Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Photo Essay

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Thailand
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Thailand

An elderly Thai lady wearing a conical hat dips her paddle into the water as I fire off an exposure of a vendor arranging an assortment of fruit at her individual stall. As a passenger on this small vessel making its way down a canal, I’m surrounded by colorful displays of goods and inundated by exotic smells at this Thai floating market.

Visiting markets (especially floating ones) is one of my favorite travel activities; however, the scene I tried to convey above is far from the truth. What I failed to mention is that the boat I’m on is packed with other foreigners (Thai: farang) with a plethora of other vessels – both behind and in front of us – transporting even more tourists.

As a travel photographer, this is a treasure trove of an opportunity to take candid portraits while capturing all of the colorful exotic displays and bustle of this Thai floating market; however, as I’ve pointed out in a previous article, impressive travel photos don’t always have an equally impressive story behind them.

Unlike local markets, where vendors hardly notice the presence of a foreigner, I’m constantly being badgered to purchase something: “By from meeeee. Fried Bananaaaaa! Coconut here!!!!”

Conflicted by the reality of the situation, I can allow myself to feel entirely jaded by the experience or just go with the flow; I decide on the latter and continue pressing down on my shutter release as I wander around the floating market.

As a now popular tourist attraction, Damnoensaduak floating market was originally the name of a canal dug by military personnel during the reign of Thai King Rama IV. Rivers and canals, at the time were the lifeblood of transportation and goods; however, the now crowded market caters mostly towards tourists.

Photo Essay: Thai Floating Market

A Thai conical hat for sale on an otherwise bare display table.

A Thai conical hat for sale on an otherwise bare display table

Scenic views from our longboat of lush green vegetation and murky brown waters prior to reaching the Thai floating market.

Scenic views from our longboat of lush green vegetation and murky brown waters prior to reaching the Thai floating market.

An elderly Thai lady paddles here way down the canal in a tiny vessel while trying to avoid colliding with much larger ones.

An elderly Thai lady paddles here way down the canal in a tiny vessel while trying to avoid colliding with much larger ones.

Batter is being poured into a mold being used to make Thai cakes.

Batter is being poured into a mold being used to make Thai cakes.

A Thai lady vendor with a collection of hats for sale flashes a smile.

A Thai lady vendor with a collection of hats for sale flashes a smile.

This is a side perspective shot of a Thai lady rowing a boat loaded with fruit to the floating market.

This is a side perspective shot of a Thai lady rowing a boat loaded with fruit to the floating market.

An overhead perspective shot of the colorful Thai floating market.

An overhead perspective shot of the colorful Thai floating market.

A candid moment, where this Thai lady is communicating with another vendor at the floating market.

A candid moment, where this Thai lady is communicating with another vendor at the floating market.

A Thai lady with dyed hair makes eye contact with a group of tourists.

A Thai lady with dyed hair makes eye contact with a group of tourists.

An overhead perspective travel photo of three rowboats filled with fruit (bananas and coconuts) passing each other at the same time.

An overhead perspective travel photo of three rowboats filled with fruit (bananas and coconuts) passing each other at the same time.

A friendly exchange between two Thai vendors both selling deep fried banana wedges.

A friendly exchange between two Thai vendors both selling deep fried banana wedges.

Colorful fans for sale with elephant patterned designs.

Colorful fans for sale with elephant patterned designs.

A selfie portrait from two tourists visiting the floating market.

A selfie portrait from two tourists visiting the floating market.

A candid photo of a Thai lady wearing a conical hat and army fatigue inspired apron.

A candid photo of a Thai lady wearing a conical hat and army fatigue inspired apron.

How do you feel about visiting an attraction that clearly caters towards tourists?

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59 Comments

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  1. says: Noel | Stories On Travel

    Love to visit this place. The photos are captivating, especially the ones with real people. I love to explore the historical places and local foods in Thailand. People look friendly too. Thanks for taking us there Samuel.

  2. I know what you mean… the more travelled our world becomes, the harder it is to get experiences without other tourists ruining the moment… but you did an excellent job of snapping some candids and capturing the market!

  3. Love this photo essay! Markets are among my favourite places to people watch, but I have yet to visit a floating one; looks like it would be a treasure trove for travel photography. It’s great that you were able to capture people so candidly! I’m guessing you were using a pretty long telephoto lens here?

  4. Hey great post Sam. Love the one of the rice hat.
    We’re starting to find ourselves in “touristy” situations and sometimes, just because tourists are there, doesn’t mean it’s catered to them. We’ve started going to cultural shows and musical concerts that are full of tourists, but it’s the only way to really see the traditional music and dance in some places.
    Also, lots of the time if you’re in a “touristy place” half of the tourists are locals. I think it’s worse to avoid “touristy” things and miss the experiences all together in some cases.

  5. says: Barbara

    Fantastic images! I love the emotions you have captured in the candid photos as well as the colors of the floating markets. Sometimes you get your best images in areas catering to tourist!

  6. says: noel

    Gorgeous, I love the large format images, it just makes the scenes pop, great job Samuel….btw do you accept guest posts, I would love to do one of my photo essays for your audience?

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  8. says: Freya

    I know it’s very touristic but I just loved the floating markets in Thailand, they are so unique, colorful and provide great photo opportunities. Wonderful photos, made me feel like I’m there again.

  9. says: Angela

    I frickin’ love those Thai cakes!
    About visiting an attraction catered to tourists. It’s not something that’s my first choice and I try to avoid it rather than search for it. But some attractions are just too good to skip.

  10. says: Thomas

    Great photos as usual Sam! The photos, food, and even hats look great but man that water is just well not very appealing. I like visiting the roads less traveled. The wifey on the other hand likes the popular places. After all they are popular for a reason as she would put it.

  11. says: Sherry

    Inevitably I often end up at tourist attractions in my travels. There is a reason why they are tourist attractions in the first place. So to me they are worth a visit. I just don’t like it when they get too crowded or expensive. So if I go or not will highly depend on my mood.

    1. Hey Sherry,

      I feel the same way you do about visiting these kinds of places. It’s often dictated by my mood and prices. Sometimes I’ll just randomly wander around somewhere instead of visiting a popular attraction. I often find that just as (if not more) rewarding.

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  17. says: A

    The place is certainly very touristy! I was there several years ago, and surprisingly I did not see many if any tourists that morning as well. I was with a local in my boat. Honestly I liked sitting and watching the market so that part was good, but still the overly touristy nature of the market annoyed me overall

  18. says: Tom

    I love local markets, I always try something, even in India where I was warned not to eat at the local markets… But I did and nothing happened. Breathtaking photos… Wish I could be there someday…

  19. The markets are admittedly very touristy though none the less always prove so visually decadent. You did a brilliant job of capturing fabulous candid shots! I am amazed by how much can be accomplished in the space of a very small boats – entire thai kitchens and small floating business!