Floating markets, where goods are sold from boats, are a trademark attraction among the Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam. They originate from a time when water transport played an important role in daily life.
All these countries are located either on islands or on wet lowlands with broad river valleys. Located in tropical climate, this region was thick jungles prior to human development. The first places to be settled were adjacent to the rivers, and the people living there used boats as their main mode of travel rather than trying to push their way through the dense jungle. Although the region is now developed and there is a network of roads connecting all cities and towns, boats are still used for transport and trade by the communities along the waterways, especially by farmers whose farmlands are located by the riverside.
Farmers bring their produces in boats to the markets and sell them to local dealers directly from the boats, eliminating the need to setup shops in the docks. That way they could quickly sell their products and return back to their home. The local dealers buy the products and sell them to shops in the neighboring towns and to wholesale dealers from the big towns. Floating markets are also a big tourist draw.
The most famous floating market, and a tourist haven, is the one in Damnoen Saduak about 100km southwest of Bangkok. The floating market is crowded with hundreds of vendors and purchasers floating in their small boats selling and buying agricultural products and local food. The market opens in the early morning and closes about an hour before noon.
Amphawa floating market, located in Amphawa district, about 72 km from Bangkok, is not as large as Damnoen Saduak floating market but it is more authentic, with visitors almost exclusively Thais. It is an evening floating market but some stalls are opened at noon too. Other floating markets around Bangkok include Wat Sai Floating Market, just 10 km away, Bang Phli Floating Market, established 150 years ago, and Taling Chan Floating Market, among others.
In Vietnam, the biggest floating market in the Mekong Delta is the market of Phung Hiep, with hundreds of boats engaged in buying and selling. The Cai Be floating market in another well-known floating markets in the western region of southern Vietnam.
A relatively unknown floating market is in the gorgeous Dal Lake, in Srinagar, India. It’s strictly a vegetable market with all produces grown in farmlands along the lake. The market opens in the early morning hours.
This feature originally appeared in Amusing Planet.
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