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Sat Nov 14 2015: Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Sawadee Khrup!

That's how you say "hello" and "goodbye" in Thai. The masculine version at least. Guys end every sentence with "khrup" and gals end it with "kah". So, women would say, "Sawadee Kah".

If we're going to be here for awhile, we're going to have to learn some words. It's very difficult since Thai, like all Asian languages is a tonal language, so it's not enough just to pronounce the words correctly, you have to "sing" it in the right pitch or tone, or it's a completely different word.

Today we're venturing out of Bangkok temporarily to visit the Damnoen Suduak Floating Market. It's about a an hour and a half bus-ride west of the metropolis. I woke up today with a bit of a stomach ache. I polled Neda to see if it was something we ate yesterday, but she seemed fine, so it must have been something *I* ate. A year and half in Europe and I didn't get sick once. Just a few days in Bangkok and my insides feel like they're rearranging themselves. This does not bode well...

There are lots of floating markets in the Bangkok area, but Damnoen Saduak is perhaps the most famous one. We had to load the bus very early in the morning to make it out here before the afternoon heat becomes too unbearable.

Our bus lets us off a couple of kms away from the market and we climb aboard a covered boat and ride along the canalways in style

We've left behind the urban jungle of Bangkok and traded it in for the actual lush jungle that presses up against the sides of the canals and over the buildings that line the waterways. This is more our speed.

Our tour guide is a Chinese lady who entertains us by telling us jokes in broken English. Hm, so you don't actually have to be Thai to be a tour guide here, eh? You just have to look the part. Hmm... if I pick up the language, I may be able to subsidize our stay here...

A flashy tour boat with huge twin motors zooms past our rickety barge. Our tour guide deadpans, "That rich people boat. You pay more you go on rich people boat." In turn, we pass by another tourist group, their operator is paddling the boat down the canal. "That poor people boat", she says. LOL! I hope the people on the rowboat didn't hear her... :)

If learning to speak Thai is hard, trying to read the Thai script is a completely different level of impossible. Good thing all the signs are in English too

One of the vendors paddles her way to the market

A local resident watches the tourists go by. Just like the Croatian nonas at their windows above the street! :)

Neda is excited: "SHOPPING!!!!!"

"Final offer!" You can buy anything at the floating market. Even calculators.

Bargaining is Number One Beloved National Sport. If you don't haggle, the vendor will lose respect for you. It's like showing up to play a soccer game and just sitting on the field while the other team keeps scoring goals around you. They won't stop playing and scoring goals, but it's no fun for them anymore.

If you're going shopping in Thailand, you gotta bring your A Game, otherwise go to a farang store.

Colourful displays on the boats floating on the canals

Almost all the boat vendors are women

These women on the boats remind me of the indigenous women in Guatemala selling their fabrics and fruit in the market.

Our boat lets us off in the middle of the Damnoen Saduak and we walk up and down the covered walkways and stalls along the canal. Every 50 meters or so, there is a bridge that lets you walk over the canals so you can take in the view of the action from above.

All stocked up for a brand new day at the floating market

Customers in the tourist boats sidle up alongside the vendors and haggle for food and hats and other trinkets

The vendors are very skilled, maneuvering their boats towards customers who call out to them

Making change

The late morning sun is getting warmer, these straw hats do a great job in keeping the vendors cool when they're not in the shade

Congested waterways

As we walk around the marketplace, I'm not feeling too well. We have to stop to get a soda to settle my gurgling stomach. I make a note of where the closest washroom is in case of emergency, and Neda gives me a 5 baht coin so I can be ready to pay to get in. In my pocket, I grip that coin like my life depended on it. Neda goes off on her own to do more window shopping as I take a seat in one of the restaurants above the waterway and watch tourists and vendors perform their dance below me.

A vendor goes out in search of more fertile selling grounds

These long poles allow the vendors to sell their stuff to people up on the walkways

Buddhist flower offerings on the bow of one of the boats

As the afternoon approached, the rising temperatures made me very queasy and I had to move to a more shady spot. The smell of the swampy canal water didn't help any. I don't think there's any treatment of the water here, probably a mix of sewage and rainwater. It was in my secluded spot that I saw some of the cooked food vendors stop by and dip their dirty dishes in the murky canal water beside them to wash them for the next customer. Oh my god, that's disgusting!!! So glad I didn't buy any food from them.

I continued watching these food vendors as they made their way back to the main marketplace. As they rowed, their paddles dipped into the water on one side, then up and over to the other side, dripping dirty canal water onto the open food in front of them.

As if on cue, my stomach made a loud sound like air bubbles rising from a pit of hot tar. It felt like my guts were competing in an Olympic tumbling competition and I quickly got up and made a beeline for the washroom, the location of which I had memorized before sitting down.

Time for me to Sawadee Khrup.

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