Most people have a floating market on their ‘To Do’ list when visiting Thailand, especially Bangkok. While the most well known floating market is Damnoen Saduk, it has become overrun with tourists and scammers. For a more authentic floating market experience, the Amphawa Floating Market is your best bet.
The Amphawa Floating Market is located about 1.5 – 2 hours away from Bangkok depending on the traffic. Although it is technically open all week, it really comes alive on the weekends when local Thai people from Bangkok flock there for a bit of shopping and fresh seafood.
I visited on a Sunday afternoon and was not at all disappointed by my experience. It turned out to be a great affordable day trip to escape the city (though not the crowds!). There is plenty to see and do at the Amphawa Floating Market. Of course, I wandered along the canal where many shops are set up selling all kinds of things such as Amphawa souvenirs, clothing, food, and sweets. The market is not limited to the canal though, and stretches up side streets all around the town. In addition to shopping, you can also get a classic Thai massage, including one on a boat!
Many of the locals from Bangkok who venture out to the Amphawa Floating Market are there to eat an amazing meal of fresh seafood! My visit was no different. When I arrived, I was pretty hungry after the long bus ride into town. I found a nice spot run by a local thai family right underneath the bridge that spans the canal. Many of the restaurants along the canal have tables and chairs right on the steps leading to the water, and this one was no different. They make a great place to rest, get some food, and take in the bustling market all around you. If you are looking for a quieter restaurant, there is one located right where the canal meets the Mae Klong River with great views of the long boats passing by.
I decided to go for a classic Thai dish for my lunch: Tom Yum soup with fresh river prawns. It came with basil, thai dried chili, a dumpling, noodles and loads of flavor. I gobbled it up as quickly as I could with my minimal chopstick skills – which gained the attention of the daughter of the chef who showed me the proper thai way to eat them. I am forever grateful to her for the trick of picking up the noodles with the chopsticks and placing them in the spoon for easy consumption. I washed down my soup with a fresh coconut, which complimented the hints of coconut in the soup perfectly. All this for just 70 Baht… around 2 bucks!
A meal wouldn’t be the same without dessert, right? The Thai’s are known for having a sweet tooth, so I am in heaven living in this country as I almost always need to finish my meals with just a little something sweet. As I wandered through the market, I stopped at a stall along the canal serving coconut ice cream: fresh coconut is added on top of the ice cream as well as condensed milk and peanuts. Yum, yum, yum! And only 35 baht!
Later that night, I sat at another restaurant along the canal to consume some more amazing seafood. This time I went with fresh scallops grilled on one of the river boats and served on a large green leaf. I ordered 8 scallops for 60 baht, and enjoyed opening them up one by one, picking up the scallop with my chopsticks and dipping it in the provided spicy sauce. I washed this down with a coke that ran me 15 baht.
And of course dessert: I stumbled across a dessert-only restaurant while wandering the market after dinner and stopped to grab one last bite. I opted for sweet bread drizzled with chocolate sauce. Perfect end to a day of great eating!
As you walk along the canal, a little Thai man will most likely ask you if you would like to take a boat ride. Your answer should be a resounding yes! These boat rides cost just 50 baht per person and last about 1.5 hours – that’s a lot of bang for your buck!
After grabbing my coconut ice cream, I hopped on one of these boats, excited to explore more of Amphawa by water. Once I paid my 50 baht and boarded, I patiently waited until the boat was full to begin the journey. The waiting didn’t last long – loads of people are eager to ride along as part of the floating market experience.
The boats take you along the Mae Klong river to several old temples, known as Wats to the Thai people. Each stop lasts around 15 minutes, enough time to glance around or provide offerings to Buddha. The final stop is the most exciting as there is a zoo attached to the famous Wat Bang Kung, and old temple that is completely encased in an old Banyan tree. Many people on my boat ride didn’t venture over toward it as it is a few hundred meters away from the zoo. Once you pass through the zoo, turn right and continue until you get to a main road. Cross the road and the Wat is directly across the street to the left. Definitely a must see if you make it there!
If visiting temples isn’t your cup of tea, you can opt for a nighttime firefly tour. The same boats take passengers out on the river to experience the blinking lights of the fireflies in the evening – a lovely sight! Prices may go up though – some of the signs advertise that night tours start at 60 baht.
Make it a Weekend Getaway
While the Amphawa Floating Market is an excellent day trip on its own, it is possible to combine your trip with the Mae Klong Train Market or even extend your visit by staying overnight. If you want a taste of the lifestyle in Amphawa, it is possible to book a homestay in advance.
The Mae Klong Train Market is only about a 5-10 minute drive from the Amphawa Floating Market. To visit, simply book a mini bus ticket there from Victory Monument in Bangkok (usually around 10 baht less than going to Amphawa), and spend some time wandering the market. When you are done, grab a taxi or tuktuk to the floating market nearby.
Booking a homestay in Amphawa is a popular choice on the weekends. It will cost around 1,000 baht (though there are some places cheaper and some more expensive). Check out some of the options below from travelfish.org if experiencing what life is like in the usually quiet fishing village tickles your fancy. One of the favorite options and main draws of those staying overnight is catching a glimpse of the monks gathering alms early in the morning.
- Ruen Khun Yai Chuea: Great rooms and classic
- Baan Song Thai Basee: Lacks views, but affordable
- Baan Mae Arom: English speaking staff that offers activities/tours for guests, if desired
- Thanicha Healthy Resort: Classic Thai ambience (website)
- ChababaanCham Resort: Elegant rooms (website)
Getting There and Back
** Update: As of October 25, 2016, all of the minivans at Victory Monument are relocated to the three bus terminals that service the city of Bangkok. As reported by the Bangkok Post:
“Passenger vans going to the North, the Northeast and Central Plains will be based at Mor Chit 2 Bus Terminal on Kamphaeng Phet Road; vans going to the South, and the West will leave from the Southern Bus Terminal in Pinklao area; vans heading to the East will depart from Ekkamai Bus Terminal on Sukhumvit Road.”
For vans to Amphawa, you must travel to the Southern Bus Terminal across the river, most easily reached by taxi. The city is providing shuttle buses from Victory Monument for the time being to the three bus stations.
They cost between 90 – 100 baht each way (I paid 90 on the way down and 100 on the way back) and drop you right down the street from the market. Buses run frequently from Victory Monument starting early in the morning. There is no real rush to get there super early, unless you do not like crowds, as the market really comes alive in the afternoon, around 15:00 (3:00 PM).
I recommend buying your return ticket to Bangkok right when you arrive in Amphawa. The staff at the mini bus station will ask what time you would like to head back (buses leave every hour, on the hour) with the last bus leaving at 21:00 (9:00 PM). Getting your ticket ahead of time will ensure a spot, as the staff will write down the time and number of people in your party to expect.
If you want to visit a floating market, the Amphawa Floating Market is the one to see! This day trip is super affordable, and it is not at all necessary to book a tour. The cheapest one I found online was 850 baht per person, but you will spend way less on your own. Going without a tour will also give you a chance to explore the market at your own pace. Check out the breakdown of my total expenses for the day:
- Ticket to Amphawa: 90 baht
- Lunch (Tom Yum soup 50 baht, Coconut 20 baht): 70 baht
- Coconut ice cream: 35 baht
- Boat ride: 50 baht
- Dinner (scallops 60 baht, coke 15 baht): 75 baht
- Dessert: 25 baht
- Ticket to Bangkok: 100 baht
- Total for day trip: 445 baht (a little over $12!!!)
Super affordable, super fun, and a great way to experience Thai life and culture! Check it out!
Have you been to the Amphawa Floating Market? Share your experience in the comments!