A floating market or "Talaat Naam" is quite simply a collection of small flat-boats from which fresh produce, fruit juice and simple meals are sold. These boats clog the canals, or "klongs", of certain areas in the Bangkok, Nonthaburi and Ratchaburi provinces and are piloted by savvy ladies in blue shirts who long for the chance to haggle with an unsuspecting tourist or two over the price of some exotic delicacy. Floating markets from Thai culture for some time when in 1987 to celebrate the king's birthday the market at Khet Taling Chan was developed by the then Governor of Bangkok, Chamlong Srimuang.
There are presently four floating markets, of which Khet Taling Chan is the oldest, and all attract crowds of tourists although some are more popular than others. One of these floating markets - Khet Taling Chan itself - is located in Bangkok province, one - Bang Ku Wiang Market - in the province of Nonthaburi, and two, being Damnoen Saduak and Tha Kha, are found in the Ratchaburi province. All have in common the method in which market goods are sold, but each also has their own special wares, hours of operation and operational idiosyncrasies.
Khet Taling Chan floating market is located in the Taling Chan district of Bangkok province and can be reached by taking a bus over the Chao Praya River to Thonburi and then on to Taling Chan. The market itself is situated in the Khlong Chak Phra canal in front of the region's District Office and specializes in selling fish, vegetables, plants, fruit and small non-edible items. Tourists and locals alike are entertained by the traditional Thai music that's played over lunchtime every day whenever the market is open. The market's trading hours are 9am through 5pm every Saturday and Sunday.
The Bang Kruai district of Nonthaburi province is home to the Bang Ku Wiang floating market. Of the four, this is most probably the easiest market for the tourist to travel to although its 4am through 7am trading hours are rather restrictive. It is probably also the least touristy of the four markets, offering a more genuine market experience, and the ideal way to reach it is by boat although buses and tuk-tuks are also available. The Bang Ku Wiang market sells mainly fresh produce, and those who get there early enough should look out for the monks in their flat-boats on their alms runs.
Damnoen Saduak is probably the most commercial and busiest of the markets and lies in the Damnoen Sadauk district, in the province of Ratchaburi, close to Thailand's Myanmar border. Situated about 80km southwest of Bangkok city, the market is best reached by bus and is open daily from 6am through noon. Like the others, it specializes in selling fresh produce, although it also offers ready made fruit juices and light meals
Tha Kha lies 10km beyond Damnoen Sadauk and is thus somewhat off the beaten track. Due to its location, it does not get quite as crowded as the other markets, but tourists who are thinking of making the trip out should first check the lunar calendar as it is open only six days a month according to the lunar cycles. Tha Kha basically sells everything from fresh produce to prepared meals and juices to small knick-knacks and is the least commercial of four floating markets.
Floating markets are a great way to experience the hustle and bustle of market life from a time gone by in a unique setting, and make for fantastic photo opportunities. If you can try and visit one of the more remote markets to get a more authentic experience.