A walk through Bangkok’s Khao San road, the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and other touristy sites generally results in more than a couple tuk-tuk drivers touting trips to a floating market. While many will accept their offer, there are some who shy away, not wishing to visit an overcrowded market that is filled with more tourists than locals.
Relaxing in a longtail boat as it glides through Bangkok’s Khlong (canals) gives a view of rural life that not many will see when visiting the city; laughing children playing by the Khlong, young shirtless boys taking turns doing cannonballs into the Khlong, older women in wide-brim straw hats paddling slowly and selling everything from gum to baggies filled with hot coffee the colour of tar.
The canal where Khlong Lat Mayom is located is quiet, no boat-jams (canals crowded with vendor boats are located at the more touristy floating markets like Amphawa). Passing the occasional longtail boat, long shallow wooden canoes docked beside the market; some selling fresh fruit and vegetables, others serving curries from clay pots, or grilling shrimp.
Open 9:00 am to 4:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays and holidays, Khlong Lat Mayom floating market is large — most of which is on land. While there are stalls selling plants and clothing and knick-knacks, the ones closest to the canal sell delightful foods; everything from seafood to curry to crispy pork to sweets.
The market is filled with Thai people and five or six tourists, the aisles and paths are small, and at times bodies are squished together so tightly that moving against the crowd seems impossible, and when you feel like you are finally moving forward someone ahead stops to buy food, and everyone else then pushes and squishes to try and get around them so they can continue moving forward. Thankfully there are some aisles and sections which are less crowded and give one a chance to breathe and interact with locals.
Exploring Lat Mayom floating market without sitting down to eat is difficult, there is simply too many delicious foodie choices to be enjoyed: scallops cooked over an open flame, salted fish stuffed with lemongrass, puddings, crispy fried pork, deep fried mushrooms and butter pea flowers, lobster, BBQ chicken, crab, and so much more.
It’s a food lover’s paradise; especially if you are as obsessed with seafood as I am — I’m hungry again, just by looking at these photos. When your stomach is full and feels like it may burst, and you’re ready to squeeze your way through the crowd back to the dock and your longtail boat, be sure to make a quick stop for a coconut and lime smoothie. You won’t want to drink it immediately, but as soon as you’re back in the hot Bangkok sun, you may want something cool to drink.
The best time to visit the market is first thing in the morning when the food is fresh, but this may also be one of the busier times as locals will be doing their shopping. Come hungry, pack a cold bottle of water, and bring money in small denominations as not all vendors will have the proper change.
If you’re planning to take photos, remember to smile and ask permission to take photos, instead of sticking a camera in someone’s face and clicking away; I promise it can make a huge difference when taking portraits, and it can sometimes lead to interesting interactions with locals.
How to get to the market: take the BTS to Bang Wa station, then a taxi to the market. Or you can hire a longtail boat to take you there — they charge about 3,000 THB per hour, so be aware of that.
During my time in Thailand, I used the Lonely Planet guide, which was quite helpful in terms of the base planning – a good option for getting the basics together. Once that is done, I highly recommend speaking to locals and fellow travellers for up-to-date tips and advice.