Yes, I’m returning quite a bit to times in Thailand, but it’s better late than never!
I mentioned our amazing hosts in Bangkok before, and they’re the ones to thank for this unforgettable experience at a traditional and still-local floating market.
Let me preface this by saying that there are plenty of opportunities to see a floating market as a tourist, but that most of these are set up for tourists—they’re floating markets for show, with all the typical tourist souvenirs, and not really used by locals. In fact, walking around the most touristy part of Bangkok (around The Grand Palace), Jon and I were *this* close to getting scammed into a visit to one of these for-tourist floating markets by the ever-famous 20 baht tuk tuk ride. If you are going to Thailand, make sure to google this and other common Bangkok scams. The “friendly” local who just so happened to work at the building next door was describing a trip to see the famous floating markets in Bangkok, which is only open on Friday, Saturday & Sunday.
Thankfully, our generous hosts had already told us that Sunday we were going to go with them to see a real floating market, the one that’s by their home out in the suburbs. Not only that, but we’d accompany them for a breakfast with their friends and neighbors, a weekly tradition that brings them together to dine on a potluck of food!
(Once we told this stranger we were planning on seeing a floating market with our Thai friend on Sunday, he pretty much straightfaced us and walked away without another word. From smiles and friendly “helpful tips” to a cold shoulder in an instant, it became clear that he wasn’t trying to help at all.)
Poonsak and Nuk, our adoptive Thai parents during our visit to Bangkok, drove us out to their neighborhood in the suburbs and we got to meet their genuinely kind friends who welcomed us to their home and shared their breakfast with us. We had a delicious time and didn’t even feel awkward that we can’t speak Thai.
After brekkie, we went to the floating market and Nuk arranged for us to all go on a boat ride through the canals of the floating market. She made sure we went on a boat that was paddle-powered as opposed to an engine. She much prefers the paddle powered boat because it’s so much more peaceful as you explore the canals and more true to tradition.
Our paddling guide took us around the neighborhood—through the canals lined with houses (you can see home floating gardens and fisheries!) and then to a huge open expanse that was filled with gorgeous lilies!
It was so peaceful, just listening to the birds while in a pond of lilies. A boat with an engine would not have allowed us to enter this area because the plants would get caught in the motor, and even if it was possible, the hum of the engine would break the peaceful ambiance.
We made our way back to the commercial center (i.e. where the food court was) and brushed up on the veggie/food sellers in boats alongside the main area.
Once our paddle-tour was over, we walked around the food court area of the market (one platform with a maze of stalls). The floating market part, with all the boats with produce, was on the edge of this area.
There were all sorts of goodies we hadn’t see before.
A simple stand of a scented long grass was popular. Nuk says Thai people like the scent of the long grass and buy small flower-shaped long grass bunches to scent their car with. Like an air freshener. The lady making these gave us a demo/sample for fun:
We bought a chicken from this stand that’s been there ever since Poonsak and Nuk were young. It was a constant stream of business for that guy. Nuk made sure we got to try some local foods we wouldn’t find elsewhere.
These were a rice-flour based treat. They’re filled with a sweet paste and then covered with various toppings. Some of the toppings include fried mung beans, black sesame seeds, and dried shrimp (which make them savory and sorta fishy too). At 35 baht (about 1 USD) for a box of five, they’re super cheap for a freshly handmade treat. I also learned I’m not a big fan of shrimp covered desserts. Mung bean or black sesame were great though.
It was a feast for our bellies and for our senses!