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One of Thailand's famous floating markets. (Photograph by Yusri Azam Mahat, My Shot)
TravelTraveler Magazine

A Market For All Seasons in Thailand

Thailand is a pleasure for the senses. Tourists come from around the world to visit the nation’s gold-adorned temples and sample its delicious cuisine. Each new attraction is better than the last.

Though there are many ways to see Thailand, touring markets is one of the best ways to experience the cultural intersections that make this southeast Asian gem so unique. And that intersection is on fabulous display in Thailand’s capital city.

Here are four markets in and around Bangkok that give visitors a taste of local flavor — in every sense of the word — any time of year:

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Two Thai women sell handmade jasmine garlands at Bangkok’s Flower Market. (Photograph by Erin Block)

Spring: The Flower Market (Pak Khlong Talat)

Don’t be surprised when you step out of the Hua Lamphong railway station in Bangkok’s Chinatown and forget to move. The Pak Khlong Market is a stunning sight, with vendors offering brightly colored flowers and gorgeous garlands.

It’s easy to find lilies, roses, marigolds, and orchids — but it seems as though you could find any flower in the world over here. I saw many customers walk away with heaping armloads of flowers and wondered where they’d end up. This market is a field day for the senses, but the smell can become overwhelming.

Summer: The Floating Market (Damnoen Saduak)

The floating markets are a favorite for tourists and locals alike. But during peak hours, the flood of out-of-towners can scare away the locals and the best of local culture. A few truly authentic floating markets remain, and Dumnern Saduak is one of them. Vendors float along in their small canoes selling everything from spices and vegetables to clothing and handmade goods. It’s common for sellers to barter with each other. Vendors selling coconut soup can usually obtain everything they need without spending one baht. Be sure to sample it while you’re there.

Fall: The Maeklong Market (Samut Songkhram)

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Hot peppers on offer at Maeklong Market. (Photograph by Erin Block)

It is true what they say. This is the most dangerous market in the world. Why? Because trains run about eight times a day…directly through the market!

Vendors who have sold here for generations have refused to vacate, and when the train’s horn blow, they simply move their dragon fruit and freshly caught fish out of the danger zone without blinking an eye. Then, just as swiftly, the train moves on and market life continues as if the train was never there. Visitors are obvious here, as they are the only ones with wide eyes frantically jumping off the train tracks.

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The best passionfruit money can buy. (Photograph by Erin Block)

Winter: The Market for the Rich (Or Tor Kor)

Easily distinguished from others nearby, this market can be identified by expensive prices, its sumptuous array of offerings, and its location indoors.

It’s called the Market for the Rich for a reason: Only the best cuts of meat and the juiciest fruit are sold here. One hundred marigolds here can be triple the price you’d pay at the Flower Market, but it’s well worth your while.

Take your time tasting as much as you can. Trust me: you won’t find better quality in one place anywhere else in Thailand.

Erin Block is an editorial assistant at National Geographic Traveler magazine. Follow her story on Instagram and on Twitter @ErinSBlock.

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