There are many floating markets throughout Thailand, many within a couple of hours drive of Bangkok. There are colorfully clad merchants at these lively markets paddling their goods, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, along congested canals in sturdy canoes to sell to shoppers on the banks. These markets are busy with lots of chatter and activity.
The floating markets in Thailand have developed over a long history in the region, likely developing before history is well documented. Much of central Thailand, including Bangkok, is located in wet lowlands of broad river valleys, all in a tropical climate. This meant that this area was heavy jungle prior to human development. The areas adjacent to the rivers were likely the first to be populated and the people living there would be using boats as their main mode of travel rather than trying to push their way through the dense jungle that once dominated the region.
Boats would have been used for both local and regional trade, bringing goods from those that produced to those that could buy or trade. Within the communities along the waterways, smaller boats were likely used to bring goods to those along the rivers, which included the majority of the people.
As the region grew in population and Bangkok began to develop into the areas capital city, the area had to be drained and this was done by excavating an extensive system of canals. While roads would have been built in this same time period, the already establish market system using the small boats would have remained the favorite method of distributing goods. So, the "Floating Market" would have remained ingrained in the Thai historical culture.
With many of the Thai Buddhist Temples were also constructed along the rivers within in these communities, and the custom of giving alms to the Monks has extended to people living along the waterways. The Monks set out early in the morning in small boats to collect alms for their Temple.
There are several types of floating markets today. Some are focused on attracting the local Thais, and remain similar to the floating markets of long ago. Most are "constructed" floating markets, with concrete piers constructed adjacent to the rivers edge with markets stalls for various vendors. There are still vendors who provide more personalized service by bring food and drink to houses and resorts in the vicinity of cities along rivers. A good example of this is Amphawa, along the Maekong, where I was able to buy a tasty hot soy milk beverage at a small resort along the river.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is the second type of floating market and was developed primarily for tourists to get a taste of the floating market culture in a short period of time. However, in this market the roles have reversed where the tourists are giving a boat tour and most of the vendors are along the edge of the canals of the city.
Gain a basic understanding of some of the historical culture leading to what is Thailand today. Click here to view a list of Articles about Thai Culture.
Bangkok's 9 Royal Temples
Bangkok Must Sees
Exploring Thailand's Nature
Islands of the Thai Gulf
Thailand's Royal Palaces
Thailand and World War 2
Explore Chiang Rai
Explore Chiang Mai