Floating markets are not just for the tourists. Here’s how to spend your weekend in Amphawa.
Only one and a half hour’s drive from Bangkok lays possibly Thailand’s most charming and authentic floating market, where more locals than tourists crowd the Mae Klong waterways. Quiet and peaceful, Amphawa makes for the perfect weekend getaway for those desperately craving some downtime.
What to See
Angkor Wat’s less well-known miniature alternative, Wat Bang Kung, is covered in iconic Bodhi tree roots and holds within its walls a golden Buddha statue and murals from the Ayutthaya period. During the 18th-century battle between Siam and Burma, the temple grounds served as a naval fort.
Thailand’s first Thai Dessert Museum (034-750-3501) is all your childhood dreams come true. The museum displays mouth-wateringly realistic desserts and their recipes from the Sukhothai, Ayutthaya and Rattanakosin eras. Open Fri-Sun 10am-7pm. Entrance is free.
There are so many coconut trees in Amphawa that it almost resembles a beach destination; but why? The answer is glorious, thick, caramel-tasting palm sugar. At Tao Tan (185-191 Chaipattana Foundation, Amphawa, 034-752-245), you can see for yourself how it’s made, from climbing the trees and cutting the flower buds, to boiling the sap down. If you’d rather just eat the stuff, there’s also a peaceful canal-side cafe edged with fruit orchards where you can even hire a paddle boat. Open daily 9am-noon.
A boat ride is your best ticket to exploring the many waterways, where you’ll see villagers going about their daily routine and pass by views of beautiful riverside temples like Wat Bang Khae Yai and Wat Amphawan. You can pick up a tour from one of the many boat tour operators alongside the floating market. Head out in the evening to catch a magical glimpse of fairy-like fireflies.
Travel back in time at King Rama II Memorial Park, a museum and botanical garden set in the birthplace of King Rama II. Exhibitions and antiquities from the Rattanakosin era (1782–1932) are housed in four old-style Thai wooden houses, with traditional Thai costume rental to get you in the spirit. Conveniently located next to the floating market. Open Mon-Fri 8:30am-5pm, Sat-Sun 8:30am-5:30pm, 034-751-666. Entrance fee B20.
Still many people’s favorite floating market in the region, Amphawa features a variety of food and traditional stalls along the Mae Klong. Here, you can find delicious Thai dishes like steamed vermicelli and prawns, authentic cha yen (Thai ice tea) and classic Thai desserts made from sugar palm and coconut. Open Sat-Sun, 8am-7pm.
Where to Stay
The Buffalo Amphawa’s (092-248-4333, www.thebuffaloamphawa.com) 36 rooms combine polished cement, dark teak, light cedar wood, bamboo and local crafts for rustic-chic perfection (starting from B3,300/night). Living up to its name, the hotel comes with its own mini buffalo farm, home to cute residents Kati and Kala. Even if you’re not staying the night, the Buffalo Cafe’s strong brews and their traditional riverside Thai restaurant, Rusty Rose, are both worth a visit.
Weara Waree 2499 (099-048-8899, goo.gl/FElykg) is a charming riverside hotel that takes over an old wooden house dating to 1956. There are four bedrooms, three with air-conditioning (B2,000-2,500/night) and one with a fan (B800/night), or you can rent out the entire house at B6,300/night for groups of up to eight. Lying far from the market and one hour’s drive from Bangkok, this spot is ideal for those with a yearning for the rural life.
The Amphawa Na Non Hotel & Spa (034-752-111, www.amphawananon.com) is located just a three-minute walk from the bustling floating market, and contains 36 contemporary rooms clad in three different palettes, from vibrant colors on the first floor (B3,500) to cozier schemes on the third, where the suites are situated (B7,500). Guests can unwind with massages and treatments at the in-house spa or head up to Amphawa’s only rooftop bar for a sunset cocktail.
God knows Amphawa floating market is full of great spots to eat. Here’s our top selection, so you can spend less time choosing and more time eating.
With a seating terrace that extends over the canal, this is a great spot to sit back and observe the workings of the market. Seafood-heavy dishes include the tasty mackerel and crab egg salad. www.fb.com/ResortsandRestaurant
Pawat Somtum Kaiyang
Easily identifiable by the red chicken sculpture out front, Pawat Somtum Kaiyang specializes in fiery Isaan dishes. Pair the signature charcoal chicken with classic somtam. 084-149-8798
Probably one of the oldest coffee spots in Amphawa, this place has been running for over 60 years, attracting a mature, local crowd. 034-725-568
Amphawa Ha Hae
Facing the canal, this wooden restaurant-slash-bar is decked out in old-fashioned style. With plenty of seafood on the menu and live music in the evening, it’s a great beer spot. www.fb.com/AmphawaHaHae
This old wooden canal-side house comes with vintage furniture and a traditional Thai menu, plus a few Western dishes, like steak and buttery, grilled scallops. Visit in the evening for live music. www.fb.com/bannthongboran