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Motormouth From Ipoh

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bangkok - Damnoen Saduak Floating Market & The River Kwai Bridge

Lost? Here's another chapter from the Bangkok 2009 Saga - from previous chapter; Chinatown of Bangkok .....

Lively, colourful, vibrant and jammed?! - Damnoen Saduak Floating Market @ Ratchaburi, approximately 110km south of Bangkok,Thailand.

Since this was supposed to be a purely gluttons'/shopaholics' trip, sight-seeing was never a mainstay in our itinerary. Except for the Floating Market, as Min has never been there before.

Mama Travel & Tour @ Khaosan Road

That was the sole reason why we chose to stay in Khao San for the first 2 nights, then moving to the city (Pratunam area) for the subsequent three. At Khao San Road (and its vicinity, esp Soi Rambuttri where our Lamphu House is located), there are quite a number of guesthouses and cafes offering tour packages, from daytrip to overnight sensations. Wait, i meant those that require staying overnight, eg. Chiang Mai, Ayuthaya, Pattaya, and so forth. Of course, one can also go for day trip to the last two destinations aforementioned.

For 450 baht/RM45 per person (after some bargaining, down from 500 baht per person), we took up the day trip to Floating Market in Ratchaburi (remember the Damnoen Saduak is the REAL deal, hence remember to make doubly sure you're not carted to some other floating markets elsewhere), and the so-called Death Railway aka The River Kwai Bridge at Kanchanaburi.

Taking up the 'sampan' ride to the market ......

The package includes pickup by van at your hotel/guesthouse early in the morning (about 7am), and all transportation fees, including the boat ride (sampan) for about 20-30 minutes to the market, and lunch at Kanchanaburi area. The journey was a bit tiring, we only managed to reach back at Khao San Road at about 8pm. From Bangkok to Ratchaburi, it took us about 2-3 hours. Depending on the speed/skills of the driver, and the vehicle you're being transported in.

The boats, the houses on planks, and even a massage centre?!!! How does one alight from the boat and get his dose of massage? Beats me.


The locals around the area - Life on water to them, is nothing exceptional.

Vague memories of our trip to Bangkok some 3 years ago - We took the Floating Market/Death Railway combo as well, but at the market, we were transported in a motorboat, instead of the wooden boat, which requires much rowing about. But fret not, you paid, so sit back and enjoy the ride, and the scenery.

Business as usual - Except on water. The water's not rocky, so stop worrying bout seasick/motion sickness!


Sweet nectar of Thai mangoes (20baht/RM2), Khanom Buang (20baht for 3), Delicious coconut ice-cream with coconut flesh (15baht/RM1.50), and cute, tiny coconut dessert with corns, almost like our Apom (20baht/RM2 for a pack)

As we travelled down the canal, the sights, sounds and smell were all enticing enough to warrant for your attention. Though the space along the canal may be slightly constricted (hence you're not allowed to put your hands outside of the boat, lest you feel like losing a hand's nothing major!). The boats will bump into each other, people on the other boats will smile at you, snap pictures of your face (you are after all, a foreigner just like the others), and the boat you're travelling in will periodically stop at the side of the canal for transactions to be made; Be it for the snacks, the souvenirs, or the clothings and accessories. Just signal for your 'captain' to halt temporarily. They'll be please to oblige.

Something substantial - Pork Noodles @ 30baht/RM3 per serving.

After making one round through the canal, we were given an hour to walk on foot. We took this opportunity for camwhoring (But do realise that the picture perfect scenes of a colourful, congested Floating Market on postcards is not that easy to replicate. Why? Because the traders on boats have to make way for the boats with passengers, thus they're positioned at the 'bank' instead of the middle of the canal), watching how the locals there go about with their lives, the tourists having a ball of a time (notice amidst the H1N1 scare, the place was still crowded on a weekday's morning), and of course, stuffing ourselves with snacks and such.

Colourful fruits in abundance at the market

One sweet dessert that we came to love is the Khanom Buang, the crispy rice flour dough with a dollop of tooth-numbingly sweet coconut cream, served with shreds of salted egg yolk (yellow ones), or spicy dessicated coconut (orange ones). At 20baht/RM2 for 3 pieces, don't go overboard, unless you have a very,very sweet tooth.

And as predicted, the mangoes were sweet, almost honey-like. This time around I skipped having the accompanying glutinous rice with coconut milk, to avoid the feeling of being full that early in the morning. The coconut ice-cream was creamy, smooth, and served with coconut flesh in a cute, small coconut shell. Be wary as another stall's coconut ice-cream was a plain, sugary intepretation. We bought from the stall nearer to the coffee counter.

The lady making Khanom Buang ..... one piece at 10baht, 3 pieces for 20baht. You do the math ...

Do be careful when getting on, or alighting from your boat though. As we witnessed a rather tragic incident whereby a Korean guy slipped and his DSLR fell into the waters! But fortunately he managed to salvage his prized possession in time.

If your tour package does NOT include the boat ride around the canal, fret not. You can opt to go for a round-canal ride at the market itself, for additional charge (sorry, not sure about the fee).

Bamboo House @ Kanchaburi - A guesthouse where we stopped for lunch

Thank goodness we had some light snacks and such at the Floating Market. For the distance between the market to Kanchanaburi (our next destination, for the Bridge over River Kwai aka Death Railway) was a lot more further than we expected. About 2 hours' drive. Or the driver could be driving at anything but break-neck speed. We dozed off in the van repeatedly, so can't be sure.

Lunch was a pitiful plate of fried rice, with eggs, tomatoes, chicken and well, that's almost it. Served with a grand, luxurious bottle of ...... chilled plain water. LOL. We were taken aback, but the taste was okay, and we walloped our plateful of rice in no time. One thing about Thai style of frying their rice, liberal dash of fish sauce is usually added in, hence the extra oomph in every bite. It almost passes off as MSG (flavour enhancer that makes you thirsty like a camel), but sans the irritating dry throat effect.

One consolation was the Bamboo House is a really cool place, isolated and with serene surroundings to boot. There are even chalets by the lake! Talk about getaway. But unless you're forsaking the glitters and bustle of Bangkok city, and looking for a quiet respite (and maybe trekking activities at Kanchanaburi), then this guesthouse may just be the place for you. Here's a link from Travelfish.org.


The Bridge over River Kwai - even the Thai students in pink came for an educational tour!

Kanchanaburi area not only houses the infamous Death Railway (why the solemn, almost morbid moniker, refer to its dark history HERE), but one other famous attraction is the Tiger Temple or Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua, which is not without its own share of controversies. To cut a long story short (hehe), the entrance fee to the temple is 500baht/RM50 per person which was NOT included in the package. Not intending to fork out another 500baht for a wilder version of petting zoo (Tigers should be roaming free in the wild, not in temples! That's my opinion anyway), we were told to roam the River Kwai Bridge and War Museum (same area, within walking distance, at 40baht/RM4 per entry) for an astounding three and a half hours!

An oasis in the middle of the desert. A welcoming sight, to pass time, and re-energize.

So we took our own sweet time, admiring the view and scenery around the Railway (which has a funny train/tram running through every now and then, carrying passengers ala zoo style choo-choo train), and went into full snapping-galore mode.

However, to pass a good 2 hours may sound tedious, but 3.5 hours on a bridge with tracks is plain MAD! Thus, we did the next best thing; We went to search for a massage parlour! And glad to discover one, a stone's throw from the War Museum. The girls went for the foot massage (250baht/RM25 per hour) while we went for the Thai massage (200baht/RM20 per hour). Not the most pleasant of massage, but can lah ..... and that's another hour down!

Hear me RAWRRRR !!!!! ..... in my dreams. ;)

The above photo is exactly the reason why we avoided the Temple. No hard feelings, but to chain a cub (erm, it's not exactly a fully-grown one, yet not a baby tiger) to the table, and doing brisk business by charging 100baht/RM10 for a photography session with the tiger/cub, was a rather harsh treatment to the poor cat. There was another cuter, and younger leopard cub around, which was playful but also chained in the same manner.

The Bridge over River Kwai aka Death Railway/Burma Railway -
Hauntingly beautiful

And with that, we ended our day, and slept throughout the journey back to Bangkok. A good 3 hours or so ride, coupled with the rather notorious traffic jams in the city. Needless to say, we were famished, and fatigued by the time we arrived back at our guesthouse.

Note : The package we took last time, for about the same price (500baht/person) but includes a better lunch option (rice and dishes), and a short trip to Nakhon Pathom, but excluding the sampan boat ride around the canal at the Floating Market in Damnoen Saduak. So, it's wise to compare between the tour agencies before setting foot on your journey. And do remember to bargain if you're going in a large group.

## Floating Market @ Damnoen Saduak opens in the morning only. From about 8am onwards, until early afternoon. ##

34 comments:

550ml jar of faith said...

Hmm I suspect all tours are bound by a pledge to serve really BAD food and put the tourists thru a really LONG trip back to BKK! I went on a similar trip, minus the market, and had lunch on this deck floating above some river, really nasty fried rice with a lot of flies buzzing around us. Atmosphere to the maxxxx!!!

foodbin said...

good post-a trip of fun, food and history too.

reanaclaire said...

i wanna go... seeing what u posted up here esp the food on the floating market is enough to entice me... i been to bangkok decades ago, so i think it is time for me to revisit it once again.. i only remember the river kwai bridge.. cos i took some pictures there ... i totally forgotten what i ate that time.. :)

email2me said...

I avoided the food at floating market. Kena diarhea before on my first trip there. XD But it was a fun trip though.

Min said...

Wei, nice pics ya, hehe, finally I managed to visit the floating market and the River Kwai Bridge...luckily we went for that massage also, can spent an hour there, no need to 'lepaking' under the hot sun at the bridge...

allie said...

The food at the floating market looks so interesting but I also dare not take any during my trip there .

J2Kfm said...

550ml jar of faith : flies luckily there was not a single. though the meal was lacklustre.

foodbin : thanks. for a change from the usual food posts i guess.

reanaclaire : back then no WALLOPING the food there eh? haha

email2me : aiyo, the drinking water issue?

Min : hailoh .... if not, we'd be growing fungus under the sun! or petting the tiger/leopard to pass time.

allie : but why? it's not that bad, really. the place that serves the noodles, is very clean, almost like a cafe.

mboy said...

Hahahaha...In Hanoi, they drove ~60 kmph even whn it's on highway..In BKK, they also drove abt ~70mkph evnthough the road was quite clear...Can u imagine that situation happening in Msia?!! Sure kena honked teruk!

msihua said...

Oh Gosh.. the cub looks soooooo adorable!!! Poor baby!!!!!

My mum and sis had a blast eating at the floating market in September (methinks)... Kept on raving about it!!

I say.. we only live once!! ...EAT and be HAPPY!!!

J2Kfm said...

mboy : true lah. that guy also like got flu only, rmbr?!!

msihua : how true! good philosophy! just be cautious and practise self-restraint at those outlets swarmed with flies loh ....

Little Inbox said...

I doubt about their cleanliness at the floating market.

Selba said...

Beautiful!!! Beautiful!!! love all the picturesss!!!

So nice to see the floating market again... and awwwwww.... the tiger is so cuteeeee!!!

*feeling to jump around coz' of the pictures* :D

SimpleGirl said...

i didnt visit the floating market during my previous 2 trips to Bangkok...i guess i must do so if i visit Bangkok in the near future...nice experience!

jason said...

Eeps, 1-2 hours from BKK to the market? Spare me from the rides please. :P

Duckie said...

it has been such a long long time since i last went to bangkok;

soo sean said...

You reminded me of my Bangkok trip. I went to the floating market too. Nice memory. :)

worldwindows said...

They used to start very early for the Floating Market. BKK start to choke with traffic by 5:30-6:00am. Beautiful brooding shots.

J2Kfm said...

Little Inbox : erm, just be cautious loh. the snacks SHOULD be ok geh ...

Selba : cute? yeah it is. but kinda sad to see it chained up and well, slapped repeatedly for being disobedient.

Simple Girl : one of the must-see place, alongside the Grand Palace, and various temples and shrines.

jason : aiya, go one time ma. jam in KL also more than an hour liao.hehe !!

Duckie : then the time is nigh ...

soo sean : the place looks beautiful right? seeing the locals going about, day in day out on the waters.

worldwindows : oh, 8am is an estimation. we arrived bout 10am, and the market was buzzing with activities.

iamthewitch said...

Very interesting! It's my first time reading about the floating market. :P How ignorant! But I love MANGOES!

Tummythoz said...

This post sure brings back good memories. Many years back we went to the floating mkt on our own. Remember we sat shivering at a dark bus terminal before 6am waiting to catch the earliest bus out. We had the food and drink then realised that all the utensils were conveniently washed by sloshing them with the murky river water. Lucky Malaysians have strong tummies!

thule a.k.a leo said...

this is something I didn't do while in Bangkok :(

Wilson Ng said...

I missed the floating market.... i loved the place... they have nice little dessert make on the spot on the sampan... amazing place.

Big Boys Oven said...

hahahhaha I see you so syiok, I also feel damn syiok! :)

ck lam said...

Lots of food to eat. I like the Khanom Buang which is also sold in our night markets too.

J2Kfm said...

iamthewitch : i love mangoes too! as they're sweeter than most others.hahaha .. but not all varieties though.

Tummythoz :!!! luckily din ask ur opinion before going. else sure cannot stuff anything inside mouth! hahaha ...

thule : oh reli? cz of the distance maybe. it's a bit out, from BKK.

Wilson Ng : true. completely epitomizes the OLD Bangkok ... not the metropolitan.

BBO : good lah. sama-sama syiok!

ck lam : almost like the tapas, but a sweet version! had them at a shopping complex again soon after. so addictively sweet!

cariso said...

I love the sampan shots! Very good and chio! Next post gonna be?

ling239 said...

so many sampan!!
do u call that boat jam ? XD

J2Kfm said...

cariso : next post? haha ... me also dunno yet. depends lah ...

ling239 : erm, more or less! traffic jam on the waters?!

mimid3vils said...

Never been to floating market when my last 2 visits to BKK~~ Interesting experience though~~

sc said...

hey, i just came back from BKK! hahaha i see i have not missed too much of your post yet :p man, am missing BKK already!

Wilson Ng said...

coming down to ipoh this saturday, need a place to makan around 5pm...

J2Kfm said...

mimid3vils : yup it was. strange enough, we went TWICE in both our trips.

sc : so fast? hahaha .... me too in fact.

Wilson Ng : what you have in mind? sorry, late reply. hawker fare? nga choy kai? the usual? or different?

Bangkok hotels said...

Such a excellent post!!! Beautiful Picture. I wish to go to Floating Market ,how to see thai villager live and try to taste famous thai fruites. By the way i like the picture of tiger kid so much.....

Traveling in Thailand said...

Nice pictures ! on the first one it is amazing to see that the vendors are still the same at the same place ( I have been in Damnoen a few weeks ago )