Thursday, April 12, 2007

Damnoen Saduak - The Original Floating Market

On Tuesday we went to the original floating market, Damnoen Saduak, which is about 1.5 hours drive outside of Bangkok. Even the long time it took us to pick up everyone was interesting, because we got to see parts of Bangkok we have not previously encountered. We were looking at a map of the city today and realized that even though we think we've seen a lot of it, we have really seen just a very small part of the city.

A travel agent we met on our trip to Bang Pa-In, the Summer Palace, had told us that we needed to ride in a long-tail boat. Our trip to the floating market afforded us this opportunity, and it was quite exciting. I worried some about my camera getting wet, because we were very close to the water, and as you can see from one of the photos, the boat really churned up the water it passed through. It was very interesting watching the course of the boat because it seemed to take a wavy course through the wider canals, and would alternate fast and slow speeds in the smaller canals. In retrospect both were probably ways of managing the water to keep the passengers dry.

The floating market is now there strictly for the tourists. It is no longer a place where Thais do their shopping, but it is still a wonderful place. There was really nothing exciting for sale among the souvenirs, although I did buy one t-shirt there. The great attraction for us was all the local fruit, especially the varieties we cannot find at home. Mangoes, mangosteens, rambutans and lychees were the best. We didn't need to buy a pineapple because we can get that at our hotel breakfast buffet every day. It is worth saying again that there is no pineapple like a Thai pineapple, because it is truly sweet and pleasant to eat. We did buy a package of dried mango, which is more like fruit leather than the tough dried mango we've found at home. It is wonderful being able to buy all this exotic fruit and for excellent prices. We will definitely miss the local fruit when we leave Bangkok.
One of our stops was for a snake and crocodile show. None of us were interested in seeing it, but after something we learned about today, we think the crocodiles may have been large lizards like the ones we saw in a park, rather than what we call crocodiles. The woman we asked about the lizards said they are related to crocodiles, but they have no teeth and are harmless.
The Handcraft Center was a very interesting stop. There were wood carvers there working on projects, which were exquisitely done. Some of the panels we saw had been in process for 8-9 months and were still not finished. The skill and the detail of the carvings is amazing. In the parking lot we also saw a number of tree stumps that were waiting to be carved. And the elephant in the picture with me is also hand carved.
This was considered a half-day trip, which meant no lunch was included. But who needs that when you can buy all the wonderful food at the market? We had a great time and would recommend this excursion to everyone. Should you decide to go, watch the scenery on the way to and from the market, both in the city and the countryside. That is a very good way to experience the flavor of the country.

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