Our last full day in Bangkok we had decided to check out a floating market. Since the one in Bangkok is only open on the weekend, we decided to do a half-day trip to Damneon Saduak, about an hour and a half drive from the city. In the past, floating markets were just a way of life for many people dwelling near one of Thailand’s many rivers. Using their canoes to get their goods to the market, and often using their canoes as their market stall, people were able to buy, sell, and trade whatever they needed. Now, it’s a tourist trap.
We booked the ticket which was basically for the van ride out there for 250 Baht the night before at a shop near Khao San Road. When we got there we were transported via longtail boat (a John boat with a long motor that is used to both propel and steer the boat) for about 20 minutes to the market. This was interesting as we passed many houses along the riverbank and got to see a bit of how people live outside of Bangkok. When we arrived at the market we were offloaded and herded along to where we were expected to buy a ticket for 150 Baht for a 30-minute canoe ride. Of course, it was not required, but there was definitely pressure applied. Thinking this would be the best way to see the market, we joined the other tourists and bought our tickets.
We were then herded onto a boat and paddled around the market. Of course, everyone else was doing the same thing so the canal was pretty clogged. Almost all of the permanent shops bordering the canal sold items appealing exclusively to tourists: t-shirts and other clothing, hats, small carvings, and other souvenirs. Most of the shops all had the same items and the same selection. It was so crowded it was hard to enjoy the water. In addition to the more permanent stalls, other vendors sold fruit and other food items from their boats. These seemed more authentic, but still somehow contrived. The only thing I bought was a fresh coconut, which was delicious.
Offloaded from the boat, we still had about two hours to explore the market. There was plenty to explore, but the stalls ran together since they were all so similar. We stopped and had a meal since we had left so early without a proper breakfast. Even this meal was disappointing. We continued wandering around and found the market almost more enjoyable from the banks. I bought some spring rolls that were fresh-fried (in the boat!) as they drifted by us. Eventually, we were all herded back to the minibus and back to Bangkok. It was nice to see some of the countryside along the way as well. Also, instead of dropping us back at our hotel as promised, they dropped us all off on Khao San Road. Overall, it was a somewhat interesting, if super-touristy experience.
Back in Bangkok, we headed back to the hotel to rest up a bit during the heat of mid-day. Days in Bangkok were routinely in the mid- to upper nineties with a heat index of 110 or more. However, our hotel had excellent air conditioning. After resting for a bit, we headed back out into the city. One of my friends from my time in D.C. happened to be traveling through Bangkok at the same time we were there so we had made tentative plans to meet up with him. But first, we got massages. This was my second massage and it was very different from my first. While both were Thai massages, the second one was definitely more enthusiastic. She poked and stretched and prodded me in all sorts of directions. It was a fun experience though I’m not sure how relaxing it was.
We met my friend Angel at one of the bars on Khao San Road and ordered some beers and caught up on our experiences traveling through Thailand. While we were sitting here one of the many street vendors came up to us with a tray of roasted scorpions. This is not an uncommon sight in this area, but it always interesting. Angel and I decided that we should at least try one (when in Thailand, right?). It didn’t have much flavor, perhaps a bit salty. Mostly it was just crunchy. The hardest part was the psychological factor of eating an insect, even if it was roasted and served on a stick. After introducing Angel to the fact that Thailand (or at least Khao San Road) doesn’t have an open-container law, we grabbed another beer and walked around the market doing some last-minute shopping. We decided to take a break and then reconvene later in the evening to see the nightlife that Khao San Road had to offer.
Khao San Road is the Thai equivalent of Times Square: swarming with tourists and very few locals with neon ads, bars, restaurants, and street vendors everywhere. At night, the area changes from an innocent market area to something more exciting, with scantily-clad bar girls and touts offering ping-pong shows to everyone who walks by. It is a place of loud music and drunken conversations, of bad decisions, and good times. We had some drinks and had a good time enjoying the scenery.
The next morning, moving a little slower than usual, we had a quick breakfast before heading to the airport to fly to Siem Reap, Cambodia, where we would be spending the next three days.
Endnote: In case you don’t have the words to “One Night in Bangkok” memorized yet, the title of this post is an homage to the lyrics:
“One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster
The bars are temples but the pearls ain’t free”