Looking for a slightly less touristy alternative to the – let’s admit it – quite touristy Damnoen Saduak Floating Market? Then the nearby version at Amphawa deserves your attention. Big on fresh seafood and offering an altogether more local vibe than its bigger brother, a visit to Amphawa Floating Market is one of the most popular day-trips available out of Bangkok. Below, find out why.

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At Amphawa, eating is an activity

An important part of any Thai market experience is eating. In fact, going by local definition, a market without at least a few noodle vendors, barbeques-on-wheels and som tam stalls isn’t a market – it’s just a collection of shops. Visitors to Amphawa Floating Market will quickly realize that food is quite literally everywhere, so packing a lunchbox for the day won’t be necessary. Here are some of Amphawa’s must-tries:

Pad Thai: A staple dish for many a backpacker in Thailand (but surprisingly, not so much for the locals), pad Thai at Amphawa is both cheaper and better than most of what you’ll find on the streets of Bangkok. Just remember to order it with seafood.

Hoi Tord: This dish of frizzled egg and fresh shellfish (normally small oysters) is found throughout Asia. An extra yummy Thai version is served up right by the water’s edge at Amphawa.

Som Tam: This spicy papaya salad from the northeast of Thailand (Isaan) is best eaten at Rim Khuean Amphawa (or Amphawa Walking Street). Here, prices are cheaper than from vendors on the water, plus you can get other famously spicy Isaan dishes such as laab, nam tok and sticky rice all at the same restaurant.

NOTE: Amphawa Walking Street sets up every day at 4pm; expect lots of cheap street food (comparable to Bangkok prices).

Noodles: At Amphawa, noodles take center stage over white rice, the other widely-consumed carbohydrate in Thailand. Noodle dishes come in various forms, such as guay tiow (rice noodle soup), ba me luang (boiled yellow egg noodles) and pad see ew (fried flat egg noodles). You should be able to find a bowl for around 40-50 baht.

Barbecued seafood: As we mentioned earlier, fresh seafood is a big deal at Amphawa. To really savor the taste, it’s best to get it piping hot off the barbecue. Look out for squid, giant shrimp (five for 300 baht), shellfish and small fish.

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Shopping…

It’s fair to say that shopping at Amphawa Floating Market takes second/third place to eating and sightseeing. Anybody who has been to Bangkok’s huge JJ Market, for example, won’t find too many original purchases here. That said, if you’re looking for some cool trinkets to take home as a souvenir, you’re in luck.

Along either side of the main canal, you can pick up t-shirts, paintings, handbags, hats, sunglasses, hand-carved objects – all mixed in together with more food stalls. Venture onto one of Amphawa’s many side streets to find much of the same at a slightly lower price.

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What else is there to do?

If time and budget permit, there are a couple of worthwhile boat tours which leave from the market, taking in many of the sights in the surrounding Amphawa area.

Option 1: Temple tour

Just 50 baht gets you a ride on the water, which takes in five different temples. You will be sharing the longtail boat with others and the whole experience is relatively rushed (can’t complain about that price, though!) If you want more privacy and more time to admire the temples (Wat Bang Kong, the last one, is definitely worth more time), then the 500-baht private tour is always an option.

Option 2: Firefly tour

After dark is really the only time you’ll be able to spot Amphawa’s famous swarms of fireflies. This short tour leaves the market at 6pm daily, heading onto the main Mae Klong River to see the insects light up the water. Prices are the same as the temple tour: 50 baht for shared or 500 baht for private.

Note: With the shared tour, you’ll often have to wait around until the boat is full.

Other things to see: Visitors to Amphawa Floating Market will notice an abundance of tuk-tuk drivers on the roadside keen to whisk you off to the next tourist attraction. In actual fact, there are some pretty cool things to see just a few minutes’ drive away.

These include the famous Train Market (the train rolls through at 06.20, 08.30, 09.00, 11.10, 11.30, 14.30, 15.30 and 17.40). For something entirely different (and to escape the crowds), head to King Rama 2 Memorial Park and check out the tranquil gardens and almost empty museum (30 baht entry).

How do I get to Amphawa Floating Market?

Amphawa Floating Market is located approximately 1.5 hours southwest from Bangkok in the nearby Samut Songkhram Province. Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 08.00-20.00 (or later for Walking Steet), you have several options in terms of getting there. These include going on an organized day-trip from Bangkok (700-1,500 baht per person), hiring a private taxi (around 1,500 baht return) or, the cheapest option, jumping in a local minivan from Victory Monument (70-100 baht each way).