One of the coolest things we did in Bangkok was actually one of the things we were most on the fence about — visiting the floating markets and railway markets of Bangkok.
The Maeklong Railway Market and Damnoensaduak Floating Market are practically infamous on Pinterest and Instagram boards idealizing a visit to Southeast Asia. They retro wooden boats loaded up with brightly colored produce look literally worlds away from what us on the other side of the screen know to be food shopping. It’s certainly know trip to Trader Joe’s.
However, like many things travel these days, we were a little concerned that they had transformed into simply a spectacle for tourists rather than the local markets they used to be. While that was certainly the case to some degree, Lewis and I still found ourselves absolutely in awe of the hustling and bustling floating and railway markets we encountered in Bangkok.
We booked a tour with Bigcountry travel based solely off the raving TripAdvisor reviews (literally don’t know what I would do without TripAdvisor). Like nearly all tours in Southeast Asia, an airconditioned van picked us up from our hotel at dawn to begin our day. The traffic in Bangkok is legendary which is why it was critical to leave so early in the morning. Even with a 6am departure we still sat in quite the standstill. Our van took our group of about 12 to the local train station so that we could get on the train that runs through the market so we could see it from that perspective before walking along the market ourselves.
The Maeklong railway market’s Thai nickname translates to “umbrella pulldown market” which is exactly what we go to see as we pulled through the market. When a train approaches the awnings and market goods are moved back from the rails and then immediately replaced once the train goes through.
This market sells mainly fresh fruit, veg, and seafood. We even saw a stray catfish (?!) flopping around on the tracks.
I think this is why I felt like the market still had some of it’s local roots. Vendor’s weren’t selling some of the tourist crap (elephant pants, fake Gucci bags, etc) that you see in some other markets.
Chances are tourists aren’t going to be buying a lot of live catfish so even though there are tons of tourists at the market, there are also quite a few Thai people just going about their regular shopping.
We mostly took photos but we did come across a man selling beautiful hand painted pictures of the train coming down the tracks for only USD $3 per piece. We bought two and they are some of my favorite souveneirs I got from the whole trip!
After the Maeklong market we met up with our van again and drove about 15 more minutes to little dock where we boarded longtail boats to get to the Damnoensaduak floating market.
The floating market was definitely more of a touristy experience but overall still really cool and 1000% different from anything you could ever experience at home. At the floating market, the stalls were primarily tourist focused items but many of the boats did sell delicious snacks like mango sticky rice, coconut ice cream, boat noodles and of course, pad thai.
We tried the coconut ice cream (delicious!) and some pad thai for lunch.
We were delivered back to our hotel around 3pm so we had the rest of the day to explore more or just hang out by the pool. I would definitely recommend this tour to anyone visiting Thailand for the first time!
You can see our exact tour here.
What would you recommend in Bangkok? Please share in the comments below!