Quick and Dirty: Amphawa Floating Market is open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays only from about noon to 7:30 or 8:00 pm. Get there by taxi (expensive!) or by mini-bus. Best times to visit are from noon to sundown, when it starts to become quite crowded. Damnoen Saduak is a more popular floating market, but more touristy. Amphawa is most popular with Thais. Try any seafood here — it will be delicious.
A few days in Bangkok can be a little overwhelming, especially if you’re not used to the heat, humidity, and bustling (and I mean bustling) streets. So Mitch and I decided to escape for a day to Amphawa, a town about an hour away that features a well-known floating market. Let me tell you: it was fun!
There are a lot of famous floating markets, but we chose Amphawa because it is well-known but visited more by Thais than tourists. It is set up on the banks of the Amphawa canal off of the Maeklong River. Food vendors sit in boats on either shore of the river, selling their goods, and on the banks of the river, there are stalls and small shops for additional food and non-food vendors. To eat, you sit on steps on the banks of the river and enjoy your meal. One neat thing I loved seeing was the exchange of money and food. The vendors sit too far away from the banks of the river to exchange goods by hand, so they use baskets attached to long poles to hand you your food and receive payment. It was a super fun experience!
OK, so we sat down for lunch, and we saw everyone around us getting pad thai. We have not had any pad thai here in Thailand just because there are so many other less generic Thai dishes available, but since every single person at the market had ordered pad thai, we thought maybe there was something special about it here, and our hunch was right: the pad thai was the best I’ve ever had. It wasn’t overly sweet or sour and it had the addition of tiny, salted, dried shrimp, which adds this amazing salty/umame flavor. SO GOOD! We also really enjoyed grilled calamari and cockle shells — yum! Seriously one of the best meals we’ve had so far.
After chowing down on this amazing meal, we walked along the canal exploring shops, had some delicious coffee at a little local shop, and experienced our first spontaneous Thai rain shower.
Overall opinion: The floating market was an awesome way to get away from the craziness of Bangkok, especially since we started at lunchtime. The food is to die for, and you can find so many interesting shops, many of which are not kitschy or tacky. My favorite was Tungna Cafe & Gallery (amazing coffee and original art and photography prints by the owner). The market does get pretty crowded towards dinnertime, especially because people wait until dark to go on the firefly boat cruises, which I think are not worth it; you see some fireflies but other than that, you can’t see anything interesting, since it’s dark. Instead, I would recommend walking down the canal at sunset and seeing homes on the river. When we head back to Bangkok, we will definitely be visiting Amphawa again.