Today was an early start as we needed to meet our tour guide in the foyer at 7:00 am. We had an early breakfast, which was amazing. There were so many options we were definitely spoilt for choice. I had an omelette freshly made for me, enjoyed with bacon and finished with pineapple and watermelon. A lovely start to the day. We met our tour guide and travelled south heading to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Markets.
Our tour guide was Lucky and our driver was Wat, which means glory, or that’s what Lucky told us. Lucky was talking to us about life in modern day Thailand and the minimum wage for workers about 300 Baht per day (13.60 AUD) and if you have a degree the starting wage for day is ($22.72 AUD). She did point out that people were able to earn more by working overtime and extra days. Lucky stated that this was the starting point, but sometimes people (especially educated people) were able to negotiate higher wages. Buying and renting an apartment (or condominium as they are called here) in Bangkok is super expensive. It was an enjoyable trip down the coast.
Our first stop was the Mae Klong railway market, which is also called Talad Rom Hoop, which roughly translated to closing an umbrella or awning. This market has a railway line run through the middle of it. When we first arrived, the awnings and market stalls were set up all the way to the railway line. There were lots of people walking, looking and selling. The train was due through the markets at 8:30am. Sure enough, just before 8:30 people started pulling in their awnings and their stalls. All of the stalls were on wheels so that they could be wheeled back. Tourists squashed into stalls so that they could still take photos as the train limped past. It was going very slowly. As the train went past, the stall holders had their awnings back out and their wares available again within 1 minute of the train passing. It was amazing and yet nothing special to the people that worked there. The train has gone through the market for many years.
After this stop, we headed to a place where they make coconut sugar, (which is used for cooking), coconut milk and coconut oil. It was a very interesting process. Bark off the coconut tree and flower were used as fuel to heat the bowls used in the sugar making process. All parts of the coconut are used, including the shell, which is broken down at a factory and used to stuff mattresses.
The final stop was the floating markets. We arrived at the pier to get onto our boat to travel through the floating markets on the waterways as they originally were used. We had fresh cool water and watermelon for us. We got on the boat and went exploring. There were heaps of boats in the canals causing quite a huge traffic jam at different points. The engines that are used to drive these boats are small 4 cylinder car engines. I was starting to feel quite ill with all of the exhaust. Phil was shocked as there weren’t any guards or protection over the engine, so if the drivers slipped they could potentially lose fingers and / or hands.
People were selling all kinds of goods on both sides of the canal such as souvenirs, scarves, tablecloths, mobiles, dresses, clothes, sarongs. t-shirts, homewares and food. Although most of the food vendors had their own boats who wended their way through the markets. Some of these food vendors even had small stoves on their boats to cook their food. It was crazy. We then veered away from the craziness and got to travel down some areas that weren’t just the markets and we got to see some of the houses that lined the canals. There were some beautiful homes that were stunning. Some people had lived in this area for multiple generations.
We hopped off the boat (which was quite tricky in itself being that we aren’t as flexible as we should be and it was quite a leap up). We then started exploring the markets on foot. Lucky was guiding us and we were taking lots of photos (I know, unusual right?). Lucky then told us where to meet her, so that we could explore independently. We bought a scarf for me (our one item from Bangkok as we are up to our luggage limit due to the items that we are taking for Megan to Dublin – luckily we are already planning a return trip to Bangkok next year). After our big one purchase, with all that bartering – she suggested 500 Baht, Phil offered 250 Baht and she agreed – lots of bartering there – we headed to find a Diet Coke for me and a beer for Phil. We found the perfect spot watching the traffic go by on the canal. After taking some more photos (cause you can never have enough), we headed to find Lucky and head back to Bangkok. This journey took much longer than planned, with us due to back in Bangkok by 12:30 pm but actually arriving at 1:00 pm to be met by Anna – our next tour guide.
She reassured us it was fine and we could push it back to 1:30, which gave us time to race up to the room (on the 22nd floor), change the lens on the camera for Phil and then race downstairs again. Luckily the cafe in the lobby had some bread rolls with ham and roast beef that we ordered and were able to eat quickly. They were delicious.
This tour (again by Buffalo Tours) was the City and Temple tour. Once again it was a private tour. The first stop with Anna and Tom the driver, was the Golden Buddha. This Buddha had initially been covered in plaster / concrete and had only been discovered to be solid gold when people had tried to move it to a new temple. The people constructing the new temple had organised a crane to lift and move it, but it was so heavy that the slings supporting it broke. The Buddha dropped to the ground (it wasn’t very far up) and a crack revealed some gold. It transpired that the monks had covered the Buddha when Thailand (once known as Siam) was fighting Myanmar (once known as Burma) so that the invading armies wouldn’t take the Buddha. The monks all died and so the secret remained until 1955. This Buddha is over 700 years old and is very valuable.
The next stop was The Reclining Buddha at the Wat Pho temple. The reclining Buddha is so long that the Buddha was created and then the building built around him. This temple site is massive and has the ashes of the first 4 kings. It is stunning. We put some coins into the bowls to bring good luck and also rang the bells.
Our last stop was the Marble Temple and was very beautiful, although it did start raining here. The Buddha inside was very beautiful, although I was most impressed with the architecture of the buildings and the ornate decorations. The bells here were ringing in the wind out the back of the temple and were just beautiful. We rang them again to bring us, our family and friends more good luck.
We headed back into Bangkok through the crazy traffic again to get back to our hotel. After a lovely afternoon tea in the lobby, we spent some time editing all of the photos (Bel’s 418 and Phil’s 181) and writing my journal ready to be published. We are going to head out into the nightlife of Bangkok – although we won’t be hitting any nightclubs this trip.