RATCHABURI: Damnoen Saduak Floating Market’s Prodigal Tourists | Central Thailand
Picking up where we left off, we head on over to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market— the famous postcard-perfect floating market in the province of Ratchaburi, Thailand.
The day trip was a spontaneous thing. Not exactly on the itinerary but had been a gnawing obsession at the back of our heads for as long as we could remember.
Armed with not a single idea how to get there and too amped to actually sit down and do some last minute research, we arranged for our hostel to sign us up for a tour group which is normally not normal for us unless prodded by sheer desperation or doe-eyed obliviousness or both.
The locals we asked about the floating market didn’t make things easier for us.
(Here’s how our typical conversations would go…)
Jake and Belle: How do we get to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market? Which bus should ride?
Local: VERY difficult to get there by yourselves. Damnernsaduak VERY far.
J&B: It’s alright we’re used to it. So, have you got directions?
Local: You take a tour bus. It’s better that way.
J& B: No need. We’ll get there by ourselves.
Local: You can’t. Take a tour bus.
Conspiracy or not, we took the bait.
It only cost us 1,400 Baht anyway. *shrug* 700 Baht each. *shrug* For a half-day trip to the Damnoen Saduak Floating market. An obvious tourist trap. *double shrug* You do know we’re crying inside right?
The reason we picked a “celebrity floating market” instead of the countless others in the country (some even nearby Bangkok itself) still eludes us to this day.
Pick-up at the hostel was at 7:00AM sharp as the most suitable time to be at the floating market is between 8:00-10:00AM but we stalled the entire van while packing our stuff for check-out therefore messing up the entire schedule for the rest of the folks.
Reason #1 why we’d rather not be in tour groups: Tik tok. We’re slow axss-mufukaxs that run on slow-mo bio-clocks. Jake’s slower. He’s a Gemini.
Reason #2 why we’d rather not be in tour groups: You can’t yell out “DIBS” for the best seat in the van and would have to settle for the searing hot window seat with insufficient tinting that comes with an invisible air-conditioning shield.
How far is Damnoen Saduak, Ratchaburi from Bangkok anyway?
About 2 hours later, we were finally navigating the streets of Damnoen Saduak, a provincial district of Ratchaburi which lies 100km+ west of Bangkok. The towns were quaint and numerous intertwining canals (khlong) snaked under bridges our van sped on.
Our tour started off at a congested souvenir shop right beside a canal where long-tailed boats were docked. The first thought which crossed our minds together was, ‘Is this it?’
Apparently those boats were to take us to the main artery of the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. It was a short obligatory motorized boat ride through the green waters of the canals. Past houses on stilts teetering by the edge, past colorful vegetation, past waving children and curious locals, past the large gateway beckoning visitors to ‘come in- it’s all in pretty here’.
It didn’t take long for us to get ripped off as soon as we docked into the epicenter of all things touristy. I unwittingly allowed a heavy slippery reptile to dangle over my shoulders for a few seconds before 120 Baht went flying out of my pocket. If I knew it cost that much to pose with a snake, I would’ve eaten it, jumped into a canal and swam off.
Commercialized was an understatement. Crowded: more tourists than there are vendors. Costly goods and services: even more painful for us who are not earning in dollars, euros or pounds. Synthetic: there was a kind of profit-making flatness to the whole atmosphere. Meh.
We decided to forgo the expensive souvenirs and boat rides. We contented ourselves with the sights, sounds and smells of the floating market while stealing a quick photograph here and there. The scene filled us with nostalgia for the days of old that we almost forgot we were to meet back with our tour group in a willy bit to head to our next destination.
This gave us a short window of time to come up with a crucial decision and break into song:
Darling, you gotta let me know. Should we stay or should we go? If you say that we will be fine, we’ll be here ‘til the end of time. So you got to let me knowww— should we stay or should we go? *guitar riff*
Reason #3 why we’d rather not be in tour groups: Tours have an itinerary of their own and you have an itinerary of your own and those 2 aren’t usually friendly.
Mr. Sam, our tour guide with an outrageous laugh and broken English, was waiting patiently for his troop to assemble back at the meeting place. We ambled over to him the way kids would before they ask for their pop for a cookie before dinner.
J&B: Where are we going next?
Mr. Sam: We’ll be visiting a zoo and a museum then we head back to Bangkok in the afternoon.
J&B: Supposing we stay here… could the van pick us up on the way?
Mr. Sam: (awkward) What do you mean?
J&B: We want to stay. We need more time here. If it’s not possible, could you help us with directions getting back to Bangkok?
Mr. Sam: (looking like he hasn’t had prodigal tourists in his group in a while) Wow. This is unusual. You’ll be alright with that? It will be quite challenging.
Sensing that we’ve made up our minds and there was nothing he could say to dissuade us any more, he calmly explained how we could walk a bit, take a motorcycle ride, take a jeep ride, then take a bus ride all the way back to the city capital. It was daunting enough to listen to all the unfamiliarity spewing out of his mouth but hey- it was worth it.
The market’s closing hours on foot was a breath of air fresher than what we’ve ever taken in before. It was the Damnoen Saduak we wanted to get to know.
P.S. So, how did we get back to the city?
We hopped on a local jeep which passed right by the main road just outside the market area for about 30 THB each to get to the town’s center. Thankfully, saying “Bangkok” a couple of times helped them direct us to a small makeshift terminal by the roadside (which really just looked like a waiting shed) where vans bound for Bangkok were waiting.
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