Two hours south of Bangkok are three very unique markets: MaeKlong, Amphawa and Damnoen Saduak.
MaeKlong Train Market
The first one we went to, MaeKlong Train Market, takes place on the railroad tracks in this small city. The market is a few blocks long with small stalls crowded in the space between the rail and the buildings. They sell mostly fresh fish, fruits and vegetables. The goods are on trays or big plates and come right up to the rail tracks. Shoppers crowd along the railroad tracks moving from stall to stall.
A couple of minutes before the train arrives, a horn sounds, everyone pulls in their goods, raises their awnings and shoppers hop in to openings. The train comes within inches of the stalls. Some items that are left in place are narrowly missed as the train passes over top. Then, as soon as the train passes, the trays go back out, awnings come down and shoppers re-emerge. They have it down to an art form. It’s one of the craziest settings for a busy market.
To see the video click here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBB6Q8hjynk or click on the video on the sidebar or Google Richard Kurdziel YouTube.
Amphawa Floating Market
A fifteen-minute drive away is the Amphawa Floating Market. This is a weekend market held along the canal in Amphawa. The vendors, mostly women, serve meals of fried or grilled fish and seafood cooked on their long-tail boat while their patrons, on land eat at narrow benches along the water. There are also stalls on land selling fruits and other goods such as clothing, candies and souvenirs.
The market is 3 or 4 blocks long with a pedestrian bridge at either end. There is a constant stream of shoppers moving along the sidewalk and over the bridges. We watched the action for a while and then had a yummy lunch of grilled snapper, rice and a cashew salad.
We came back in the evening to see the market at night and were treated to a beautiful sunset over the canal.
Damnoen Sadauk Floating Market
The next day we drove for 10 minutes to the third market, Damnoen Sadauk Floating Market. This is the most popular floating market in Thailand. Here, customers are also in long-tail boats and float beside the merchant boats. This market sells mostly fruits and vegetables but also has coconut ice cream and a few snacks. There is only one small sidewalk at this market, so the best views are from one of the 2 bridges at either end. It is a very colourful market with the boats, full of fruits and veggies, floating up and down the small canal.
From there we went one hour south to the small city of Phetchaburi. On top of one of the hills at the edge of town is a beautiful historic palace and its temple. The walk up to the palace is an event on its own. Aggressive long-tailed macaque monkeys patrol the sidewalks and growl at passers-by in hopes they’ll drop some food. The palace employees are armed with slingshots to help keep the monkeys away. We armed ourselves with sticks. Richard was very good at keeping us safe.
The hill has 3 peaks. On the first, is a palace built in the 1850s. It was used by the king as a retreat from Bangkok. It’s a simple palace, but set in an extraordinary setting. The middle hill has a large chedi. A chedi is Thai for stupa or pagoda. Stupas are bell shaped structures, large or small, that either contain remains or relics or represent an important event or belief in Buddhism. This stupa is quite large and impressive. The last peak has a small temple (wat). All the buildings are in very good condition and it makes for a fantastic setting.
Not far from the palace hill is a cave shrine, called Tham Khao Luang. It is a large natural cave with 3 different caverns. In the mid-1800s the king began to fill the cave with Buddha statues. Today there are over 170 in the cave making it an impressive shrine to Buddha.