Damnoen Saduak’s floating market: a tourist disappointment

What happened to me this summer in Bangkok was nothing more than the normal consequence of not having time to prepare an excursion that you had not even contemplated. It was a traveling mistake from which I learned my lesson, but I want to write about it so that no more people commit it.

I don’t blame myself either, because I was tired, with no time to look at anything and it wasn’t even my idea to go to the Damnoen Saduak floating market.

This year, I chose Phuket and Bangkok as resting places on the days off I have between the two groups of travelers I guide in Myanmar every summer. Those places weren’t my best option either, but this year was different because 3 friends were coming from Alicante to Thailand and I wanted to be with them.

So when they arrived we started looking at things to do in Bangkok and the issue of floating markets came to the table. I’m sure there are good and varied floating markets in Bangkok and surrounding areas, but from what I read on the only decent website I could consult in the half-hour we had to make the decision, they were all open between Thursday and Sunday. And we wanted to go on a Tuesday.

On that day of the week, the only option available was Damnoen Saduak’s floating market, which was catalogued on the web as “the most touristy and well-known”. He wasn’t wrong.

Choosing the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Tour

When you are in Bangkok (especially in the backpackers’ area) you are the cannon fodder of agencies, taxi and tuk tuk drivers, street vendors… Everyone offers you different tours at the most diverse prices and your mind clouds by leaps and bounds. In addition, the Thai friendliness prayed by all the billboards here was lost quite some time ago.

I advise you to first take a look at the internet, to get an idea of prices and people’s opinions, and then compare on the street, entering some of the small physical agencies that you will find, in droves, through the streets of Bangkok.

Basically, they all offer more or less the same, but you can save some if you have the patience to investigate a few.

In the case of Damnoen Saduak’s floating market tour, we don’t follow any of the tips I just wrote. That’s the way it was. Honestly, I had just been leading a group of 10 people in Myanmar, and the last thing I wanted was to have to organize an excursion. I needed to rest.

So all we did was ask a couple of taxi drivers how much they would charge us to take us to Damnoen Saduak’s floating market.

The truth is that we got a price that we thought was good quite quickly: 600 THB between 4 people. Considering that the market is an hour and a half’s drive from downtown Bangkok, it’s not bad at all. However, the surprise came later, when, upon arriving at the market car park, we were asked for an exorbitant price for the tour of the Damnoen Saduak canals.

Finally, and after a lot of haggling, we managed to lower the price to 2,500 THB for the whole boat, when, in the beginning, the Thais asked us that per person. Anyway, I thought it was expensive for what it was.

That said, prepare it more in advance, although, frankly, I would not pay a measly euro for that excursion, because it was an experience that brought me nothing at all, except the good time spent with my friends.

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A little history of Damnoen Saduak’s floating market

Damnoen Saduak’s floating market was not always the tourist scam (always, of course, in my opinion) it is today.

Between 1866 and 1868, by order of King Rama IV, the Damnoen Saduak canal was built. It was about 32 km long and connected the Mae Klong and Tha Chin rivers. With the creation of the canal, the floating markets began to emerge and the inhabitants of the area (which was not connected by road to almost nowhere) began to dig another 200 small arms that departed, in twists and turns, from the main canal.

The main floating market was named Lad Plee and was active until 1967, when the development of the road network replaced the need for inland waterway transport. It wasn’t the only floating market that disappeared. A lot of others did it all over the country.

It would be in 1971 when the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) turned Lad Plee’s floating market into a tourist attraction for foreigners.

Touring the floating market of Damnoen Saduak: a real assembly for tourism

Once we had paid the 2,500 THB, a couple of Thais accompanied us to a small boat, long and colorful, which was stacked next to a couple of dozen more.

We got on it and began to travel the dense network of canals that make up the floating market of Damnoen Saduak. Our boatman was a nice guy, with a beautiful everlasting smile on his face. However, the tour in the boat was a tremendous disappointment.

The canal waters weren’t exactly clean. On the banks of the different arms there are stands of crafts, paintings, clothes, photos, postcards … A whole conglomerate of souvenirs at inflated prices and without greater originality than anything you can find in downtown Bangkok.

Worst of all, there was not a trace of what I, at least, expected to see: boats of local people selling or exchanging products with other Thais. Nothing to see. The few local boats we saw sold some cooked food, fruit and crafts, but only to tourists.

In the most important canals, the agglomeration of tourist boats was brutal. The smoke from the engines mixed with the noise, and my eyesight could only see tourists taking pictures with cameras and mobiles. The truth is that I just wanted to finish the circuit as soon as possible.

The best part was when we took a small adjacent canal and ended up in an area of wooden houses and somewhat denser vegetation. The tranquility there contrasted with the follón from which we came and we were able to enjoy a little of the last part of the itinerary.

Conclusions of Damnoen Saduak’s visit to the floating market

If I’d known what was waiting for me, I wouldn’t have gone. I think this makes my opinion on Damnoen Saduak quite clear. Not for the price, but for the experience itself.

If you want to visit a floating market in Bangkok I recommend you to plan the subject in advance and look for one that is something more authentic than the tourist esperpent I went to. I wish you luck!