If you’re planning to explore the amazing Wat Arun temple, or you’ve heard good stories about the small European eateries that line the river bank in Thonburi, take the time to also check our Taling Chan Floating Market. There’s more to Thonburi than temples and restaurants. In fact, it was for a short time the capital of Thailand between the sack of Ayutthaya and the development of Rattakosin. And you can still see the evidence of this period. In fact some say the very name “Bangkok” comes from the “Bangcok” neighbourhood of Thonburi, the original village on an island where trade ships used to dock in the 18th century.
Thonburi is very easy to get to. Just make your way to the Chao Phraya River (near Khao San Road or on the Bangkok Skytrain to Saphan Taksin station) and Thonburi is pretty much on the opposite bank, a very short ferry ride away. Or you can now stay on the Skytrain all the way to Krung Thonburi station if you prefer. It’s a very big district and not really pedestrian friendly, unfortunately. The places you’ll want to see are spread well apart, so it’s best to hire a tuk-tuk for a few hours and get the guided tour.
The main attraction is, of course, Wat Arun, which you can see on the back of the 10B coin in Thailand. Also known as “the temple of dawn”, which served as a royal temple during the reign of King Taksin who had his residence nearby in the same grounds. But there are also a number of other temples worth visiting in the area including the magnificent Wat Prayoon, whose white chedi seems to glow in the night sky above the treeline. There are also some interesting museums, especially the Royal Barge Museum where you can almost see the spirit of Yul Brynner in The King and I.
But one of the main attractions of Thonburi for me is the Taling Chan Floating Market. Most tourists go all the way to Kanchanaburi to see this kind of attraction, but there are actually three floating markets right there in Thonburi and they pretty much still function as they always did (whereas the Damnoen Saduak Floating Markets near Kanchanaburi market is more tourist-oriented). The most authentic of the three is Taling Chan on Chak Phra Road which is only active on the weekends when local producers come in to sell their fresh vegetables, fish and fruit. You need to get there about 7AM to see it in full swing.
The best way to see the action is to hire a canal boat and get into the middle of it. If you’re going just for the floating market, take a bus to the Southern Bus Terminal and it’s just a short walk from there to Taling Chan. There is also a floating market at Klong Lad Mayom on Bang Ramat Road (also near the Southern Bus Terminal, so don’t get confused) which is only open on Sundays and has more of a street market feel about it. There is, or was, a third version at Wat Sai on Ekkachai Road, but it has suffered a lot of development in recent years and has been kind of boxed in as a result. Don’t bother.