Sunday, November 30, 2014

Portraits from Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

One's travel to Thailand is never complete without a side trip to one of its floating markets, particularly the largest and most-visited by tourists, the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Ratchaburi Province,  about 100 kilometers away, or roughly two hours' ride from Bangkok.  How do you say the name? Read: damnernsadwak.

Once you get there you are welcomed by stalls and stalls of  mostly Thai products: handmade crafts, souvenirs, bags, purses, key chains and other trinkets, and local homemade delicacies.  You must know how to haggle because there's a different price set for tourists, expectedly exorbitantly higher than what the vendors would give to the locals.

There's a large market hall across the canal from the parking lot side, half of it occupied by a very fashionable lady whom everybody calls Madam Paew.  All the goods sold in her turf  are of fixed price.  So you can probably benchmark  from there when you go shopping in other stalls down the canal.   But it's always advisable to haggle lower than half until you come to a compromise with the vendor.  Be polite.

By the way, it's also a must to hire a paddle boat--rowboat/long-tailed boat-- (cheaper, around 100 to 150 baht) or a motor boat (200 to 300 baht) that will take you down the water-alleys where there are more beautiful products sold.  Enjoy haggling in every stall.  Just remember, whenever you inquire about an item, it will be a bit difficult to break away if you decide not to buy.  The vendors are quite persistent and the boat won't leave unless you order the paddler to move on.

There are many other floating markets around Thailand, many of them authentic and traditional, meaning they have been there for about a hundred years old, or thereabout, mainly for trade than for tourism.  Many of them have been rarely visited by foreign tourists.  As the grand floating markets like the Damnoen Saduak and the Amphawa have become main tourist destinations, they have also become busy and too crowded, hence attention is now turning toward those quaint old little riverside markets that still show the regular way of life of people living in the banks and using the water thoroughfares to commute from home to market and other places.  Some vacationers do prefer places  where one can just hang out, shop a bit, have a quick boat tour, and sip coffee in the quiet. 

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