Amphawa Floating Market
At a large transit station, I seemed to have missed my ride and—from what I could understand—they wanted me to sit and wait until someone came to get me…an hour and a half later, they did. I was on my way to one of Thailand’s unique floating markets. You’ve probably seen the pictures of old ladies in tiny wooden long-boats selling food goods—my destination was one of those. After a 1.5 hour van ride for $5, I stepped out of the vehicle not knowing which way to go. As the typical white guy, I pulled out my phone and began to get my bearings. The driver saw all of this and kindly pointed me in the right direction. Kids in their school uniforms stared at me as they waited for their ride.
Walking down a quiet street, I turned a corner and suddenly the road was filled with vendors—I was getting close! Ducking through the overhanging vendor umbrellas, I reached the market river and walked onto a dock. A man was quick to offer a boat right, but I just smiled gesturing to my camera.
Busy walkways lined the edges of the river. Cement stairs descended into the water to the many boats of various sizes. A whole array of restaurants, cafes, thrift stores, and mini shopping malls were butt up against the tiny boardwalk with vendors filling in every pocket of space. And yes there they were…the old women in their boats preparing—even cooking—food for their customers reaching down from the steps.
Several people were offering boat rides “all the way around the market” they said—300 or 400 THB was the usual price. As far as I could tell, the market was situated on a river—nothing really to go “around.” Nearing the end of the line of shops, the crowds were clearing and there was a man next to his boat offering 50 THB. “All the way around the market” he said like the others. At less than $2, you can’t beat that price! So I climbed aboard the boat lined with benches wide enough to seat four people. A few more people joined and in just a few minutes, we were off motoring into the larger river just ahead.
Several Buddhist temples lined the larger river. One had a giant statue 6 stories tall wearing a golden cloak. It was a long winding river and we made our way around a few bends; I was beginning to think this was a one way transit ride rather than a loop. However, we turned into a small offshoot river where houses shouted in trees lined either side. Rickety wooden steps and clothes hanging on lines—you can really get a feel for the local life. The boatman waved at the other boatmen who’s boats were full with their own life-jacket wearing customers.
We entered the market from the other end; It was a half hour later and the market was noticeably less crowded. Having looked through everything one last time, I left the market walking along the larger river’s boardwalk. I stopped at the very last outlying vendor to get some food and took some time to enjoy the view of boats driving up and down the river with the sunset reflecting on the water.
I continued to walk along the river in the general direction of the hostel I would stay at that night. …and I began to realize…there are no taxis, tuk tuks, or bikes like the abundance there are in Bangkok! I should have started looking for a ride before leaving the market area. I checked the distance…6.5 kilometers (4 miles) to the hostel on this late hot evening. So, along the highway that night, I started walking. People looked at me with concern but I just gave them a smile with a nod and they returned the same. I made it to the hostel safely of course—I even came across a night market with a local football game being played. Hundreds of mopeds and motorbikes lined the market road.
At the hostel that night, I was awoken by the AC machine making a lot of noise and smoking a little. I look at the time and see it's 11:00 in the morning—I'm thinking, 'Darn! I missed the breakfast, checkout time, and a big chunk of the day! Not good!' But then the host starts saying sorry and that she'll move me to another room. But I tell her, "That's ok, I'm actually checking out." "Where will you go?" she asks. "I was just staying for one night; I'm heading back to Bangkok later today." Totally confused, she tries again, "But I can move you to another room." Then…suddenly I see the night sky through a distant opening and realize it's 11:00 at night! I started laughing and explained, but I don't think she understood as she continued to look at me like I was crazy. I must have passed out sometime around 9:00. There were no windows in the room and on top of that…I felt rested!