Making it to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market while spending a fraction of the money a tour costs was one of our crowning achievements throughout our four month trip. We spent 386 baht, while most tours offer a worse experience (in our opinion) for 2100 baht. It was a great day trip, a unique experience that was different than your everyday SouthEast Asia market. We tackled this mission on the fourth day of our travels, and it really gave us the confidence that we might actually survive the whole trip!
Below is a map and step by step outline on how to get to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market without a tour when arriving by bus from Bangkok. Continuing reading after for more details and to learn all about our awesome experience!
- Taxi to Southern Bus Station (Sai Tai Main) in Bangkok
- Bus 78 or ask for MiniBus to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
- Get dropped off in “scam” lot but immediately turn back to the road and turn left, walking away from the main road towards the floating market.
- Walk about a kilometer until you see the real floating market sign and a small bridge spanning the canal.
- Cross the bridge and walk down into area under awning and find someone to take you on a paddled boat tour (approx 100-150 baht).
- Enjoy and make sure to get coconut pancakes!
- Once you’re done at the market and it’s getting crowded walk back down the road the way you came towards the main road.
- Cross the main road then turn left. Stay at ground level and use the stairs about halfway along, don’t try to walk beside the crazy traffic.
- Turn right into a large lot and find/wait for bus 78.
- Get off the bus once you’re back in Bangkok near the Southern Bus Station and find a taxi to take you the rest of the way.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
The Damnoen Saduak Floating market was made famous by the chase scene in the James Bond film “The Man with the Golden Gun”. Now, like most floating markets in Thailand, it’s virtually only for tourists, but it’s still really cool to see! This surge in popularity also prompted many tour companies to start offering bus and boat tours of the market for exorbitant amounts of money. We found a way to get there cheaply, and to experience the market more fully, and we want to share it with you!
First off, the market gets packed once the tour buses arrive, so you’ll need to get up fairly early to beat the crowds. We were up at 5:30am to grab a taxi to the Southern Bus Station (Sai Tai Mai). We walked by the drunken stragglers still drinking on Khao San Road and found a couple taxi cars. Usually we could find a nice cabbie who would actually use his meter (which is enforced by law in Thailand), but at this hour with so few around it seemed that they all banded together and were asking for a rate of 200 baht (or refusing to drive us to the bus station and instead driving us to the market for 800 baht…). We managed to bargain a little down to 180 baht (woo saved 80 cents!) and we headed off to the bus station. Once we were there we asked a bus station employee (at least we think…he was wearing a uniform) where bus 78 was. He instead pointed us to a little booth operated by a woman selling tickets to a mini bus for 80 baht. The sign said Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, and we were strapped for time and couldn’t find anything else, so we went with it. The mini bus did in fact get us to the market, and faster than we anticipated. The trip took about an hour.
We had done some research on the market and had read that all the buses drop you at a “scam pier” and that’s exactly what happened. It was decked out with a sign and everything. We were dropped in a parking lot just off the main road (check out the map above) and there were longtail speedboats ready to whisk us off to the market, at a cost of 2000 baht. As soon as boat operators saw us they called us over and tried to get us to pay for their boat. We immediately turned around to the dirt side road, turned left and continued walking down it, to the chagrin of the lady standing there. And she expressed that disappointment very loudly, by screaming at us. I mean SCREAMING! “No no wrong way! This is the floating market! STOP!”. If we hadn’t been reasonably confident that this was not the real floating market, we would’ve been convinced, but we pushed on ignoring the screaming lady and walked down the road to the real market. We walked straight down the road for about a kilometer until we saw an identical “Floating Market” sign to the scam pier sign, and came across a bridge spanning one of the market canals. We saw very little activity, but that’s because we were there at about 8am and the market didn’t start up until 9/9:30am.
So we walked around a bit, grabbed some coconut pancakes which turned out to be freaking amazing, and watched the locals set up their shops. We came across one man who offered us a paddled tour of the market for 150 baht in our own private boat. One fifty! That’s almost twenty times less than if we’d taken a boat at the scam pier! It was a small little paddle powered boat, which we preferred over the noisy motor powered longtail boats packed with tourists. We were able to actually take in the market and enjoy ourselves while everyone else was whizzing past and barely able to take a picture. Now our driver wasn’t the most skilled, and we bumped into a fair amount of other boats and stalls while he continuously apologized and joked “Stop Sign!” but we found it hilarious and all part of the awesome experience. Stall owners would grab onto our boat with a long hook and pull us over to offer us all kinds of cool knick knacks. Devon ended up buying a magnet, and some pad thai cooked right in front of us in a boat! Alex opted for some coconut ice cream with sticky rice. The whole experience was really fun!
We headed back to Bangkok around 11am just as a massive line of tour buses were rolling in. We walked back down the road we came, all the way to the main street. At that point you cross and turn left. Keep to the “sidewalk” (read broken slabs of concrete) and stay at ground level while the road crosses a bridge. Eventually there will be stairs to climb up and at the opposite end of the bridge on the right there’s a lot where we found bus 78 (a large bus, not a minibus). The trip back took about 2.5 hours, and takes you on a different route to Bangkok, but we eventually made it back to a stop on the opposite side of the highway from the Southern
Bus Station. From there we grabbed a taxi (and he used his meter!) and made it back to Khao San Road!
The whole trip cost us 386 baht each (including food and souvenirs at the market). Compare that to 2100 baht offered by the tour companies, and the overall better experience (not to mention the pride in ourselves for doing it all on our own) and we believe we pulled off a pretty fantastic day trip. We definitely recommend anyone that wants to see the market to follow these steps so that you can have the same experience we did!