While in Thailand last year we knew we wanted to go to one of the famous floating markets. It was right up there at the top of our Thailand bucket list, next to tigers & elephants. Fortunately, there's no shortage of cabs & tour services wanting to take
advantage of you help you get to all these fun tourist destinations cultural experiences. We even had a few of these guys parked at the entrance of our hotel that were full time tour drivers who had binders full of destinations & activities we could go to. They were very eager to share all they had to offer us the first day but by the third day they took the hint that we weren't interested, stopped asking, & became our 'friends.' We exchanged greetings every morning & evening as we passed by them.
TRAVEL TIP: Treat these people with respect, regardless of how they treat/bug you. They are human beings & making a living off of tourism. From our time traveling this is what I've learned, tourism is sticky & the lines between dishonesty/taking advantage of someone & the way things work in their culture are very grey sometimes, but that's for another post.
Also, know what you want. Do your research online. Don't look through their binders. Decide what you want & how much you want to spend to get there on your own, then go to them with your business, with your own set boundaries.
After doing some research & deciding that we wanted to go to the Damnoen Floating Market, the most popular floating market, it was actually quite convenient to walk out & arrange a time for them to pick us up the next day. We were also happy to give them our business, as we had sort of built a relationship with them & we would much rather go with them over a random tour company. We had looked online & saw what the going rate was for taking us to the market. It was pricey at 1300 Baht to get there & back but we did the research & saw that was the going rate at the time, so we were okay agreeing to this price.
We walked to the front of our hotel & booked with the guy and set up a time & plan for the next day. He met us at the front of our hotel at 5 am & we started on our 2 hour journey to the market.
Honestly, we had such a good time on this drive with our driver. We learned so much about him, his family, his business & Thailand. Him & his brother had worked hard to save up and bought their own 2 cars so that they could start this tour driving business. They were partners & took turns waiting in front of the Ibis everyday for tourists who wanted tours. It was their corner, if you will & they made a living off of it. He also told us many of the "insider" secrets to driving & tourism in Thailand. We even helped him out by going and looking at suits on the way home. This is very common, the suit shop was full of tourists! Honestly, I think this is a great deal, should you be needing a suit. You can have a suit tailor made for you for a fraction of the cost as home. These suit shops have tons of patterns, materials & styles for you to choose from. The "insider secret" though was that every driver that brings tourists there gets free gas cards/credits from the suit shop. We wanted to help our guy out so we told him to stop by one! Ha! When he asked us if we'd want to do the same at a precious stone shop, too, we put our foot down. ;)
We finally made it to Damnoen Floating Market, parked & walked our way up to the ticket booth where they tried to sell us a boat ride, the only way into the market (supposedly you can walk there but again, another post or someone elses' post), for 2500 Baht. We thought this was, of course, ridiculous, and haggled our way down to 1600 Baht. We still found this to be a ridiculous price but he wouldn't budge any lower, and we had paid 1300 Baht to our driver to get out there & drove 2 hours to get there (which I'm sure they bank on), so 1600 Baht it was.
TRAVEL TIP: Haggle! Never go with the price they start with. (the people in front of us did NO haggling & paid $25 more than us. Again, do your research. We had done some research & the 1600 was even higher than some had got it but this guy wouldn't budge any lower for us. We even went back to our driver & had him drive down the road (looking for the supposedly free, walk up entrance to the market) because we didn't want to pay it. Even with walking away & driving off the ticket guy still wouldn't budge on the price.
We loaded up on our little, pricey boat with our boat driver & headed down the khlongs. It was, of course, beautiful, as most all of Thailand is.
I loved seeing all the homes along the water. It's so easy to dream of a life there, sipping Thai iced coffee on the porch as the water flows by.
It was interesting to see that some people covered their houses with pictures of the king. We saw this often in Thailand. Imagine if we did this with pictures of Obama. Ha!
The first shop we came to was one with cold beer, drinks & fresh coconut water. The cool drinks were tempting! But at 10 Baht we kept driving.
Advertisement is real fancy along the water. ;)
There were floating coconuts everywhere.
As well as, tons & tons of husked coconuts to make coconut sugar!
We had a short stop at a coconut farm along the way. It was really small scale but very cool. I will do another post just about this little farm sometime.
Thai floating markets are a sight to behold. They're so very cool for people, like us, who haven't grown up along the water. There are little shops along the side of the khlongs, and farmers & small business owners that fill their little boats full of goods for sale.
When you see something you want, you just tell your boat driver & he steers the boat closer to the edge of the shop. Then you shop like you do anywhere else! Again, make sure to haggle!
There were tons of farmers with bananas, coconuts, vegetables & exotic fruits in their boats, and a scale for weighing the produce. I loved this little old lady. She was so sweet & precious.
There was tons of souvenir shops, clothes shops & artisan craft shops along the water.
This lady was selling bbq'd chicken wings & even had her own little grill. The lady behind her had fried foods for sale, thus she had a propane tank on her boat.
When we started getting to the food boats we got excited because we basically always get excited when we see food in Thailand. If you've been, you'd understand. Thai street food is just heavenly. The food here was slightly more expensive than on the street in Bangkok so we just got a few things. We, naturally, got a plate of mango & sticky rice & pad thai. Geesh. Why is it so good?!
After, we had our snack, we continued on along the water towards a temple that we opted out of touring & turned back around towards the exit. The whole tour took about an hour.
Overall, it was a good experience but not great. The amount of money ($80) it took for us to get there & do the tour put a little bit of a sour taste in our mouth. The market was also slightly underwhelming for us. We had done the Khlong tour two days before, had a longer time on the boat, paid only 800 Baht (without haggling, we were lazy, you can get it for much cheaper) and had a much more enjoyable time. In the end, we recommend the Khlong tour over the Damnoen Floating Market but still had a good time.