Markets Travel

Boat Noodles at Damnoen Saduak Market

One of my favorite stops when we visit Thailand is Damnoen Saduak Floating market in Ratchaburi province. Although it is also one of the most heavily touristed places I visit, the color and interest is always there.

Boat Noodle Vendor
Boat noodle vendor

When Kasma and I visit, we make a point to get there around 6:45 a.m., long before the tourist buses and hoards of tourists descend. At that time the market is relatively quiet and you can have a leisurely, uncrowded ride around the klong (canals) on a boat being powered by a person with a paddle. Later on the motor boats will disturb the water as they race by and the silence. We always get there early by leaving Bangkok early (around 5:00 a.m.). The market is located 104 kilometers south-west of Bangkok, in-between Nakhon Pathom and Samut Songkhram.

It gives you an idea of what Thailand must have been like in the old days, before roads when much of the commerce took place on the canals.

Boat Noodle Sign
Look for this sign

One of the fun sights of the market is the boats laden with produce or the restaurant boats, complete with propane burners on which hot food is prepared.

Like all Thai markets, indeed, like nearly anywhere in Thailand, there is an abundance of food, both as ingredients and prepared food. Our preferred breakfast here is always boat noodles from the vendor at the far end of the old section of the market – look for the sign to the right.

Boat noodles are a name for a type of noodle in Thailand. Sometimes you’ll pass a restaurant in the street with a boat out front to advertise boat noodles. They tend to have a rich broth and are usually made with pork or beef. The boat noodles from our favorite stand are made with pork, rich and flavorful.

Boat Noodles
Pork Boat Noodles

These boat noodles are very good; the broth rich and flavorful and a little bit spicy from the get-go. Of course, there’s always the condiment set to let you adjust the flavors to your liking. (See Michael’s blog on Thai Condiment Sets.)

You can either purchase the noodles while riding by on a boat or from land. We usually purchase them after our boat ride and sit on the steps, slurping and enjoying the delicious meal.

On a recent trip, the vendor had, unfortunately, taken the day off. We found a reasonably good vendor a little further down. So if you’re unlucky enough to show up on a day off (it only happened once in 26 years for Kasma), try one of the other vendors for a more than adequate substitute.

Damnoen Saduak Boat Noodles Slideshow

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This stall was previously the subject of a Wednesday Photo – Boat Noodles.

Written by Michael Babcock, March 2012

Markets Wednesday Photo

Floating Market (Wednesday Photo)

Boat Vendor, Damneon Saduak Floating Market

Frying Bananas
Frying bananas on a boat at Damneon Saduak Floating Market

Everyone should visit Damneon Saduak Floating Market south of Bangkok at least once. I recommend doing what Kasma used to do on her trips: hire a car, get up at the crack of dawn and arrive at the market around 7:00 a.m. in the morning. Then rent a boat and enjoy being paddled around on the klong (canals). At that time in the morning it’s a true local market: the tourists and tourist buses haven’t yet arrived and you can enjoy the market in relative peace and quiet.

I have te believe that images such as this are among the most widely known images of Thailand: a vendor on a boat with a straw hat. I love this picture of Kasma’s, taken on an old 35-mm Olympus camera in 1999. The first time I went to the market I was amazed to see vendors cooking everything right on the boat.

Floating markets are largely a remnant from the past, when much of the country lived along the canals (klong). Recently many other floating markets have opened, many of them much more strictly local than Damneon Saduak, perhaps the best known of the Thai floating markets.

See also:

The Wednesday Photo is a new picture each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Food Markets Wednesday Photo

Boat Noodles (Wednesday Photo)

Boat Noodles at Damneon Saduak

Boat Noodle Vendor
Boat boodle vendor

Readers of this blog know that we do love our noodles. One of our favorites would have to be Boat Noodles, or Gkuay Tiow Reua. (See Kasma’s blog entry on Beef Noodle Soup.)

Damneon Saduak floating market is a popular tourist destination and for good reason. Kasma used to stop there on her off-the-beaten-track adventures but she always arrived at the market around 7:00 a.m., at least a couple hours before most of the tourists show up. After taking a boat trip around the surrounding canals she’ll invariably breakfast on Boat Noodles at the far end of the market. Although this gentleman has passed away, his children have taken over the operation.

Boat noodles are a particular type of noodle, usually with a very rich and tasty broth. Sometimes in the city you’ll see a storefront selling “boat noodles” that advertises the fact by having a boat out front to draw in customers.

Check out:

The Wednesday Photo is a new picture each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand. Click on the picture to see a larger version.