Of the countless choices when it comes to floating markets in and around Bangkok, Lamphaya floating market – located in neighbouring Nakhon Pathom province – stands out as a local-feeling destination with a rural setting and a heavy focus on good food. If you’re not at a Thai floating market as much for the delicious food as you are for anything else, then you’re missing the point – so Lamphaya floating market makes an excellent choice for foodies looking to gorge on all manner of incredible Thai street food dishes.
Around a 30-45 minute drive from downtown Bangkok, Lamphaya floating market is set in the village of the same name, itself located within Nakhon Pathom’s Bang Len district, to the north of the provincial capital. The floating market sits on the banks of the Tha Jeen river and, like some other Thai floating markets, within the neighbourhood surrounding the local temple – getting to the market action itself involves passing through Wat Lamphaya.
Unsurprisingly, this comparatively far-flung location means that you’re likely to spot few western faces here. Having said that, like other more local-oriented floating markets including Thonburi’s Khlong Lat Mayom, Lamphaya is still one that’s immensely popular with Bangkokians seeking some fresh air and a few hours out of the capital – that means you’ll likely be disappointed if you come expecting a truly quaint setup with little more than toothless grannies in paddle boats selling bananas to one another (the likes of which are genuinely few and far between these days).
Whether you’re intending to feast as you wander, sit down for a proper meal, pick up edible goodies to take away with you, or even equip yourself with all you need to grow your own food at home, Lamphaya floating market has something to offer. Of course, what makes it a great pick for foodies in the conventional sense is that it’s packed to the brim with vendors touting both light snacks and more substantial dishes to either chow down on right away or fill a bag and cart home.
But, in the same vein as Bangkok’s Taling Chan floating market – and so lending Lamphaya a little of that more easily accessible market’s gardener-friendly vibe – this floating market outpost also puts on an impressive selection of potted plants, seeds and accessories that are sure to please those of the more green-fingered persuasion among us.
For those more interested in stuffing their faces with as much delicious food as they can in as short a time as is possible (and you’ll never hear us claim that’s in any way a bad thing!), Lamphaya floating market’s vendors are divided into two separate zones. One of those is firmly on land, while the other edges closer to the kind of true water-based trading space that the term ‘floating market’ implies, but which in reality is an increasing rarity at floating markets in and around Bangkok these days.
In the landed area, you’ll find more fresh fruit and vegetables than is usually the case at Thailand’s floating markets – the likes of Khlong Lat Mayom floating market offer a little more in this area than most do, but Lamphaya floating market takes things up a notch further still. What’s even more pleasing than that is the focus here on the provenance of the produce; much of the fresh fruit and vegetables you’ll find here come from the local area, and in many cases it’s even touted by local farmers themselves.
All of this adds an admirable farmers’ market vibe that’s frequently aimed for but less often attained. The same goes for the seafood on offer, which also has something of a reputation for its freshness and variety – while you might not be lucky enough to meet the very same fisherman who brought your prawns to shore, chances are they came from one of the waterways that run through Lamphaya floating market and the surrounding villages.
Equally, there’s plenty of ready-made food that is primarily destined for take-away – bagged-up curries, stir-fries, and the like – which is all worth a look. You’ll also find a scattering of the same kind of non-food products that crop up at floating markets all over the place – perhaps a few t-shirts, some kitchen utensils and household items, and somewhat kitsch homemade-style soaps and toiletries – some of which may be of interest to visitors, but probably not much. But of course it’s really the ready-to-eat food that we’re here for, and most of that is located on the section of the market that fronts the river itself.
Again, aside from the particular focus on seafood (which itself isn’t uncommon at floating markets generally), there aren’t any especially stand-out dishes here that really differentiate Lamphaya floating market from other similar destinations. That’s not to say the food here isn’t worth getting excited about, because it definitely is, and there’s still a sizeable number of vendors here, and an extensive selection of dishes to choose from.
What also makes Lamphaya a more rewarding experience than some floating markets is the number of vendors who are genuinely in small paddle boats on the river itself, albeit docked, whipping up treats – like pork satay, somtum papaya salad, grilled, fried and steamed fish and seafood, and much more besides – for hungry customers on terra firma along the river bank.
Similar water-based food vendors do exist at other floating markets – among them Khlong Lat Mayom, Taling Chan, and Amphawa – but it’s a dying sight that’s already missing from a number of floating markets in and around Bangkok (and at some where it does still exist, it can nevertheless feel overly contrived, which is not so much the case here).
Some things seem to be obligatory floating market fare right across Thailand, like multi-coloured luk choop Thai-style marzipan sweets, and nam oy sugarcane juice. Sure enough, they pop up here alongside a range of other ready-to-eat snacks that are sold on land to complement the boat vendors themselves.
In a way that’s once again reminiscent of our perennial favourite Khlong Lat Mayom floating market, Lamphaya also exceeds in its offering of affordable boat trips to take in the local surrounds – the prices inevitably kept down by this market’s absence from the radar of foreign tourists, and the fact that these little excursions are primarily aimed at Thai daytrippers.
Choose from adorable small paddle boats that are available for dirt-cheap private hire (complete with a boat-paddler to take you around the neighbouring canals), or larger boats that operate fixed schedules and depart on regular excursions that take in nearby temples and other sights (including Wat Bang Phra temple, famous both for Angelina Jolie’s visit and for its annual Wai Kru and magical-tattoo-recharging festival).
These bigger boats come complete with large tables and chairs on the deck, which give way to the kind of floating picnicking that’s become a famously popular pastime among Thai visitors to Lamphaya floating market – make a dash around the market to grab a greedy spread of whatever looks most irresistible, then set sail and tuck into your haul as you cruise around the area.
Back at the floating market and once you have satisfied your food cravings, Wat Lamphaya temple itself is also worth a pleasant stroll around, as is the free-to-enter Wat Lamphaya Folk Floating Market Museum. The museum has been open since the turn of the millennium, and contains a curated collection of local boats, agricultural equipment, traditional household utensils typical of the area, and other photos and mementos of the temple and the neighbourhood that revolves around it.
Lamphaya floating market is harder to reach than most in and around Bangkok, owing to its fairly rural and secluded location in Nakhon Pathom province. While it’s possible to navigate your way here by public transport with a combination of buses, minivans and songthaew truck-type shared taxis, the easiest and most convenient is to take a taxi from downtown Bangkok (and preferably to have the driver wait for you while you shop and eat, so that you have a guaranteed return ride). Best of all would be to visit with your own rented transport, so that you can really take things at your own pace. Wat Bang Phra temple is around a 20-minute drive from the market, while it’s about 45 minutes by road to Nakhon Chaisi town or to Nakhon Pathom proper.
Better yet – have Expique take you to Lamphaya floating market or any of the other floating markets in and around Bangkok! If you’re interested in a custom tour, just click here for more details.
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