Bangkok is said to be the Venice of Asia and one of the things we absolutely could not leave Bangkok without seeing was one of the floating markets. While Damnoen Saduak is the best known Bangkok floating market, it’s also the most touristy and we wanted a more authentic experience. We did our homework and talked to the local guru at Anantara Bangkok Riverside, before finally settling on the Taling Chan Floating Market as the best one for us to visit.
Floating Markets in Bangkok
Bangkok has an extensive network of canals and it was once a way of life to get around by boat. These low wetlands were once covered in thick jungle before the development of Bangkok as the metropolis it is today. The areas closest to the river banks were populated first and logistically it was just easier to get around by boat on the river than to go through the jungle. Selling goods directly from your boat or doing your shopping right from your waterfront home made life a little easier.
As urban development began, the low wetlands were drained by creative the system of canals. The floating market and shopping from them was already established, but this new network of canals meant that traders could travel with their good and sell them a little further afield. The Thai floating market became a way of life.
Nowadays the floating markets are more of an attraction than the way of life they once were; they are also one of the most popular things to do in Bangkok for both tourists and locals alike.
What we didn’t realize is that many of the floating markets are located a fair distance outside of Bangkok and most of them are only very early in the morning. It can take quite a bit of time to get to the floating markets from Bangkok because of the distance and Bangkok’s infamous traffic, making a 7am departure necessary for many Bangkok floating market tours.
Taling Chan Floating Market Bangkok is located just 12 kilometers outside of downtown Bangkok and takes around 30 minutes to get there. It’s easy to go on your own by taking the BTS to Wongwian Yai Station and then taking a taxi the rest of the way for around 150 Baht. Or you can also book a Bangkok Taling Chan Floating Market tour if you don’t want the hassle of getting there and back yourself.
Taling Chan Floating Market Bangkok
We were told the Taling Chan market is mostly enjoyed by locals looking to spend a relaxing day eating and socializing. The absence of all the cheap trinkets and junk we saw at other markets confirmed this and all the delicious food was our favorite part of the market.
It’s not the biggest floating market, but it’s kind of just right. There’s enough boats that you get everything you expect from a floating market, yet not so big that you feel overwhelmed like trying to select street food to eat in Bangkok can fell like. It’s filled with locals doing what they love to do on a weekend: eat and socialize. Yet, it’s not so crowded that you can’t comfortably enjoy the market. We found it fairly easy to get a seat at one of the little tables to sit down with messier foods like crab.
Back when we went to the floating market, we were the only tourists there. We took a taxi from our hotel in Bangkok, and our taxi driver wasn’t even sure exactly where to go. Taling Chan is changing a bit though, and these days it’s known as one of the best floating markets in Bangkok. It’s still far enough away from the city that not tons of tourists make their way there. And Taling Chan floating market is only open on Saturdays and Sundays, so that also limits the number of tourists that visit.
Even though the market is on the small side, bring a big appetite because there are plenty is plenty of Thai street food to try. The Taling Chan Floating Market hours are from 8am – 5pm on Saturdays and Sundays, and we found it an excellent place to have a really inexpensive lunch of a lot of different things that we shared. The prices are marked on signs and a lot of foods are prepared in small quantities already so it’s easy to just point. For the foods that are cooked to order, like noodles, there’s usually pictures on the signs. A handful even had the English names written along with the Thai to make it easy to order, even if the vendor him/herself didn’t speak English. Just be sure to bring cash because we didn’t spot any ATMs nearby.
Taling Chan starts out with a walking section of the market where vendors line both sides of the little street. Along this section we found tempura vegetables and tempura fried Thai basil, a variety of meats like fried chicken, pork balls with a spicy dipping sauce, barbecue pork, and Thai crispy pancakes. All were perfect for snacking and walking at the same time.
The Thai crispy pancakes definitely intrigued us because a sign explained that they were made with egg white and sugar. We tried both kinds: one was a salty pancake with coconut, prawn and whipped cream on it, and the other was sweet with egg, coconut and a called dessert called Fawthong on it. They were about $0.60 US or 20 Baht and came in a set of eight.
The tempura fried Thai basil is so simple, yet so delicious. Thai basil is different than the sweet basil we’re used to in Italian cooking. It’s got a hint of an anise taste to it and a slight spiciness. It’s used in cooking tons of Thai dishes, but you can really appreciate the taste when it’s simply lightly fried.
Don’t miss the Thai barbecued pork skewers. The secret to why it’s so good is really in the marinade it’s basted with. But at 8 baht, or around $0.25 USD, per skewer you can definitely go back for seconds…or thirds. We ate more pork skewers than I’d like to admit!
Blue crabs are the most common kind of crab caught in Thailand and in the Indian Ocean. The flavor is sweet and delicate, so it’s best enjoyed when the ingredients are really simple. At the Taling Chan market, you’ll see them being steamed right on the boats alongside fish and giant prawns being grilled.
The steamed blue crabs aren’t really cooked any special way, but they’re extremely popular. As with the pork skewers, it’s the sauce that makes the crab extra delicious. It’s served with a sauce made of chili, lime, garlic and fish sauce that has been all mixed up with a mortar and pestle. At an average cost of 200 Baht per kilo (about $6 USD), the crabs are one of the more expensive foods you can order at the Taling Chan market but still super inexpensive in comparison to ordering a steamed crab back home in the US.
There’s no shortage of meats on sticks in Thailand and after just a few days, you can’t resist trying them. It’s all about the sauce that they’re served with. Though there’s nothing necessarily special looking about Thai pork meatballs on a stick, when you dip them in the spicy sweet chili sauce they’re served with you’ll be in love. They also only cost about $0.30 US or 10 Baht for each stick.
The streets ends at the river where there are boats and a series of floating barges. Several of the barges are lined with low tables where everyone gathers to eat the fresh seafood, noodles, and Thai treats purchased from the dozen or so boats cooking them below.
After stuffing yourself, grab a refreshing coconut, a fresh fruit smoothie or a frozen coffee and listen to the Thai music. The Thai “band” plays from about 11am – 2pm.
You can even purchase a loaf of stale bread and feed the catfish that swarm in the river. It’s a Thai tradition and one that they think brings good luck and fortune.
While Taling Chan Floating Market was the biggest market, we really enjoyed our visit. If you want to eat the most delicious food, then we definitely think Taling Chan is the best floating market in Bangkok to head to. It’s especially great because you can easily visit in half a day and still have time for other sightseeing, unlike booking a Bangkok floating market tour which takes up the entire day.
Know Before You Go
- The market is most easily reached by Uber or taxi from Bangkok, and it was easy enough to hail a taxi from the main road to take us back to Bangkok after we finished at the market. Or just call an Uber again when you’re ready to head back.
- You can also take the BTS to Wongwian Yai Station and then take a taxi the rest of the way for around 150 baht (less than $5 USD).
- Taling Chan Floating Market opening hours are Saturdays and Sundays from 8am – 5pm.
- Bring cash as we didn’t see any ATMs nearby.
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