Through The Lens: Thailand's Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Tuesday, July 1, 2014



Three things you need to know about what most people think of the floating markets around Thailand, or talat naam as they are locally known: (1) it's not the Venice of Asia; (2) it's a tourist trap of epic proportions; and (3) it's insanely expensive.

The first one is hardly surprising at all. It's certainly not like taking a gondola ride in the canals of Venice, Italy. This is Southeast Asia where temperatures often go as high as 40 degrees C—it's anything but romantic. The second one is what most people say based on their experience—that it was meant to be there to attract tourists and their money, which leads me to the third point. And let me put an emphasis on the word insanely because for what it's actually worth, it's a bit tad expensive to visit any of the floating markets in Thailand, especially the one in Damnoen Saduak district.

Located in the eastern province of Ratchaburi (some 2 hours away from Bangkok), the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market comes alive each morning as river peddlers ply the network of narrow canals, selling their fresh produce ranging from a bowl of Thai rice noodles to bananas. Along the river banks stand makeshift stilt houses that offer souvenir items from silk, furniture, dildo-shaped keychains and spices.

Each stall is manned by a local, armed with a pole with a hook on its end to pull small boats, packed with tourists, towards them. They say hello and right before you know it, you're already trapped—like vultures that just struck on its prey. The only chance of leaving is when someone becomes the sacrifical lamb—someone who would buy the overpriced item. And then you're free...to go to the next stall.

Such was my case. I was offered with trinkets, jade Buddha statues and, yes, even the dildo-shaped keychains. But being broke as I already was, all I gave was a faint smile and a few clicks of my camera.

Moving around the market and seeing it through the lens of my camera was like seeing it from a new set of eyes. Beyond the cultural "theme park" that most people think and see, I realized that there was more to it. That person who offered me the keychain, or that old man who pulled us in before docking, or that old lady who tried to sell me bananas, they all bore stories that other people may never understand.

Most people say it's a tourist trap. Sure, it is. No doubt. But it comes with a purpose and the intent is not just to sell for individual profit. Thailand's floating markets are over a hundred years old and most of the original markets are already gone. The few remaining ones are in great danger. The Thai people would be the first to be saddened if these markets will be gone, not the tourists.

Riverside shopping is part of their culture. The dildo-shaped keychains are not.

This man uses his pole with a hook on its end to help dock the small boats. 

A river peddler sells noodles in the comfort of her own boat.

Fresh bananas, anyone? 

Assorted souvenir items for sale.

She didn't want to be photographed.

A boat ride to go around the market costs 150 Baht.

3 comments:

Diana Cummings said...



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pilbiru id said...

good pic, nice place
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