Go to Razzle Dazzle welcome page. Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

Floating Market

September, 2004

Thailand photo.
1. The Floating Market
Thailand photo.
2. Fruit vendors
Thailand photo.
3. Tourists
Thailand photo.
4. Orchids
nul. nul.

At one time, the people of Bangkok lived and traveled mostly along the rivers and khlongs (canals) of the city. The floating markets were the primary place where people bought food and other necessities. Over the years, the canals were filled in and the focus of life changed to the streets and highways. There are still a few floating markets in Bangkok, but they now exist solely for the foreign tourists. The last real floating market near Bangkok is in Damnoen Saduak, about 100 km from the city (see photo #1, at left). We signed up for a mini-van to take us (and other tourists) to visit the floating market.

The market at Damnoen Saduak still serves the local people who come to buy fruit and vegetables (photo #2) and cooked meals along the canals. The sellers are almost all women who frequently wear their traditional conical straw hats. But even here, the local market is rapidly disappearing. It only really operates during the early morning hours. By 9:00 a.m., the tourist buses and mini-vans begin to appear and the local market is over.

The market is still colorful and interesting, although the mix of products and customers changes during the day. Although fresh foods are still available, the tourists begin to take over the market. Many pay to ride through the market in small boats, adding to the congestion. Others line the banks of the canals, shopping at the numerous shops and kiosks that sell souvenirs and overpriced handicrafts. And everywhere the tourists are taking pictures, sometimes of each other (photo #3). We have become an important part of the culture we came to experience. Although we often found ways to escape the artificiality of this tourist culture during our trips around Thailand, the floating market was not one of them.

On our way to the market, the van stopped at a farm that raises beautiful orchids (photo #4). We only had a few minutes there, to use the bathrooms, but we enjoyed the lovely flowers while we had the chance.

All in all, we had an interesting trip to the Floating Market. Like so much that makes up the traditional lives of people all over the world, it is changing rapidly and will disappear completely in time. Although it is sad for us to see these colorful and distinctive instititutions being lost, the people of Thailand obviously prefer driving a car or motorcycle to a more convenient market on land. Paddling a small boat to a floating market is fun to watch, but it is hard work and takes a lot of time. We know, for we live on a boat and must row our dinghy to shore whenever we want to buy things or eat in a restaurant. This gives us a good sense of the trade-offs that are involved. Few people will willingly choose to live the way we do, including the people who no longer shop or travel along the khlongs of central Thailand. We wish them well.


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Jim and Jamie Richter, http://gotouring.com/razzledazzle/
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Created 9/2004. All text & photos are © 2004 Jim Richter.