Saturday, 15 September 2012

To market, to market

Forrest Gump's momma told him 'Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get', and the same is definitely true of travel.

I am back at work now in Jakarta and am running way behind with everything. In my last post, I was just about to leave Bangkok for a week at the southern beach resort of Hua Hin. For a while I was keen on investigating train or bus services, but I ultimately booked a driver through my hotel for an 'okay' but more- than-I-expected fee. In the meantime, I had read a little about the floating markets at Amphawa, about 70 km south west of Bangkok. It looked like it was en route to Hua Hin, so I asked the hotel manager to get the driver to go through Amphawa and maybe stop for a couple of photos there.

My driver didn't speak a great deal of English, but after we had been travelling a while, he began to refer to 'the train' and 'the station', and I got a horrible sinking feeling that, despite the fee incurred, perhaps he intended to just drop me off at a regional station to make my own way to Hua Hin rather than drive me all the way as I thought had been arranged.

We eventually stopped in a bustling market town and, thanks to some of the tourist info I had read, I was able to piece it all together. It was Samut Songkhram (aka Mae Klong), and, while it looks like a regular market, there was a reason for the gathering of tourists at the appointed hour.

A great selection of different coloured and sized eggplants, along with okra, cabbages, bitter melons, winged beans and bamboo shoots.

I thought the market was located at the end of the train terminal...

but Samut Songkhram's claim to fame is that the train runs right through the market.

Here it comes...

and before it has completely vanished into the distance, everyone is  sliding their stalls back into place and dropping down the awnings.

You can see the wheels on these stalls that permit them to be pulled back and returned to position promptly.

And the market resumes business as if nothing ever happened!

After this unexpected diversion, I wondered whether my visit to Samut Songkhram was in addition to, or instead of the scheduled Amphawa visit, but, given the language barrier, it seemed only time would tell.

Before long the driver pulled into canal-side cafe with several motorised long boats moored in front and a map displayed. It appeared I needed to part with more cash (no doubt including a hefty commission for the driver) and, rather than my drive through and photo stop at Amphawa, I was off on a boat trip through it all.  (And was it in fact Amphawa? There was certainly 'floating markets' referred to on the map, but I couldn't actually spot a mention of Amphawa.)  What can one do but go with the flow (literally in this case)!

I expected Amphawa to be produce-based like the market at Samut Songkhram, and I had also read that it was busy at weekends. Since I was visiting midweek, I expected quiet rural waterways, and so it seemed... at first.

The canal was bordered with masses of heliconia in bloom.

 We passed a couple of other boats selling fresh produce.

 Then, the touristy stalls began to pop up.

Suddenly, it was madness: like freeway traffic on a Friday afternoon!


Locals and tourist boats jockeyed for position. It seemed the only escape was to swim for it!

Then, it ended as suddenly as it started as we turned out into the main canal.

This was more my pace and once again, it was lovely to see how people add those individual touches to make their home and garden their own.

All in all a pleasant if a little surprising day with the unexpected visit to Samut Songkhram and the quiet backwaters of Amphawa being not so quiet as I had expected. Such are the joys of travelling!


  1. It was fun. I hadn't particularly planned to visit either town, but I would have been the one to miss out if I had insisted on a direct route to Hua Hin.



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