A reminder to click on photos to get the full effect. (Don’t forget to check out the last paragraph about our tour guide.) 🙂
JANE: This morning our private tour guide, Miss Pu, and driver picked us up at the hotel for another excursion. We drove an hour outside of Bangkok to the Maeklong Railway Market.
Can you guess how this market got its name? Years ago, an outdoor market formed near the railway. It expanded so much, that the only space for some of the stalls was so close to the tracks, they might as well have been on the tracks. This was the least desirable spot at the time. Word got out about this rather odd phenomenon; so much so that this section has become popular among tourists to Thailand. Not only that, it has become the most desirable section in the market.
The train from Bangkok drives through four times a day. When its horn sounds, the stall holders pull back their awnings and remove their produce from the tracks. When I say, “remove,” mind you, they remove everything about an inch away from the edge of the train as it rolls on by. We got a chance to witness the event.
On the way to this market, we stopped by a traditional Thai house. The owners open it to the public.
They have a little shop on the ground level where we watched them make candy out of coconut (yummy!).
They also had a python living there in its cage. A sign above it said that he didn’t bite, and anybody who wanted could hang him around their necks. Koji and I, not the types to miss such an opportunity, hung the snake around our necks. Surprisingly, the python’s skin was cool and felt good in the blistering heat. KOJI: Pythons are made of 100% muscle and you can really feel their strength and weight as they curl around your neck. Luckily they are well fed, so they aren’t tempted to strangle you.
JANE: After the Railway Market, we went to the Damnern Saduak Floating Market; “floating” because many of the vendors sell their fruits and vegetables or home-made noodle soup from paddle boats along one of the canals.
Our guide left us on our own to explore, after advising how to deal with the pushy store keepers who won’t leave you alone as they try and shove their wares down tourists’ throats. The merchants should know that if they allowed us to browse and helped us only when we asked, they would probably increase sales in the long run. It’s fun to be able to purchase such lovely clothing for such low prices. At the same time, it was hard for me to enjoy shopping when the storekeepers are struggling so desperately to make a living. Consequently, Koji and I bargained (It’s the custom to bargain.) minimally, if at all.
After an hour or so, Miss Pu joined us, and Koji and I enjoyed spicy noodles in soup (tom yum) at the floating market, hand-made by one of the paddle boat vendors, as we sat by the boat on child-sized plastic stools at canal’s edge. After that, the three of us hopped on to another long boat to ride through the canals. Today, we rode a hand-rowed boat. (Yesterday’s was motorized.) This enabled us to paddle through narrower, more isolated areas, where it was quiet and uncrowded…a better opportunity to get a true sense of Thai river life. I didn’t take any photos on this particular excursion because I just wanted to sit quietly and absorb everything around me.
Next was an hour’s drive back to Bangkok, where we visited the Golden Buddha image, the largest golden Buddha in the world. Weighing approx. 5.5 tons and more than 700 yrs old, it is one of Thailand’s valuable treasures. BTW, the wall in the background is not wallpaper; it is hand-painted!!…as are most of the walls inside the temples.
Just before we visited the Golden Buddha, we got blessed by a local monk. We chanted in Thai, “call-and-response,” with Miss Pu and then with the monk. It was challenging to mimic the sounds of the Thai language, although the sound was beautiful and serene.
Finally, we explored Chinatown, where I purchased something totally out of the ordinary for me. The deal is that I have to wear this sometime. Perhaps at Helen’s for Halloween? …or the next time my Mom takes me to her club for luncheon? 😉
During the course of the day, Miss Pu plied us with all sorts of goodies that she bought along the way – fish cake, grilled pork satay, coconut pancakes, mangosteen and longan (tiny white fruit that looks like mandarin oranges), fried banana, sticky rice with banana, & mango with sticky rice. KOJI: It was a shame we had eaten such a large breakfast that day; we totally could have used more room in our bellies for the onslaught of food Miss Pu brought us.
JANE: It was sad to say good-bye to Miss Pu…such a cheerful, spunky, young woman with a delightful sense of humor and never ceased to speak what was on her mind. Koji and I enjoyed hanging out with her. She became a friend. Her spunky, positive outlook on life was infectious. Although she grew up in on a farm the northern part of Thailand, she was college-educated. I was impressed with her command of the English language and her devotion to caring for her mother. If anyone is planning to visit Bangkok and wants the nicest tour guide that can be, you can contact her via: http://www.thaitourguide.com email: firstname.lastname@example.org.