Thailand's Unusual Food Markets (Pictures)

This is the last post in writer Riki Altman's three-part series about her visit to Bangkok. If you missed parts one and two, you can either click the links or just hop a plane and check it out for yourself.

Located about an hour outside of Bangkok are two fascinating outdoor food bazaars, The Floating Market and the Maeklong Station Market. Both are probably around exclusively for the sake of tourism, but each offers a unique charm that makes the trip worthwhile. If I could provide one tip it's this: bargain like your life depends on it. It's part of acceptable Thai culture and, frankly, us Americans look like walking bags of cash to street vendors. Anywho, here's a look at our two fantastic finds.

The Floating Market

Thailand has a few floating markets, offering visitors a chance to interact with vendors selling everything from apparel and tsotchkes to fresh produce. Orders can be made boatside or from a dock above.

One could arrive by bus, but adventurous visitors tend to take a long-tailed boat (AKA the "James Bond boat") to get there by water. Trips up the canals are impressive, as many stilt homes grace the tour, along with the occasional supersized Buddha.

A popular souvenir was this two-sided gift bag containing the herb and spice staples of Thai cuisine, including kaffir leaf, coriander, lemongrass, saffron, and chili.

Maeklong Station Market

We thought our tour guide was full of crap when he said he knew of a food market where the vendors had to pick up their wares four times a day to let a train pass.* Perhaps something got lost in the translation, we thought, as he walked us around Maeklong, showing us all manner of foreign fruits and sea life for sale.

But at 8:55 a.m., as we were busy staring at the buckets of live catfish and tables of neon-colored shredded rice cakes, a gentle alarm sounded and the vendors were instantly brought to life. Gently nudging us out of the way, they pushed back their tables, rolled down their makeshift awnings, and backed away as the quiet chug of an engine could be heard in the distance.

I took this photo to show just how close the train gets.

Five minutes later, it was back to business as usual. [Note: according to this video featuring Anthony Bourdain, sometimes the trip doesn't always go so smoothly.]

*Various websites claim it comes through eight times a day, but we weren't prepared to camp out and count.

Next week, Riki documents her visit to Prince Edward Island and surrounding areas for a journey through the world of Canadian seafood. That girl just can't seem to stay put.

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Riki Altman