Khlong Bang Luang Floating Market: the quiet side of Bangkok
May 19, 2019
The first thing you should know about Khlong Bang Luang Floating Market is that it’s not a floating market at all.
If you’re looking for a floating market, Bang Luang is not your destination. Lat Mayom is a better bet. However, if you’re after a quiet, relaxed and distinctly local slice of Bangkok, Khlong Bang Luang might just be for you.
You can think of Bang Luang more like a riverside community. We had never even heard of it until some friends mentioned Bang Luang as a good weekend spot.
It’s extremely easy to get to – a 10 minute taxi tops from Bang Wa or Talat Phlu BTS, on the Thonburi side of the river. As the taxi shepherded us through ever narrower sois and ever quieter surroundings, we began to suspect Bang Luang might be a little different. Hopping out by an eerily quiet Wat, we were greeted by the sound of a lady covered in talcum powder, riding a motorbike converted into a sort of pickup truck, berating the man driving. Expecting the normal tourist-style floating market setup, our initial thoughts were as follows:
Is this the right place
If 1. is correct, is it actually open?
Arriving at a few small noodle shops and stalls selling fish food (for reasons which quickly become clear), you quickly venture onto a set of rickety, canal-side wooden walkways and bridges, past beautiful old khlong houses on stilts in the water. Shoals of enormous catfish lurk in the water awaiting anything that drops in. Hence the fish food sellers. It’s quite a sight when they get going. So Bang Luang is not a floating market, but rather a floating community centred around the waterways.
It’s extremely quiet at Bang Luang, and much the better for it. Peace and quiet is a rarity in Bangkok, yet when we visited Bang Luang at lunchtime on a Saturday there was barely a soul to be seen.
Khlong Bang Luang is centred around Baan Silapin – the ‘artist house’ that serves as a communal cafe, restaurant, art gallery and performance space. It’s one of those achingly lovely traditional Thai houses, all dark wood and cool corners and creaking staircases protesting against the heat. Baan Silapin is a shoes off and voices down type of place, which makes it wonderfully relaxing to sip an excellent coffee and peruse the selection of local art. Outside, a tiny lady in a frankly massive hat floats past on a small boat, selling vegetables door to door, or jetty to jetty in this case.
There is a good selection of local art on offer at very good prices. Outside Baan Silapin, carrying on along the walkways, are a gaggle of small shops and galleries selling arts and crafts. It’s easy to while away an hour sauntering around here and just taking in the tranquil nature of the place.
Eventually, of course, hunger kicks in. Despite not being packed with food stalls, there is plenty to keep you full and satisfied. The best food is clustered around what is possibly the most stupid traffic bridge on earth. Approximately two feet wide and kicking up at an impossible angle, bikes and pedestrians share this lunatic construction. Motorbikes literally have to take a run up to make it up the incline, while the rest of us heave ourselves up steep steps.
Like all good rainbows, there is a pot of gold on the other side of this archway.
Kuay Jab P Boy is the sort of noodle shop you picture when thinking of Thailand. Packed in around small tables right over the canal, in an old building that doubles as the family home judging by the kids’ bikes under the tables For a measly 40 baht (1 GBP), enjoy the most delicious bowl of guay jab moo. Thick, wide rice noodles rolled into chewy cylinders, in a deep, rich broth with pork and Chinese spices. This is memory-making Thai-Chinese food that I could eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Be sure to treat yourself to a particularly good mango sticky rice afterwards sold in the same shop. Grab a box to go and sit by the khlong on a shaded bench. Apart from the longtail boats that steam past every so often, it’s fantastic relaxation.
So that’s Khlong Bang Luang in a nutshell. It wasn’t what we were expecting, but it turned out to be an excellent find. If you’re after a relaxing way to pass a morning in a real slice of old Bangkok, Bang luang is your place.