I prefer my souvenirs delivered by boat…
My 2nd day experiences in Bangkok, Thailand!
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
Up and out at 7 AM! Amazing what sleeping in a bed instead of an airline seat will do. Did you skip day 1? You can go back and read about flying into Bangkok here or just skip ahead to day two :-P. We saw a flyer in our hostel for a tour to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market for 300 baht ($). A good deal. That’s about 10 US Dollars for round trip transportation to a place about an hour away and a guide to explain it all to us. This is the largest and most touristy of the floating markets. We knew it catered more to tourists know than locals but it still gets consistently high reviews. I’d heard getting to the floating market is a nightmare on your own. We were picked up in front of our hostel in a little van, drove to another hotel where we got off. On again. Off again. On again. Off again (seeing the pattern here?). Finally on again with an entirely different group of people. An hour or so later, we do finally get there! Transportation in Thailand is a mystery. You never know what the plan is, and you’ll never figure it out on your own. But eventually you get where you’re going. Most of the time.
The market has a maze of canals, and on the banks of the canals are stalls selling a lot of tourist junk but occasionally some authentic objects and art. There are a few boats that paddle around that are selling things as well, or more frequently selling food that is being cooked right there in the boat on a small grill. If you cannot hire a boat (you won’t be able to without a guide), you are able to walk on the ground around the other side of the stalls and into some areas not accessible by boat so it is still a worthwhile trip on your own. The canals were so crowded with boats that often times the sides bumped together with 4 or 5 moving side by side. I strongly suspected that the murky greenish tinged water was actually some kind of waste similar to how Venice regularly dumps the city sewage into its canals and sure enough once we got off the main path into some of the more residential areas, every house had a white pvc pipe of sewage emptying right into the water. So no swimming. Got it. The long wooden boats, also like Venice, were paddled by long bamboo sticks. It was touristy, blazing hot, crowded and the merchandise 3X more expensive than anywhere else in the country. It was everything I hated, and yet I loved it! Walking around there were men entwined with snakes and women cuddling small monkeys charging for pictures with these exotic animals. All kinds of people buzzing about. Fresh fruit. Food stalls. Vendors pushing their wares. It is so large you can lost in the serpentine alleyways and find yourself in a backyard watching children play on a rusted swing set or a family sitting on a stoop. But you’ll always find your way back. Just follow the scent of the Durian.
The tour dropped us off in the afternoon at the infamous Khao San Road. Quite the surprise! As we had thought it would drop us off back at the hostel, but instead stopped in an intersection and pushed us quickly off before the traffic light changed. We were now in some random intersection in the middle of Bangkok. Well, we figured it out and we walked down the street that was full to bursting with neon signs, shops, stalls, and restaurants. It was also full of people. It had to be near 100 by this point in mid afternoon. It reminded me of Times Square. The appeal of this sort of place is completely lost on us. We did our obligatory walk from one end to the other, and headed back to the hostel for what was fast becoming our habitual afternoon nap. We did not wake until 8 pm. Ooops!
Despite the time, we wanted to stay committed to our original plan of walking through the Chatuchak Weekend Market, since we wouldn’t be staying in Bangkok long enough to see another weekend. It’s a long taxi ride to the other side of the city. Food was first on our list. One of the stalls was frying up delicious smelling spring rolls, the food that I had been looking forward to for moths! Authentic Thai Spring Rolls. Mmmmm….. Mikki went for the Chicken Satay with peanut sauce, and we did quite a bit of sharing. This market was an incredible maze. Absolutely huge, we found it to be impossible to find what we were looking for so we gave up and decided to wander aimlessly and let our things find us instead. Feeling blissful in our wandering, we both picked up some lightweight clothing realizing that a lot of what we packed was simply not practical for the weather here and that the best decision would be to dress in local styles and fabrics and send the rest of our clothes home. When the stalls started packing up for the night, we sought out a highly rated massage parlor that Mikki had researched aptly called Good Massage. For 200 baht ($6) we received a 45 minute massage on our feet and legs that was simply heavenly. It was quite the set up with reclining cushions, pillows and blankets. After all the walking we had been doing we were in need of a little pampering. Mikki also found us a lovely little restaurant on the edges of the market that we knew had to be good given it’s high population of locals. She had seafood fried rice that included shrimp and squid and I ate an incredible chicken lime soup with noodles and vegetables. Unfortunately the journey back to the hostel would turn out to be a frustrating endeavor that was ALMOST night ruining.
Traveling to the market in a taxi we paid 100 baht but leaving the market as it was closing, with all the other tourists, the taxis who were stationed there refused to lower their price under 300 baht. Supply and demand I guess. They knew all these tourists needed to get back across town to their hotels. They knew it was too far to walk. And they had clearly all agreed that none would charge under this specific amount. They flatly refused to use the meter. We talked to over a dozen taxi drivers all with the same result. We fell into despair that we would ever get back for a reasonable price without the threat of being scammed. We finally found a Tuk Tuk driver who we could negotiate down to 200 baht and we jumped at it. He had decked out his transportation in disco lights and the damn thing looked like it was being held together with nothing but zipties. He was either the worst driver we had so far, or the best. It was difficult to tell. He drove in a manner that we would politely call Aggressive even in a place like Bangkok, or New York City. He assumed that all other vehicles would stop for him, and never stopped for anyone else. Driving at a high speed he wove in and out of traffic and around cars. The entire journey had the headlines I had read about Bangkok being the number 2 city in the world for automobile fatalities running through my head. He did get us back safely to our hostel and in record time no less. 200 baht. What a deal! Oh man, what an exhausting day.
Has anybody else been to Bangkok? What were your experiences like??