One of the most fascinating places to visit in Thailand is its floating market at Ayutthaya. It’s dynamic architecture is authentic and memorable, and includes intriguing wooden structures along the waterways with vendors selling their crafts and Thai food. These vendors enact the history of Ayutthaya in their traditional Thai costumes, and delight the visitors with interesting souvenirs.
Ayutthaya is approximately 2 hours from Bangkok and can be reached by car or train. I took the day tour of Ayutthaya organized by Klook, which took me to important historical and cultutal places such as Bang Pa-In Royal Palace, downtown Ayutthaya, Wat Mahathat, Wat Phra Si Sanphet and the Floating market. The tour was well organized by English speaking guides and was probably the best day tour I have had in a long time.
Siamese Kingdom of Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya was the capital of Siam from 1350 to 1767. During the reign of King Narai between 1657 and 1688, Siam reached its zenith and had contacts with many kingdoms and cultures including the court of King Louis XIV of France. A Burmese invasion in 1767 ended the Siamese Kingdom and the capital city was eventually moved to Bangkok. Hollywood’s portrayal of its blockbuster movie, “The King and I” captures some of the magic of this ancient kingdom.
Dynamic Architecture of the Floating market
Traditionally a floating market is a make-shift market that comes together along the waterways as a place for sellers and buyers to exchange their products. The market can come together and be dismantled quickly, which makes it a very dynamic place. Typically, a wooden floating platform ties it back to the ground as boats moor along its edges. Unlike the traditional floating market, Ayuthaya’s floating market is a permanent market. It is made of wooden structures and bridges made of bamboo and creates a wonderful setting for shopping and dining.
Boat and elephant rides
The floating market offers boat rides to tour the market along its waterways and travel under the connecting bridges. It is a fascinating experience which is recommended for all first-time visitors. You can also take an elephant ride to nearby historical monuments from the market. The ruins of the ancient city of Ayutthaya can be found at every street crossing and roadway, although you will definitely want to visit Wat Mahathat which features Buddha head overgrown by a fig tree. I was so taken by the sight of Buddha’s head that I forgot to lower my head and was yelled at by the guide who reminded me that no one’s head should rise above that of the Buddha.
An Urban Experience
The floating market is a unique urban experience and a great example of dynamic architecture that is authentic and is rooted in the social, cultural, and historical traditions of a city. Our contemporary shopping malls could learn a thing or two about why shopping is not an end in itself but a means to a wonderful cultural experience.