Thursday, February 16, 2012

Monday in Bangkok--Day Trip to the Floating Market

Monday was our last full day in Bangkok, we leave Tuesday evening.  We had scheduled a private tour with "Tours by Tong, and our wonderful driver and guide, Bank, picked us up at our hotel promptly at 7 a.m.

Right from the start we were very impressed with Bank.  His English was superb, he was polite and very knowledgeable.  He also had a great sense of humor, which added a lot of fun to our day!

It was an hour and 15 minutes to our first stop, the Train Market in Maeklong, a small town in Samut Songkhram Province, southwest of Bangkok.  We enjoyed visiting with Bank during the drive, and he answered our many questions.

We arrived in Maeklong, and as we drove through the small town to park the car, I noticed the roads were filled with water.  Bank explained that the tide was in, so therefore the roads are flooded. but the market would be dry.

We parked the car, and walked toward the market.  Bank had a pair of plastic sandals to loan David, but I just had to take my shoes off,  roll up my pant legs and wade right in!  The water was a bit over my ankles at the highest.  Here I am with Bank, wading through the water on the way to the market:

Sure enough, as we got closer to the market the streets were dry.  Here's the beginning of the market, looking down the tracks:

We had been wondering just WHY the vendors set up their wares right on the tracks.  Bank explained that this was a very old market, and as the town grew, there was no more space in the original market for new vendors.  So new vendors used the closest available space, which just happened to be right on the tracks!

The Maeklong Station is the end of the line for this train, which runs 8 times each day.  It chugs into town very slowly, a whistle blows as it approaches the market, giving the vendors just enough time to pick up their wares. It's all done in a flash, and they are very ingenious! Many of the tables are on wheels set onto runners, so they just quickly wheel their table back and pop down their awning.

Here comes the train:

As soon as the train has passed, the markets is right back in business, these guys are fast!

The market itself is a very "local" market, with the usual assortment of fresh fish, fruit and veggies.  No souvenirs at this market! The veggies were the prettiest and freshest we've seen:

Lots of eggs--chicken eggs and duck eggs.  The pink ones are preserved eggs, they have been buried for several days in salt and soil, which turns them the pink color and makes them very salty.

Fish was a main staple here, with many kinds that were new to us, all of it looked very fresh.  These crabs were tied up, they were still wiggling:
 The biggest fish roe we've ever seen, about the size of a grape! Bank said they are often used in soup:

Fresh frogs:

And Frog-on-a-Stick!  We resisted these cuties......

Look at the skin on this piece of fish--it looks like a leopard print!

Here we are at the market:

After our time at the market, we walked to the train station, and hopped on board for a quick look:

Of course, there was a large picture of their very beloved King:

And here we are:

After our stop at the station, we had a short walk back to the car.  The tide was going out, and I didn't need to take off my shoes and wade through the street!

It was only a 20 minute drive to our next stop, Damnoen Saduak Floating Market.  We knew this market was going to be quite "touristy",  but we really wanted to experience just a little slice of this old way of life in Thailand.

We parked the car and it was a short walk (through the souvenir vendors, of course!) to the docks, where we boarded our long boat, which was paddled a nice Thai gentleman; no motors for our boat!  Here's David getting into the boat, and our smiling guide, Bank, and our "paddler":

The first part of our ride was through the main canals lined with souvenir sellers hawking their wares.  It 
was a big traffic jam, and a bit of a mad house!

In addition to the many souvenir sellers, there were food vendors in boats:

Here I am, buying some fresh young coconut to drink the water:

We also sampled Pomelos, a HUGE grapefuit-like fruit. It was delicious, very juicy, and sweeter than a grapefruit.  We both really enjoyed it, this is one section of the pomelo:

Soon after we left the hoards of other tourists, we stopped along the way to buy a snack.  We had to get in line, kind of like a paddle-up window!  Here's Bank, in the back of the boat, ordering our food--not too spicy!

David eating his bowl of noodle soup:

It was really good:

Our skilled paddler managed to steer our boat through the maze of other tour boats, and we paddled away from the crowds into several outlying canals.  It was very pretty, peaceful and a nice change from the madness of the initial part of the market.  We didn't see another tourist boat, and we enjoyed the quiet. These back canals meander through several coconut farms, and there are  family homes built on stilts right on the canal:

Going under a bridge on a back road:

A Buddhist shrine along the canal:

We paddled by this woman doing her laundry in the canal,  right off her front porch:

jackfruit and of course, lots of  coconut trees.  This big fruit (about the size of a watermelon) is a jackfruit, one that we didn't get to try. Bank told us it's kind of stinky!

  We  spotted (and heard!) several beautiful tropical birds, but I wasn't fast enough with the camera to get a picture.  We also saw a big dragonfly that had a bright red body--again no picture, darn it!

 We'd made a big loop through the back country, and all too soon came back to our starting point.  Here we are, leaving the floating market:

As we drove back through the small town of Damnoen Saduak,  Bank pointed out the street lights with a floating market theme:

We drove through miles of salt farms on the way back to Bangkok.  Local families pay tanker trucks to bring salt water in from the sea, pumping it into evaporation ponds.  About 2 weeks later, they harvest the salt.

They then package the salt, and sell it in small road-side stands:

Bank dropped us off at our hotel, we did a quick freshen-up and hit the streets to explore a new area.  We are running out of time, and there is so much to see and do in this great city.

We hopped on the Sky Train, riding for a few stops, and got off in the Silom area.  There were a few malls and department stores we wanted to check out.  We browsed through  the huge and beautifully designed Central World Mall.

Many interesting art pieces:

I liked this one, made of wooden clothes pins:

 Central  World had amazing restaurants, and an interesting food court.  They even had a McDonald's, with this big Ronald doing a "wai":

We needed a bit of lunch, and chose a small inexpensive Thai restaurant that was filled with "local" diners.  We ordered just one dish each, both were dishes we'd  eaten many times.  Well--it was the worst meal of our whole trip--just icky flavors!  David's pork northern style was full of rubbery pork skin, and just tasted "off".  My bowl of noodles wasn't so hot, either.  We ate a few bites, paid our bill and left.  So much for our "if the locals eat there, it must be good" theory!

We consoled ourselves with a scoop of really good ice cream.  David had almond-coffee, and I had a very tart mango flavor.  I loved it, but David thought it was a little too tart:

We spent the rest of our afternoon browsing through this huge mall, and a couple of department stores in the same area.  We didn't make any big purchases, but I did buy a pretty necklace from a street vendor for $4!

It had been a long, wonderful day, and we were feeling a little tired.  We decided to head back to our hotel for a cold drink at the Terrace Bar.  I'm sure going to miss those mojitos!

Dinner that evening was at a small, slightly "upscale" Italian restaurant across from our hotel. I wouldn't say we are tired of Thai food, but after our weird lunch, we decided a change would be nice.  David had a pizza, and I ordered a pasta dish with pistachio and sun-dried tomato sauce.   Both were very good, and we enjoyed our relaxing dinner listening to their live music.

Tomorrow is our last day in Thailand. and while I do feel ready to go home after 4 weeks, I'm also sad to be leaving this fascinating country and the beautiful,  gracious Thai people.  It's been a great trip!  

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Di and Dave for sharing your journey with your readers. You have a wonderful way of viewing life and it was a real joy to see the sights through your eyes. I do confess, however, that I am glad you are back in "Spudville." By the way - sure wish you could have carried the clothes pins art home with you. You know how I love repurposed/recycled items - and what a wonderful looking mall. How did you tear yourself away? Let's make some Thai food soon.