Amphawa is one of the most popular floating markets near Bangkok. It’s not as large as Damnoen Saduak but it’s more authentic, with visitors almost exclusively Thai. Located 50 km from Bangkok, this once small village has been around since the mid-17th century. It’s become such a magnet for Bangkokians during weekends that food stalls have grown from the riverbanks and stretched far into the surrounding streets.
The main draw is, of course, eating seafood grilled precariously on wooden boats moored around the famous central bridge, serving an appetising array of prawns, shellfish and squid. From noon until late in the evening, the smell is simply irresistible and customers flock to each side of the river all day long.
Seafood prices are what you’d expect at floating markets: according to weight, but to give you an idea, 5 large prawns usually cost around 300 baht. Customers perch on rows of narrow steps leading down to the water and food is brought directly from the boats onto really tiny tables.
If you don’t feel like sitting on a concrete ledge very close to brownish waters, walk a bit further from the bridge to find restaurants with real tables and chairs. Even better, try to get a seat on the balcony of the restaurant next to the bridge – it’s the only one around – but you might have to wait a bit or come early. The nicest and most quiet restaurant is located at the very end of the boardwalk where the canal meets the Mae Khlong River.
Along each side of the canal, old charming wooden shops sell Amphawa souvenirs, from the usual teeshirts to some more interesting creations. And of course, lots of sweets and ice cream – Thai people have a very sweet tooth and a passion for snacking throughout the day.
In all streets radiating from the market, you can find an incredible array of local food sold from small carts during weekends only. Most dishes look familiar but some do look unusual or even funny, from ice cream sandwiches to alien-looking helmet crab egg salad (yum magda talay).