A Floating Feast in Thailand

Amphawa, Thailand; photo by Lex Reyes

Thailand’s original road system was a complex series of canals, flowing into rivers like Bangkok’s Chao Praya and the nearby Mae Klong. You can experience life on the water by traveling just over an hour outside of Bangkok to sample all sorts of tasty treats served up canal-side from the floating “kitchens” of traditional Thai boats.

Amphawa, Thailand; photo by R. Paul Herman

Skip the early morning floating markets that have become a tourist cliché and head for the small town of Amphawa, where Thais themselves go to buy seafood and sample the local cuisine.

Amphawa, Thailand; photo by Lex Reyes

The Friday-Saturday-Sunday markets here run from noon to 8:30 pm, with nearly 200 boats gathered along a canal lined with old houses.

Amphawa, Thailand; photo by R. Paul Herman

I lunched on noodle soup, after watching it cooked to order quayside, complete with sliced pork, fishball, tofu and toppings of spring onions and cilantro – all for about 50 cents.

Amphawa, Thailand; photo by R. Paul Herman

For dessert, smashed bananas on skewers, grilled and caramelized with coconut syrup.

Amphawa, Thailand; photo by R. Paul Herman

The banana man handed them up to us from the canal in a basket at the end of a long pole.

Amphawa, Thailand; photo by R. Paul Herman

The Amphawa floating market has only been around for a couple of years. It’s the brainchild of a visionary mayor who’d watched his town’s population dwindle due to economic hardship. He inspired the remaining 5,000 residents to muster their resources and create the market, selling their crops (the area’s know for its fruit trees) and regional food specialties. Some vendors have even created new products, like ice creams flavored with flowers.

Amphawa, Thailand; photo by Lex Reyes

Stay over at a guest house or at one of the nearby resorts (my friends and I overnighted at Baan Amphawa). Wake up early, and you can see Buddhist monks making morning rounds to collect their daily food alms – by boat, of course.

It’s best to travel to Amphawa by car, but you can also take the Bangkok – Ratchaburi – Damnoen Saduak bus from the “New” Southern Bus Terminal, Sai-Tai-Mai (allow additional time).

This is my first blog post from an extended trip to Thailand and Malaysia. Want to know when a new post is up? Subscribe to my RSS feed and follow me on Twitter!

Gayle Keck
Lowell Thomas Award-winner Gayle Keck has sipped fermented mare’s milk in Kyrgyzstan, dug for truffles in Italy, crafted wine at Napa Valley’s “Crush Camp” and munched her way through every continent except Antarctica, which seems far too focused on frozen food.

She has written for Gourmet, National Geographic Traveler, Zagat San Francisco Bay Area Restaurants 2010, and is a frequent contributor to the Washington Post and other major newspapers.

Gayle has visited 49 US states (sorry, North Dakota) and more than 40 countries - though her favorite trip was a flight from Chicago to San Francisco, when she met her future husband on the airplane. She also blogs at Been There Ate That
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