Monday, July 04, 2005


Heritage Tourism in Damneon Saduak

We awoke early for a 6:30am pickup to do a half-day tour to Damneon Saduak, the last “active” floating market place in Thailand. It is about a 1.5 to 2 hour drive from Bangkok, though it took 30 min. just to get to another hotel to pick up our guide and four other tour participants. On the way we stopped at a coconut “factory” where our guide showed us how coconut milk and coconut sugar are made. It was a rather small roadside attraction that had a lot of arts and crafts for sale, and was inundated with tourists and large tour buses by the time we left.

We had another klong ride on a long boat for about 15 minutes to the Damneon Saduak Floating Market. Our guide actually went there with the bus and was waiting when we arrived. The market was interesting – just like in the photos. And it was completely overrun with tourists and tourism. About a third of the boats in the one main market canal had tourists in them who had paid 100 Baht (US$2.50) per person for the right to be sold to by hawkers on their boats and the klong banks. We walked the entire length of the main canal and then walked on a couple of side canals were no other tourists could be found, and were a few vegetable were being sold on boats.

Our guide insisted that this was the last floating market in Thailand. (We passed a sign on the way back to another floating market, but she said that was a new one that was more like floating restaurants for Thais on afternoon outings.) If it truly is the last floating market, then it is clearly only a tourist shell of its former self. There was not “real” market here – like the meat and vegetable markets that are still found throughout Thailand. Instead it was more like Disneyland “Main Street” klong, where tourists could pay to take a boat ride through the an animated museum dedicated to Thai arts, crafts, fruits and souvenirs.

It is quite a colorful sight – and the tourists can be just as colorful as the locals. If they charged a photo-taking fee, they could make a mint! It was fun, though I was personally just as interested in the large old buildings that abutted the klong just around the corner from the floating market. If the klongs were the major streets, then these buildings, at the intersection of two klongs could have been downtown Damneon Saduak. They appeared largely vacant now. Personally, I think they could make a great addition to the heritage tourism and museumization of the area – an one that is more in line with heritage than with tourism.

The highlight of the floating market for me was buying a bag full of deep fried bananas. That was the one food that I had looked for in Singapore and was unable to find. They were cooking them on one of the floating boats and I paid my 20 Baht and had them delivered both by a hook and bucket at the end of a long bamboo pole. They were crunchy on the outside and sweet o the inside – delicious.

After spending about 1.5 hours at the floating market, we stopped by a teak wood carving center and gift shop on the way back to Bangkok. After a rest at the hotel, we took a free shuttle to one of the largest shopping malls in Bangkok, located at the interchange of the two sky train lines (a very futuristic setting!). In additional to regular mall department stores and boutiques, this one had hundreds of small shops that were similar to those at the Chatuchak Weekend Market, and more cell phone shops (new and used) than I had ever seen in one place, along with pirated computer/electronic game vendors. My son had finally found his kind of shopping place!


The photo below is of the "real Damneon Saduak market" -- a small corner store serving the needs of the local population a stone's throw and around the corner from the floating tourist market.

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