Everything you Need to Know about Amphawa
Amphawa, 63km west of Bangkok, makes a popular day trip destination. It is home to a quaint floating market which cuts through Khlong (canal) Amphawa and a small community of vintage cafés, restaurants and wooden shop-houses selling artsy souvenirs, books and Thai sweets. Vendor boats park along the two canal banks, ready to whip up a bowl of ‘boat noodles’, rice porridge, even grilled squid and river prawns, to order. Here, long-tail boats leave at regular intervals for a two-hour scenic tour of the Mae Klong, dotted with stilt houses, fruit orchards and temples.
Besides the floating market, Amphawa’s picturesque riverside scenery, laid-back ambience reminiscent of a bygone era and a lineup of waterfront boutique guesthouses lie at the heart of its enduring popularity. For most visitors, a trip to Amphawa is a welcome break and an experience that often leads to repeat visits.
Amphawa Travel Guide
Amphawa is synonymous with Amphawa Floating Market and the shop-houses flanking Khlong Amphawa as well as lining the narrow sois (lanes) surrounding it. Contrary to other floating markets in the area, Amphawa Floating Market convenes in the afternoon, from 15:00 onwards (Fri-Sun only). But it’s a good idea to arrive in the morning to avoid the crowds and to stroll around the shop-houses and other parts of the market.
Nearby, the museum of Thai desserts (Fri-Sun 13:00-19:00) is a good place to get to know all the strange-looking sweets you will see at the floating market. If the idea of a temple tour sounds good, then join a long-tail boat tour (two hrs, depart at the floating market). Be sure to ask for a visit to Wat Bang Kung, where a mysterious-looking chapel covered by giant Bhodi tree trunks and roots, is not to be missed.
Food is the main reason holidaymakers from Bangkok visit Amphawa Floating Market. From boat vendors to shop-house eateries, all kinds of tantalising tastes, shapes and smells will tempt you. Phad Thai served in a banana leaf ‘bowl’, rare and delicate-looking sweets that you’d rather keep as souvenirs and boat noodles whipped up and served from a wooden row boat all evoke a nostalgic feel. Grilled seafood is also hugely popular as are a simple bowl of noodles, pan-fried turnip cake, or fried oyster omelet.
Nightlife in Amphawa means chilling out at your guesthouse or resort’s riverfront balcony, with a beer or cocktail. You can also arrange for a boat trip along the Mae Klong to watch the fireflies. Other than these two activities, nighttime generally is nap time here.
Flanking the two sides of Khlong Amphawa, wooden shop-houses feature all kinds of souvenirs and collectibles imaginable, whether books, wooden toys, postcards, fisherman’s pants, T-shirts, hats, handmade jewelry, sweets and much more. In a way, it’s like shopping at a retro outdoor market in Bangkok or Pai Walking Street (in Mae Hong Son), where you can still find quality handmade items. Over the concrete bridge, the narrow soi (lane) leads to more shop-houses selling mostly snacks and Thai desserts.
Connected mostly by rivers and canals, Amphawa is best explored via a long-tail boat. Years ago, Amphawa tourism was all about taking a scenic boat ride to watch the fireflies at nightfall, an activity that requires an overnight stay. Now the floating market and shop-houses flanking Khlong Amphawa have taken over as the main attraction, and shopping has become Amphawa’s main activity. But if you prefer to witness the local lifestyle, try renting a bicycle and exploring the fruit and vegetable orchards surrounding the floating market.
Getting Around Amphawa
Driving is still the best way to get to Amphawa, especially if you plan to venture outside the floating market area. Otherwise, take a public van, which leaves regularly from the Victory Monument in Bangkok, to Mae Klong Market, then ask around for a public bus that heads for Amphawa Floating Market.
For those who don’t drive but would like to explore a wider area around the Mae Klong estuary, taking a long-tail boat tour might be a good option. The downside is that you need to follow a fixed tour route, which doesn’t allow much flexibility to go off on your own, unless you charter the entire boat.