Often referred to as the “Venice of Thailand” because of its many floating markets, the Amphawa District of the province of Samut Songkhram lies 70 kilometers southwest of Bangkok. This area is packed with tons of touristy hotspots, but to really enjoy it I highly recommend avoiding the crowds and hitting the more local floating markets.
One of my favorites is the Amphawa Floating Market. It’s an easy day or overnight getaway from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, and a place I like to share with visiting friends, family, and even fans of my scribbling.
I’ve been to this area many times, so I guess you could say that I was feeling pretty confident about my knowledge of the location. So when my gal and I had an opportunity to join ChillinChilli on their “One Day Escape, Floating Markets Food Tour” I was eager to see if there were any gaps in my what I knew.
I discovered instead of gaps in my knowledge there were canyons running through it…
In one very full day, we hit all of the highlights that have taken me several trips to discover on my own plus many more new places to me. Those additional places we could only explore because of the local knowledge and connections the ChillinChilli guide’s possessed. Through it all, we also ate and ate and ate some more. My kind of tour!
I highly recommend this tour for anyone who weighs equal importance on both experiencing sights and food.
But let me share with you our experience!
Grab some popcorn!
For videophiles, my gal put together this short video of our experience. Enjoy!
The video covers much of the sights from the tour but is really just a taste of what was on the itinerary. For a deep dive breakdown of the tour read on…
Maeklong Railway Market
After an early morning pickup (6:30 am is early for me anyway) and a little over 90-minute drive, we arrived at the Talat Rom Hup, “Umbrella Pulldown Market”, also known as the Maeklong Railway Market so that we could witness the arrival of the morning train.
This market gets its name from the fact that the train runs through it several times a day on its way to the Maeklong Station. There are a few sellers that cater to tourists but for the most part, this is a market that’s set up for the needs of the locals. Few tourists are in the market for fresh fish or shrimp paste.
Vendors are literally set up on and around the tracks, with umbrellas and large square plastic tarpaulins on poles creating a canopy over the trackway. You’ll know that a train is about to arrive when there’s a sudden surge of tourists on the tracks and the vendors start pulling back their canopies and tables from the path.
A tight fit…
From the distance, we heard the train’s horn blaring as it approached. The throngs of people were scrambling to find a place to sit or stand that would provide a safe viewing space. What amazed me was that the train passes over much of the products being sold–the vendors know exactly how much clearance they have to play with.
After the train passed through the canopies and tables came right back out to where they were before. Our little tour group enjoyed a sampling of fresh fruits from the market and sipped on juice straight from the coconut. This was our first snack. There would be more to come. By the time we finished it the tracks had become blessedly clear of tourists.
Our next stop was a floating market I’d never been to before, the Tha Kha Floating Market.
Tha Kha Floating Market
The Tha Kha Floating Market began to support the Tha Kha villagers in their efforts to trade excess fruits and vegetables with each other. Originally the market was held on 2nd, 7th, and 12th nights of a waning and waxing moon. There were no roads to the area and those dates provided the tidal waters needed because the only way to get to the market was by boat.
Now that there are roads to the market it is also open every weekend. This is not a large floating market, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in charm. Tourist sightings are rare here and the vendors are all smiles. It’s a refreshing break from the bigger floating markets where prices are high, sellers are all business, and tourists travel in packs.
While walking about we sampled many different fruits and snacks which our guide explained were popular for the area. Then we sat down to do some real eating.
I was pretty impressed with the ingenuity of these boat vendors to be able to prepare and sell their food dishes from such little narrow wooden boats. The tour does a great job of dialing in on the things that participants enjoy and are familiar with as well as exposing them to new dishes to experience.
There was much sampling during this little snack break. We had a bevy of different skewered meats (moo ping being a favorite), as well as several fried noodle dishes including Phad Thai and an omelet stuffed with bean sprouts, pickled radish, roasted coconut meat, crushed peanuts which we ate with a tangy vinegar sauce.
Time for a canal cruise…
After our chow down we jumped into a narrow wooden canal boat to set off for a local family-run coconut farm. I’ve been on canal boat tours before and this one was one of my favorites simply because it was such an idyllic experience. Many other canal tours I’ve been on are via motorized longboats that whisk you by too quickly along heavily trafficked waterways. This was very different than that.
As our boat driver paddled us through the narrow canals we meandered past houses and farmland and the occasional monitor lizard. All you could hear was the sound of birds overhead and the soft swoosh of the water responding to each paddle stroke. Fifteen minutes later we found ourselves pulling up to a home which was actually a family-run coconut farm.
A local coconut farm!
Visiting the coconut farm was an eye-opening experience for me. I always imagined that the main purpose of a coconut farm is well…to farm coconuts, right? Actually, no. The coconuts are just a bonus for the farmer. The real bounty on the farm comes from the tree itself, specifically the tree’s sap.
At the farm, we were shown how they collect the sap from the coconut trees in tubes. The sweet nectar is then dumped in large woks that are heated by a fire fueled by coconut husks. The sap is boiled until it is condensed down to a sweet drink or even further evaporated into blocks of sweet coconut sugar. Nothing is wasted from the coconut tree in the process.
We sampled both the juice and the sugar. I walked away with a 500-gram block of fresh coconut sugar for 50 baht. Feeling a bit jittery from the sugar rush, we jumped back into the boat to return to the market and tour van.
Our next stop would be Wat Bang Kung Temple.
Wat Bang Kung Temple
Built during the Ayutthaya period in 1765, Wat Bang Kung served as a temple to uplift the spirits of the encamped Thai soldiers. Inside the ordination hall sits a large Buddha called Luang Phot Bot Noi. It’s customary for visitors to purchase gold leaf and affix it to the statues.
The temple itself is thickly covered with roots of Pho, Sai, Krai, and Krang which stabilize the structure.
Amongst the roots and vines, a few statues adorn the outside of the temple.
After paying our respects at the temple, we moved on to our next stop, Somdul Agroforestry House.
After all we’d seen and eaten, a coffee break was certainly in order. The Somdul Agroforestry House is more than a coffee house. They also offer classes that are designed to teach children about organic farming and art classes using natural pigments from what is planted on their grounds.
The coffee is purely for adult enjoyment. Each cup is carefully brewed by hand by the barista. It takes time but is absolutely worth the wait. We enjoyed our coffees with some homemade coconut ice cream.
The Somdul grounds have several garden plots to grow organic vegetables which are used as ingredients in their cafe. It was nice to relax with a cup o’ joe, smell the freshly tilled soil, and watch the riverboats cruising up and down ferrying passengers. A bonus was being able to pet their very friendly Golden Retriever puppy. Being a cat owner, I rarely get dog time.
After recharging our batteries we proceeded to Amphawa Floating Market, the final destination of our tour.
Amphawa Floating Market
I’ve already mentioned that the Amphawa Floating Market is my personal favorite floating market to visit. It’s very popular and there are more locals than foreigners visiting. The inexpensive prices and lack of crowds reflect this. It’s also large enough that you can spend hours meandering along the canal window shopping and snacking.
During our tour, we had 40 minutes of free time to explore the floating market. Normally I would have pulled up a small plastic stool along the canal edge and ordered some fresh grilled river prawn and a cold beer. But I knew that we’d be eating again. So instead we went on a walkabout to canvas potential future lodging places for our next overnight visit.
Okay, we did have a scoop of homemade ice cream at Sugar. There’s always room for ice cream, right?
This being a food tour, it shouldn’t be a surprise that our final stop would also include a final chance to eat. I was very happy that we finished the tour at my favorite Amphawa Floating Market restaurant, Pawat Som Tum Seafood.
The final eatery!
Pawat Som Tum Seafood has a giant chicken as a mascot outside at the front of the restaurant. Their grilled chicken is quite popular.
But the real attraction here is the fresh seafood. The long grill in front of the venue gets a lot of action from the row of apron-wearing cooks turning over rows of fresh fish, squid, and prawns.
For our final dining experience with the tour, we had a large sampling of dishes. Pictured are just a few of the menu items we enjoyed. What I liked about this ChillinChilli tour was that they were happy to tailor each dining experience to the group’s food preferences and they were encouraging if you just wanted to explore the menu. We definitely didn’t leave hungry!
I want to hear from you!
As someone who enjoys eating as much as I enjoy traveling, this tour was ideal for me. If your interests are similar I highly recommend this tour and this operator. This is also a great tour if you’re living in Bangkok and are looking for activities for your visiting family or friends to do.
Should you decide to book this tour with ChillinChilli I’d love to hear your feedback in the comment section below, directly to me, or via message on either the Chow Traveller Facebook page or Chow Traveller Instagram. However you choose, I’d love to hear from you!