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