I debated on waking up at 5/6am to make it to the Amphawa Floating Market and to see the arrival/departure of the train at the Maeklong Railway Market. This particular floating market was supposed to be the best balance of liveliness and old world charm without it being overrun by tourists. And, apparently, it was open everyday. The nearby Maeklong Railway Market was something I had to see in person. It’s basically a bustling market through which a train, on schedule, seemingly barges in like a zero fucks rhino stomping through tall grass. Upon arrival, all the vendors move their shit out of the way, unperturbed, right when the train comes through. Then, while the train is just stationed there, they move their shit back out and sell in every nook and cranny of space that lies between them and the intrusion. Google image this.
So, if I woke up at 5/6am, I could’ve made it to the early scheduled arrival/departure times of the train, made it to the floating market, then back to Bangkok (with some buffer for traffic) in time to grab my luggage at the hostel and Uber it to the airport to catch my flight to Siem Reap.
I decided to sleep in.
And, it felt great to sleep in, except that I lazed about for too long before deciding to go anyway. There are minibuses that leave from Victory Monument, and I missed the 10am by 15 minutes. Go figure that the 11am arrived 30 minutes late.
Travel tip: You can take the BTS to Victory Monument but, since I was at a hostel near Khaosan Road where there are no BTS stops, I just took a cab. According to this travel blog, though, if you end up taking the BTS, take exit 4 when you leave the station. There are quite a few kiosks/tables on the ground level selling minibus tickets, and most of them should have signs declaring their destinations. If not, you can always ask “Amphawa” and they’ll point you to the correct table. The ones going to Damnoen Saduak, Maeklong and Amphawa were next to some movie theater/shopping plaza. The one way ticket price was ฿80. Also, try to bring exact change. They’ll claim to have no change but, really, they don’t want the big bills and, once the minibus arrives, go quickly and grab your seat. It becomes a every-man-for-himself situation and you could end up with a sucky middle seat or maybe even no seat at all. I have no idea how they organize these things.
The ride there took about 1.5 hr. We first made random stops for some locals on the bus, then stopped at the Maeklong Railway Market. It looked deserted. “I’m so glad I slept in,” I thought to myself. A little too soon. The next stop was supposed to be the Amphawa Floating Market but, after a few of us asked about it, the driver decided to tell me NOW that the market was only open on weekends (Fri-Sun). Why couldn’t the ticket lady tell me this before? I had a feeling I was ripped off. Luckily, the next and last stop was the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, which is the most popular but, the biggest tourist trap of a market. The driver told me to go there instead.
By the time we arrived, it had begun to downpour. For a good hour. A bunch of us stalled on the boat ride, waiting for the rain to subside. I’m so glad it took awhile, though, because it gave us time to Google things. We later realized that this particular stop wasn’t the main entrance to the market but, one of the entrances where a boat operator tries to rip you off with an overpriced ride. It was pretty obvious that the driver had a deal with this operator because he had called them up in advance and, as soon as the bus door opened, these girls in blue t-shirts began hounding us with “deals.” I had a feeling that way too many tourists fell into this trap, thinking that this was the only entrance and the only boat operator going into the market. With the intent to spend only ฿500 today, I walked away from the lady after she tried to sell me an hour boat ride, roundtrip, for ฿1000. With the rain falling down hard, I contemplated just getting a bus back to Bangkok, and I probably should’ve. The lady then told me she could call up the bus driver for me and go back for ฿150, almost double the price of getting here.
These 2 Chinese girls from my bus weren’t having it. The blue t-shirt lady then gathered the 3 of us and whispered that if we went together, she’d offer a price that she only offered to locals – ฿400 per person. We were the only Asian tourists on the bus. Given the rain, the girls decided to “wait” then went off to a corner to Google prices. Something didn’t seem right. This is when we found out that the main entrance was a 15 min walk away. The 3 of us, now bonded, opened our umbrellas and began to walk in that direction. The blue t-shirt lady shouted behind us, “They’re going to sell you a boat ride for maybe ฿200 but it won’t be a full hour! Or a nice motorboat!” Ha, so she knew.
So, here we were. Three girls walking along the curb of a main road in a torrential downpour. Out of nowhere, a motorbike tries to squeeze in whatever space there was between me and one of the 2 girls, his rearview mirror slamming into my side without warning, not even a shout or a honk. He had one hand on an umbrella and one hand on steering, barely keeping his balance. He also had the entire road to the right of us to drive, and he didn’t seem to give one shit.
Finally, a local bus slowed down beside us and told us that he was heading in our direction and could drop us off at the market. Only ฿7 per person. We closed our umbrellas and hopped in. We then looked at each other and burst out laughing. Was all this really happening?
At the main entrance, we managed to get a 30-40 min rowboat for ฿150 per person (almost 1/10th of the original price stated at the other entrance) and, that’s all we needed. There is absolutely no need for a motorboat. And, as we were rowing through, we saw that 85% of the market was closed anyway. Yup. Luckily, one of the Chinese girls was a take-no-shit bargainer and happily took control of lowering all prices, even the price of cheap plastic ponchos to wear during the ride. By then, the rain slowed down to a drizzle. In the end, the only thing we managed to purchase was boat-side pad thai and chicken satay skewers.
Back at the entrance, we asked the boat vendor to call the bus for us and they gladly did. Only ฿100. It was 3pm. The traffic back was incredibly horrible, though, and we made it back to Victory Monument by 5:30pm. Catching a cab was nearly impossible and inner city traffic was almost at a standstill. An Uber canceled on me, also.
Finally, a cab shows up, but a mom and a daughter had already been waiting for one. In an attempt to share the cab, I asked if they were going near Khaosan Road. “Huh?” “Khaosan Road.” Confused look. “Khaosan Road.” They didn’t understand me. So, they just got in the cab and drove off but, with traffic so bad, they only made it down a few feet within the next 5-10 min. Suddenly, I heard a shout and I turned around to see the daughter gesturing to me through an open window. “Khaosan?” she asked. “YESSS!” They motioned for me to get in. I got the feeling that they were talking to the driver and collectively figured out where I was trying to go. Then, they tried to teach me to properly pronounce “Khaosan.” It sounded the same to me.
I get to my hostel by 6:30pm and ordered an Uber, heart pounding. I knew traffic was bad but, there really is no reliable public transportation going to the Don Mueang International Airport (DMK). I get there by 7:45pm and check-in had officially closed. I missed my 8pm flight and the next one was in the morning. To add salt to the wound, the nice airport hotel was fully booked. The receptionist offered a free ride to a nearby hotel.
“Is it nice?”
“No, but it’s okay…and the next closest hotel.”