Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is a Tourist Trap
If you searched "things to do in Bangkok", the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market will be listed as one of the top 10 activities. After all, it's a tourist trap for a reason.
We spontaneously decided to take a trip outside of the city to visit the market on a Saturday morning, and by morning, I mean 7:30AM. Traffic starts after 10AM, according to the locals, and it's about a two hour drive, so 7-7:30AM (latest 8AM) is suggested.
There are plenty of group tours available that you can book either through Trip Advisor or tour agencies, but we booked ours through our private driver from the hotel we were staying at (Mandarian Hotel). The drive there was easy, as we slept through most of it, but the drive back took 3 hours due to traffic so brace yourself.
Upon arrival, we were immediately approached by a few people attempting to sell packaged tours for the floating market. Admission for a 2-hour trip, which takes you through the entire market and a stop by one of the temples, is about 2,000 THB, which is $60 USD (at least that's what we were being told). This was the lowest option available. Prices per package basically goes up as you add in more attractions such as a monkey or crocodile show, or a ticket to ride an elephant. We didn't believe in any of the attractions and I personally refuse to ever ride an elephant, so we stuck to the basics. After payment, we were hurried off to a motorized long-tail boat and began our tour.
It took about 6-8 minutes through the river before we arrived at our first stop, a food stall, and that's when we realized our assumptions of the floating market were going to be proven wrong.
Assumption: We would dock and be able to walk through the floating market, as boats pull up to us to sell items.
Reality: We stayed in the boat the entire time except for two stops - a large centralized stall and the temple at the end of the tour. All the stalls look like the one below and they get extremely repetitive as they mostly all sell the same things.
Tip: The centralized stall does have an ATM if you need cash and they only accept cash here.
Assumption: Haggling would be easy and we'd get great deals on unique items.
Reality: Our driver seemed to have selectively stopped at stalls of people he only knew, in which these sellers were harder to negotiate with. Haggling consisted of their asking price, them showing us all the colors an item is available in, making us touch it, and then when we gave an alternative price, they exclaimed we were being too cheap. We then would pass on the item and try to leave, but our drive wouldn't budge as the sellers tried to fight back on a price. They would plea and try to guilt us into buying the item, so the whole transaction can a bit overwhelming. Repeat this about another 10-20 more times throughout the trip.
Tip: Haggle your ass off by at least 50%. We found many of these same souvenirs at gift shops in the mall and even asked the store clerks at the mall about the floating market. They replied laughing stating that all items sold at the market are way overpriced.
Assumption: There'd be plenty of great dishes and snacks to buy.
Reality: If you pay close attention, some of the uncovered food doesn't look fresh and others are questionable as flies are buzzing around all day. However, I also have a sensitive stomach so I'm very paranoid about street food in general so try at your own risk.
In addition, the main area where majority of the food are is congested, hard to navigate through, and you won't be able to stop where you want due to the traffic. We ended up getting stuck as if we're on the 405 during rush hour - for a good 30 minutes in the blazing sun. I came back with a tan, a few nasty bug bites and spritz of dirty river water on my skin and hair, which was splashed on me when our driver zoomed through the river.
Tip: Dress for the heat and be prepared for anything. Survey all food carefully before purchasing!
Two hours later, we called it quits and made a final stop at a gorgeous temple (I can't remember the name).
We walked through it briefly as we were pretty exhausted and ladies, be aware that you'll be asked to wrap yourself in a blanket if you're showing off shoulders, stomach, and/or legs. Basically, you can't wear tank tops, crop tops, and/or shorts at any temple as it's disrespectful and seen as being too sexy. Also, shoes need to be off when stepping inside temples.
While the experience was interesting, would I do it again? No.
Would I recommend it? Yes, if you've never been because everything is worth trying at least once. Just make sure you bring enough cash and dress accordingly.