Seafood Dinner by the River at Amphawa Floating Market19 July, 2011
Floating Markets are usually on the itinerary for most Bangkok trips. However, the definition of floating markets can be very subjective e.g. always check that the floating markets mentioned in your itinerary is not really just a boat cruise along Chao Phraya river where one or two boats will peddle towards you selling you overpriced fruits and vegetables. The real deal floating markets lie outside Bangkok e.g. the very famous and touristy Damnoen Saduk floating market (2.5-hours away) which starts early in the morning – which means you have to leave Bangkok at around 5-6am. While Damnoen Saduk is flooded with tourists every morning, it is as good as you get for a feel for a Thailand floating market.
Another interesting floating market which is more popular among locals (domestic Thai tourists) is the Weekend Evening Amphawa Floating Market (1.5-hours away from Bangkok). The market is open from Friday to Sunday evenings (busiest on Saturday evenings after 5pm). The main activities happen around the bridge where 6-7 boats are parked and seafood e.g. crab, prawns and Thai noodles e.g. phad thai is served from these boats and deliver right up to benches on the pavement. Servings are quite small but cheap e.g. for about SGD $3, you get a small plate of phad thai (20 Baht) and another plate of 5 grilled prawns (cooked right on the spot in the boats). You can also get kopi-o, milk tea for less than SGD $0.80 – perfect price for Bargain Holidays in Thailand
This video captures how busy the market is – you might have to tune down your computer’s volume because it can get quite loud (which was what it was like when we were there). Check out the yummy seafood out on display – admittedly, this “al fresco” dining by the river experience is not for everyone, especially for the clean freaks but the Thai dishes served can’t get anymore authentic than this. 🙂
Unlike Damnoen Saduk, there aren’t boat cruises through Amphawa Floating Market – the part of the market that is floating is just the 6-7 boats selling cooked food and they are permanently stationed by the bridge (at least during the opening hours of the market). The rest of the market are makeshift pasar-malam style stalls or permanent shops by the river. This is where you get your “I Heart Amphawa” T-shirts and other Thai snacks. The market goes way beyond the river – the area around the bridge is where it is most crowded with activities but the makeshift stalls also extends into the Amphawa town – you can find just about anything here e.g. T-shirts, magnets, clothes, shoes and accessories – prices are slightly cheaper than those in Bangkok downtown but you will have to bargain a bit to get the best price.
Amphawa Floating Market also serves as a base for boat operators to run evening fireflies cruises. The price for such cruises typically cost 60 Baht per person and depart from Amphawa at around 7pm and arrives back at the pier at 8pm.
Getting to Amphawa Floating Market
There are minivans that make the 1-hour journey from Bangkok Victory Monument to Mae Klong Railway Market where you will need to transfer to another mini-van which brings you to the area around Amphawa Floating Market in 10 minutes. This ticket will cost about 80 Baht (about SGD $4). You can time your trip so that you can check out the Mae Klong Railway Market with the train coming in at the right time before proceeding to the Amphawa Floating Market.
I am unable to advise on the above mini-van journey as we took the private tour services e.g. Rat Service – http://www.ratservice.com. For a half day private tour of Samut Songkram area which includes the Maeklong Railway Market, Amphawa Floating Market and 2 other beautiful temples, we paid about 2000 Baht for a driver/guide (hourly rate – about 250 Baht/hour), gasoline for the car (Toyota Corolla 1.6) and expressway tolls. The fee is charged at a per car rate so you could share the costs with 3 other friends, making it an affordable and convenient way to tour the area comfortably. Our tour was organised by Vimonrat (can call her Rat) and she is contactable at firstname.lastname@example.org (Tell her that PassportChop.com referred you).
We covered the following places during this half-day trip with Rat’s tour service:
– 13.00 Pick up from hotel in Bangkok and drive to Samut Songkram
– Pass by countryside windmills and salt farm with a quick photo stop
– Arrive Maeklong Market, take a walk to see fresh food market. Wait until train comes and see how vendors keep their products and awnings and raise them right away after train passes by
– Visit Wat Bangkae Noi and Wat Bangkung – 2 Beautiful and Unique temples
– Walk around and dinner at Amphawa evening market
– 19.00 Ride along Maeklong river and see fireflies flash over the trees (You will have to pay a separate 60 Baht per person to the boat operator)
– 20.00 Back pier and leave for Bangkok
– 21.00 Arrive hotel
For cheap flights to Thailand, book early and look out for promotions from budget airlines e.g. Tiger Airways and Jetstar Asia.