Monic, our private tour guide, arrived at our hotel with a driver before 7:00 a.m. to take Carolyn, Efren, and me on a tour of the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Old Bangkok, and Chinatown. Bangkok to Damnoen Saduak is about a 1-1/2 hour drive, but the time flew by while Monic gave us some history of the city.
Our driver dropped us off in Damnoen Saduak at the long-tail boat station parking lot. On the far end of the parking lot was this row of houses. I love the painter’s attempts at delineating the line of color up to the roof, some attempts being more successful than others.
Long-tail boat P48 was ours! Off we went.
The Damnoen Saduak floating market is the largest and most well known of the floating markets in Thailand and is located in the Ratchaburi Province. This canal was created during the reign of King Rama IV and opened to the public in 1868.
When I was researching Bangkok’s floating markets while planning this trip, I read through many websites, and some authors and readers were discouraging future visitors from taking a long-tail boat to the floating market: “Ripoff, “touristy,” “save your money,” and “walk there instead.” Seriously? Why bypass this? Even if I had discovered that the floating market was around the corner, I still would have thought that the ride was a blast! Besides, the cost of the boat ride is negligible when compared to the price tourists pay for airfare and hotel rooms when traveling to this part of the world. And, besides, when are you going to experience this again? Do you have a long-tail boat on a canal near your home that you can ride in whenever you want to? I sure don’t. We had a ball, and it was worth every penny racing down the khlong to the floating market.
I must have an obsession with photographing people’s clotheslines. I realized that I have several photographs of clotheslines from around the world, perhaps because their clothing is always so colorful. At least, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Nobody is more aware of the fact that both my video recording and editing skills need lots of improvement. This video below the next paragraph proves that point! As amateurish as it is, however, I wanted you to see a short portion of our trip down the khlong in the long-tail boat.
To give you some background about this video, I had mentioned to my tour buddies when we first met that I had arranged this private tour for the following morning. Carolyn immediately asked if she could join me. Efren, on the other hand, vacillated back and forth all day between joining us on this private tour or going with the rest of the tour group to see the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha. Finally, during dinner, I told Efren, “Please, Efren…yes or no? I have to give Monic a head count.” He seemed to be still somewhat indecisive, but he finally agreed to go with Carolyn and me on this private tour. Cut to the following morning when we were all racing down the khlong in the long-tail boat, and you can faintly hear Efren yelling out to me, “It’s better than the day tour!” at the end of the video. Score! I knew Efren would love it. We all loved it. It is now an extraordinary memory.
We disembarked our boat and stepped up onto the covered deck of the floating market. Let the shopping begin! We had arrived fairly early at the market before the tour buses. Efren asked Monic to take his picture, and when he spun around to pose for his picture, he bumped into one of the metal legs of the white benches that had been placed upside down and he cut the heck out of his shin. Fortunately, he’s a skilled registered nurse, so he wiped it with an antiseptic cloth and put a bandage on it. Well done, sir!
To my family and friends who are following me through this travelogue, lest you think I’m picking on Efren, let me tell you something about that guy: Efren became one of my favorite tour buddies. I felt comfortable around him from the moment we met, and the banter between us was always in good fun and hilarious (in our minds, anyway!). I always knew that I was going to have a good time when he was around. I grew up in a family of five girls, and Efren felt like the brother I never had.
I finally realized my longtime dream of standing right in this spot on a bridge over the floating market. I loved every darn minute of this day as I watched the vendors working very hard selling their goods to tourists as they glided past each other. Once again, yes, there are those naysayers that say that the Damneon Saduak floating market is very touristy. Agreed, but this became a tourist destination because of the number of visitors who fell in love with it years before I arrived. If you choose to bypass this floating market, how and when will you be able to experience something like this when you return home? In my mind, every aspect of this floating market is unique and fantastic! Look at the image below. What’s not to love?
Try to consider the number of years its owner has used these tools.
Many of the boat vendors are women. The pride they take in showcasing their produce is evident.
Seeing all of this food made us hungry! We saw these little folded goodies below and were enthralled with them. Monic bought them for us to taste. They are called Khanom Buang, which is a favorite Thai crepe street food dating back 600 years to the Ayutthaya period. The crepes are made from rice flour, making them gluten-free. (Do I need to add that? Yes!) A coconut meringue is then spread inside the crepe and then filled with Foi Thong, which is made two ways and differentiated by color: (1) As a sweet filling (yellow), made with shredded egg yolk threads boiled in sugar syrup, or (2) as a savory filling (orange), made with shredded egg yolks and chopped scallions. YUM.
We continued walking through the market stalls, checking out some of the merchandise for sale.
I want to make mention of the woman in the image below. Along with the fact that the produce on her boat is beautifully arranged, it is evident that she takes great pride in her attention to detail, as evidenced by wearing bracelets on each wrist and a pearl necklace with matching earrings. I’ve seen other images of her on various websites, and she is always as beautifully accessorized.
I so enjoyed seeing this young man with the friendly face as he raced past me down the canal with a beautiful Phuang Malai floral garland hanging from his boat.
Look at how organized this young woman’s prep area is on her boat. She is deep in concentration while boats are whizzing past her.
Again, we walked past more food. There was only one thing we could do: Snack again! Efren and I squabbled over what the snack below was. I said it was an egg dish; Efren said it was made from coconut milk. So who was correct? Efren was, darn it! I was so sure of myself too…sheesh. I’m glad I didn’t make a bet with him!
This basket of goodies is called Khanom Krok, which is a coconut dessert. It is traditionally made of two layers; a rice flour mixture for the bottom layer filled with a sweetened coconut cream. This particular vendor knew that time was of the essence; however…hers were made with the filling only, adding corn kernels to the filling. Yes, they were also delicious.
We continued to wander around the markets where we found a snake vendor. I didn’t pay him because I only photographed his sign. No bite, no problem!
There is a very well known and extremely talented professional travel photographer who photographed the floating market some years ago. In his image, all of the female vendors are wearing the same colored outfit, and the produce and flowers on their boats are gorgeously arranged without a styrofoam container to be found. The women’s boats are aligned side by side perfectly, and the women are holding onto the edges of each others’ boats to engage in conversation. That image had been burnt into the back of my mind as being representative of this floating market. No matter how long I looked, however, I couldn’t find even a smidgen of that scene at this floating market. I’m assuming, and I could be wrong, that his image was created for stock photography. (I’m envious…I would have loved that image for my own! It’s visually stunning.)
I’m assuming that each vendor’s reality is that they wake up before dawn to bring their produce or wares to the floating market where they then have to offload their goods for sale onto their boats. They then arrange them as perfectly as they can, cut and package their produce in styrofoam plates wrapped in plastic, and then paddle out to the floating market where they then have to barter continuously with tourists for hours every day before packing everything up at day’s end. I’m exhausted simply from writing about it! I can only imagine the long hours and hard work these vendors put in on a daily basis.
Please look at the following three images of mature women. After you have done that, visualize your mother at these women’s ages sitting in a crouched position or kneeling on her boat for up to five hours per day. Are you having trouble visualizing that? I’m already struggling. Now imagine your mother rowing up and down a river (pick a river, any river!) selling produce, food, or goods to tourists for days, months, and years on end, well into her eighties or beyond. Now that you have visualized that within your family, please look again at the woman in the third image below wearing the plaid shirt who offered me her biggest and most genuine smile for no other reason than to be friendly. I adore the Thai people. I hope you will consider their efforts the next time you decide to bargain.
Perhaps this image below is more indicative of the vendors’ workdays, holding onto the edges of tour boats to make a sale, rather than having the luxury of sitting side-by-side in their boats deep in conversation with other vendors. This is the reason I have a tough time bargaining when I’m traveling. Even if I have a lot of spending money, I can’t in good conscience bargain another person down in price when I have the means to fly almost halfway around the world and stay at beautiful hotels. I simply don’t find bargaining to be a fun sport in a third-world country. I’ll get off my soap box now if you think I was standing on it!
Although I could have stayed for hours, walking up and down the market, and then settling in for lunch while observing the ongoing activity of the river below, it was time for us to meet up with our driver so we could return to Bangkok to continue our tour.
What a fun day it was…and it was only noon! Our driver was taking us to our next stop on our tour: Old Bangkok and Chinatown!