By now I am feeling quite at home in Bangkok and luckily enough not like a tourist anymore. I have seen the big temples, some small ones too, Jim Thompson House, the Moon Bar, the Erawan shrine, the malls, and of course infamous Khao San Road. Whenever I go now, I like to explore outside of these sightseeing hotspots. I like to find little markets, hole in the wall eateries, and rooftop bars that don’t cost an arm and a leg but have the same stunning views.
However, one thing I was dying to see was the railway market Bangkok as well as a floating market. Touristy or not, I didn’t care much. My contact from Greenpearls, an amazing company for eco-friendly hotels, had previously organized a great tour for me with Hivester in Bangkok and offered to do the same so I could finally check these two iconic markets off my nonexistent to do list. Together with the TAT and Bangkok Food Tours they sent me on a floating market Bangkok tour and to see the infamous Maeklong railway market.
As you know I am partial to a good food tour especially when I have a guide who likes eating just as much as I do. My guide Yi Wah was exactly that and to make things even better it was just her, our driver Mr. Pet, and myself – more food for me (or so I thought).
Railway Market Bangkok
Our morning started after an hour’s drive at the railway market Bangkok, properly called Talad-Rom-Hub – the name actually refers to the awnings and umbrellas that have to be folded away whenever the train comes through. And yes, vendors actually set up shop right by the tracks, moving quickly whenever the train is approaching and making sure at the same time that no stupid tourists gets in trouble. Yi Wah made sure I didn’t become one of those stupid tourists.
The market mainly offers fresh produce and is a regular center of business for locals in the area. Just in time for the 8.30am train we found a table at the at the coffee shop which is adjacent to the tracks and not only serves a really good coffee but also makes sure you have a prime spot for when the train comes. To my utter disappointment, even a prime spot meant having lots of people’s heads, cameras, and phones in my shot.
If you go, I recommend you stay until the train returns at 9 am. Walk down the tracks to your right from the coffeeshop and after a hundred meters you will reach the end of the market – a much better spot I reckon to get a shot of the train in all its glory. For a very different view of the market, you can actually take the train – something locals and tourists alike do.
Floating Markets Bangkok
Afterward, it was breakfast time at the Tha-ka floating market. This one is an experience because unlike the other markets as it is a) properly floating and b) not many tourists come here. Vendors prepare, cook and sell their dishes directly from their boats, moored next to floating platforms.
From here we boarded a boat and went off into the maze of little canals. Our destination was a palm sugar factory where palm sugar is still made the old fashioned way just like grandma used to. I even had a go at climbing a palm tree and dare say I did a lot better than I usually do. What do you think?
Then it was time for the Bang-Noi floating market, which is not floating per se but rather built right by the water. Here you will find little hipster coffee shops and lots of knickknacks and best of all – a massage place. Perfect for a small break and to make room for more food (at this point Yi Wah was seriously worried about my eating capabilities).
Before lunch, we made a stop at Wat Bang Kung, a temple from the Ayutthaya period now overgrown by the roots of different trees, a Bodi tree amongst them. Just leave your shoes at the door and join the worshippers by lighting incense and sticking gold leaf on the Buddha inside. While this is a holy site, it is also a destination for families who gather here to pray, eat, drink and take pictures.
The most well-known place you will see during any floating market Bangkok tour is the Amphawa floating market. This place is seriously massive and quite popular with local and foreign tourists alike. Take the ferry to take you over the Mekong river and then jump on a boat to take you through (not quite as scenic as these are motorboats) or just walk alongside the canal, cross over one of the many bridges and make your way back on the other side.
We stopped to get some proper Thai coffee first – prepared in a can and by a man who has been making coffee his entire life. And while I am not a coffee snob, it was one of the best iced coffees I have had.
From there we made our way along the water, Yi Wah enticing me every so often with more food. I caved for noodle soup in a coconut bowl and some freshly grilled prawns. All along the canal, you will find small seafood restaurants which prepare their fare on charcoal grills onboard small wooden boats. For fans of squid, mussels, and crab this is heaven. You eat sitting on the embarkments on small bar tables and of course with your hands. Make sure you get an ice cold coke to wash it all down and don’t miss out on the delicious chili dip.
Yi Wah was keen to conclude our Amphawa floating market tour with some deep-fried soft shell crab, the only dish I refused (I think eating a softshell crab is like eating a really big spider) before we headed back to Bangkok. How I managed dinner that night I do not know and neither how I will ever find food that good again.
Visiting the Maeklong railway market and the various floating markets is definitely a different kind of foodtour in Bangkok. And yes, while tourists are everywhere (many of them Thai) you will still get to eat some of the most authentic Thai food you can find. If I would go for a private tour again I am not so sure. The more people, the more dishes you can try, alternatively make sure you come very very hungry.