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.
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.
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.
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.
For dessert, smashed bananas on skewers, grilled and caramelized with coconut syrup.
The banana man handed them up to us from the canal in a basket at the end of a long pole.
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.
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!