November 1, 2014
We left our service apartment in suburban South Bangkok (called Parks 9) a little past 8 am in order to avoid traffic and reach our destination early. The trip took about 2 hours along fast-moving highway. It is right-hand drive here in Thailand, so the fast driving pace of our driver Khun Noi (his name is Noi, and "Khun" is a title of respect) looked precarious at times, especially since it was raining hard along the way. It was only our second day in Bangkok, so I was not used to his driving style yet. We reached the place safe and sound nevertheless. The town of Damnoen (read as 'dam-nun") Saduak felt like Laguna, Pagsanjan in particular.
We seemed to be the only people there at this dock. Our driver said it was because it was a weekday, so the place was not full. This place is packed on weekends. An old lady whom I assume was the owner of the place charged us 1500 Baht for an hour for a long rowboat and boatman. With the boatman rowing from the rear, there were four rows for us to sit on, maximum of two people per row. Because of clouds warning of impending rain, we were given hats and umbrellas just in case.
Along the way to the market, we saw other boats. These were better-looking than ours, were motorized and had a roof over the seats. These had mostly Russian-looking tourists on them. I do not know where they began their boat rides, nor do I know how much their rides were. I hope for our sake it was much more expensive than ours, haha!
The first ten minutes of riding along a quiet neighborhood was relatively calm. It gave me some sort of a "Pee Mak" vibe, recalling the hit horror-comedy film my kids and I enjoyed recently. Then, we went through an arch announcing the name of the market. When we turned left at one corner, and there it was -- a floating market bustling with activity. Our boatman took us from one merchant boat to another or canal-side stalls (most likely his relatives and friends), who tried selling us souvenir trinkets to Thai silk items to native food delicacies. There were some big items too, like paintings, or wall decor, or wood puppets and statuettes.
These merchants were to be haggled with. Do not buy right away with their first price offer, unless you are willing to give them a huge profit willingly. I do not like bargaining myself so I do not really like markets like these. Fortunately, my wife knows how to drive a hard bargain (and enjoys it) so she was able to get some very good deals. The first items she bought were a silk shawl/jacket and a package of six silken coin purses. The silk shawl was first quoted at 800 baht. The purses were quoted at 500 baht per pack. My wife was able to bargain it down to 500 baht for BOTH items. I would not have been able to do that. My kids got a first-hand close look at the haggling process for the first time.
We did not really buy too much, just a few small souvenir items we were planning to give our family and friends back home. We were not really aware of how much these things cost in the city proper so we were apprehensive to buy. Anyway, it was the wonderful atmosphere of the floating marketplace itself that was the unforgettable experience. We saw Caucasian tourists eating their coconut ice cream from coconut shells, buying from old ladies selling them on their own little boats. (Maybe we should have been brave enough to try some delicacies, but we were not.) There were tourists posing with an albino python on the shore somewhere along the way. It was interesting to observe how the boatmen and merchants were able to make their way along the traffic on certain very narrow busy stretches of canal.
On the way back, our boatman was paddling a bit faster since the rain was about to fall hard. We noted that this was already around lunchtime and good number of shops were actually closed already or closing down. I do not know if they closed for lunch or for rain. When the drizzle began to get stronger to a frank downpour, we have reached the safety of the dock just in the nick of time. We gave our boatman a tip of 40 baht, and he seemed satisfied. There were photos taken of us in the boat, selling at 100 baht each, but we decided not to buy them anymore. Looking back, maybe we should have bought at least one, huh?
Overall, I thought this was a fun way to spend the morning. I don't know if I was ripped off or not with the price of the boat rental. It may have been too expensive and we could have haggled, but that is over and done with already. The merchants seemed to be selling stuff at a much higher price than the city, this place being touristy and all. It would be better if you had an idea of how much these things are in the city so you know how to haggle. Otherwise, just enjoy the boat ride and the unique rustic atmosphere like I did. As I cross this destination off my bucket list, this once is already enough for me.