas with cardboard signs selling tickets. All of the signs are in Thai so you’ll need to ask (and ask again and again) for the one that takes you to Damnoen Saduak. After what felt like a million questions we finally found it! Hooray! We paid 100 baht each for our tickets and hopped aboard the van. Mini Bus Ticket : 100 baht ($3 USD).
The van pulled away around 6:30 and the ride took about an hour and a half, including a stop for gas and iced coffee. The AC worked well and I brought some reading material so the trip flew by!
Now, the minibus will drop you off at a canal dock, this is NOT where you want to be. If your driver speaks English, ask him to drop you off AT the market, not the dock. Depending on how in league with the dock workers your driver is, they may or may not do it. Haley and I forgot to ask, and our van stopped at the dock. Whoops. Immediately our little group was swarmed by several women with calculators quoting us prices for boat rides into the market. The woman that approached Haley and I quickly typed in 2500 baht (about $70 USD). HAH, no way Thailand, not this time. I scoffed at the price and told her we were going to walk into the market. “No, no can walk” she said smugly, “Only boat. Must take boat to market”. Laurin in Thailand on Day 1 may have fallen for that nonsense, but not Laurin in Thailand Day 3. So much knowledge gained in so little time.
Now some of our group had already fallen for this ruse and happily chucked away their 70 or 80 bucks and gotten onto the boats. Poor schmucks. The only other English speakers from our bus were two German girls who seemed skeptical of the prices as well. They asked me if we were really able to walk into the market, which I assured them they could and that they were welcome to follow Haley and I as we did so. The four of us started heading away from the docks and were pursued by the dock woman who kept trying to get our attention by typing lower and lower number into her calculator. “No walk!” she kept shouting at us, “only boat! Can’t walk in!”. Nice try lady.
“Sure we can walk,” I told her, “I read it online”. And with that simple statement she immediately went from motivated saleslady to a woman scorned by google. “OH YOU THINK YOU SO SMART!” she screamed at me, “YOU READ ON COMPUTER!” “OH OH OH FINE! YOU THINK YOU KNOW EVERYTHING, NO WALK!” (string of Thai expletives). Walking in to the market: FREE
Sorry lady, you aren’t conning me into overpaying for a boat ride when I can walk less than a mile to my destination for free. If you aren’t into walking and don’t care about the money then by all means, hop on one of the boats, but PLEASE negotiate the price down and don’t believe them when they say the market is only accessible by boat because it simply isn’t true!
So if you do want to walk, here’s how: Your mini bus will have turned left into the dock station. Leave the dock station and take a left (The way you would have gone if your bus had kept going and not turned into the station). Then simply walk a little less than a mile straight down that road and boom, you’ll run straight into the market which looks like this:
Hooray! You’ve made it and you saved $70! Now what?
Now, enjoy the market! The actual market is not very long, there are some stalls set up in rows along the water, and then there is the floating portion which of course you must get in a boat and do because, duh, that’s why you came.
Haley and I walked across the bridge to get a few aerial shots of the market, and then made our way down to rent a boat. There is only one area to rent a boat, you will see it because it’s where all of the empty boats are lining up waiting for customers. You’ll also see a little old lady with no teeth standing there directing traffic. She gives you the price and places you on a boat. “200 baht” she told us. I tried to haggle her down lower but she was having no part of it whatsoever. After 20 minutes I gave up and we paid her and hopped on our paddle boat. Paddle Boat Around Floating Market: 200 baht ($6 USD)
We took in the sights and checked out the wares on the boats and waterside stalls. Most of the things being sold are junky souveneirs that you’ve already seen 400 of by this point, but if you see something you want to buy, simple signal your driver and he will pull up alongside the stall so you can shop.
I found the best part of the floating market by far, was the food. A lady selling hats out of a long boat is only mildly interesting, but a lady selling grilled chicken skewers or coconut ice cream, sign me up!
We sampled some of the wares (including coconut water…gross! Haley was into it but I was not a fan) and enjoyed the minimal breeze as we cruised the canals and warded off overzealous vendors.
After about 45 minutes our ride was complete (perfect timing as the breeze had completely stopped and a serious boat traffic jam was forming) and we hopped off our boat and made our way to one of the permanent sit down stalls for a little lunch.
Which we followed up with coconut pastries (Delicious) and coconut ice cream (literally the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth). If you go to the floating market you should get at least 3 to 4 servings of coconut ice cream…it’s THAT good!
We came across these two guys beating the heat in their owners drink cooler and decided that we had had enough as well and it was time to make our way back to Bangkok.
So we walked back out the way we had come in and stopped at the canal dock where there were several buses waiting. We asked for bus #78 which I had read was the one headed back to Bangkok and were pointed in the right direction. After 15 or 20 minutes one other person got on and we headed back to the bus station. Bus back to Bangkok: 64 Baht ($2 USD)
An hour or so later we arrived at the bus station which was on the outskirts of Bangkok. You can catch a taxi or you’ll have to ask someone which bus you should take based on where you want to go. After declining the quoted 400 baht by an un-metered taxi driver a kind woman overheard and told us she was going to Sukhumvit also and let us follow her. She shared her green mango with us (so good) while we waited in line for the 511 Blue Bus to Sukhumvit. Once it arrived we took it all the way back to our hotel, checked out and caught a cab to the airport where we flew to Chiang Mai! Bus 511 from station to Sukhumvit: 19 Baht ($.55 USD)
SO, if you have been following along with that pricing, we paid 622 baht total for our trip to the market. This came out to $17.80 total versus the $100 we were quoted by the tour company. Granted, our trip took a bit longer due to the bus stops, but if you have the time and want to save your baht this is definitely the way to go! A little research goes a long way when it comes to saving money in Thailand!