We waited in the guest house reception for 30 minutes before our guide appeared and took us to a minibus in Thanon Khao San.
We travelled past some saltfields on the way out of Bangkok whereby the saltwater is pumped into the fields by very short windmills that have only four or so material blades to propell them. They pump 3 inches of saltwater into the fields and it take three months for the salt to dry.
We were taken to a market place where they had some fighting cocks and fighting fish!?! The fighting fish were kept in small glass bottles. It was mainly a small complex for tourist purposes full of hawker stalls, one of which had some wooden tuk-tuks for sale. There was a guy making some coconut sugar which is much like dry fudge, very sweet. It was a hideous tourist outfit that all the tour buses stop at on their way out of town.
We arrrived at Damnoen Saduak at about 10:00 and transferred to a long tail boat to be taken down the canal network to market. The engines on the long tail boats here are far too powerful for their needs. They have to slow them down to a halt to manoeuvre around the corners! Still, it was another James Bond moment for us. We were taken down some of the local canals before reaching the entrance to the floating market and thus the boundary for the largely overpowered long tail boats. We had an hour to walk about the market. It was rather like Venice in that it was a network of canals over which bridges and adjoining roads allowed vehicles other than boats to reach the traders. I made an appalling attempt at bargaining for some pantalons and although I succeeded in buying at my price, my offered price was still way over the local value of such an item. But, at a mere USD 6 I'm not upset, other than knowing that I was a fool and had not sought a sample price to which I could compare the vendor's asking price. Purchase at first sight. Big mistake. But, I am sure that I made a floating market vendor very happy! It was as irritating as the tuk-tuk drivers in Patong Beach whereby the hawkers followed you trying to sell things. Only the actual floating stalls, the boats paddled by the women, were not hassling the tourists. But, it was still a rather authentic market and it was very interesting to see the different vendors, butchers, fruit sellers, milliners and food vendors cooking from gas canister fed woks on their boats.
Following the market our tour guide took us to the Royal Thai Handicraft Centre where we could see and thoroughly admire the excellent carvings that were underway. The carvings from teak wood were stunning, some were so intricately made and were up to 7 feet wide, huge reliefs carved in the equivalent of 18 months for one crafts person. The shop displayed some beautiful furniture but most of it would only be suitable for extravagant wealthy people who would have it displayed but not used.
Lunch was included in the tour and was a set affair. Rice, chicken and vegetables were laid on the table for the group to share between them. It was allegedly Thai cuisine but it wasn't remotely spicy and tasted much more like Chinese food. The air conditioning unit directly above us fed water to the dishes throughout our meal.
As we drove into Kanchanaburi we stopped at the World War II cemetary for the prisoners of the Allied Forces. It is beautifully kept and constantly managed by local Thai people. I immediately identified some plaques laid in memory of those soldiers who died during their service elsewhere in Thailand but whose bodies were not recovered and subsequently received no burial. Most of this cemetary was dedicated to British soldiers. I found some plaques dedicated to soldiers who gave service to the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire battalion and it instantly crossed my mind that my Granddad may well have known some of these soldiers who fought in the Second World War but who were unfortunately captured by the Japanese and never returned to the Heart of England. They would have died at about the same age as was my Granddad when he gave service for his country in the war. It's another reminder of how lucky my Granddad and his comrades were.
Feeling rather sombre we moved on to the river Kwai and took a walk across the bridge on the river Kwai in the burning sun. Feeling a strange sense of eeriness in doing so, we visited the Jeath museum which didn't give us much information despite its good reputation.
Our final visit was to the Big Pagoda at Nakhon Pathom which is the largest buddhist monument in Thailand. We had seen some of the most beautiful temples away from the road as we travelled today.
Back in Bangkok, in the smog and in the thick of the traffic, which reminds us of commuting in England, we wandered up and down Thanon Khao San and neighbouring streets, ignoring the tuk-tuk ambassadors and people forcing hammocks in my face, and settled for an eatery away from Thanon Khao San but still very popular with tourists. Ian and I spent the meal passing our dishes to each other in exchange for each others plate. Neither of us found the food very exciting and at a bland moment we exchanged plates again.
Copyright 2003 Helen Fuller. All rights reserved.