Bangkok and Beyond – Maeklong, Amphawa, Nang Leong

With many budget airlines flying to Bangkok, it is always a favourite choice when deciding on that short getaway!

*Note: You can take the train from Singapore to Bangkok too!

Forget about Platinum Mall, Chatuchak Weekend Market, Asiatique and MBK, it’s time to venture out of your comfort zone!

After my successful 2-night exploration trip to Hua Hin and Cha-am last September, I was back in Thailand again (possibly my last trip for 2016), this time as a blogger under the invitation of Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

If you haven’t heard of TAT, you ought to check them out before your every trip to Thailand! Often, there will be events or promotion campaigns for travelers. For the month of December 2016, they are giving away One-day BTS Passes and Let’s Relax 90 minutes Thai Massage Vouchers (4-To-Go) for visitors to Thailand. This is for bookings and travel made to Thailand between 10 November to 31 December 2016. More information can be found on their Facebook page!

Here are 7 things you can consider doing for your next trip!

1. Maeklong Railway Market (aka Umbrella/Risky Market)

 

Maeklong Market has been around since the early 1900s. Situating by the Maeklong river, it is a very popular market for the fishermen to sell their catch alongside with other fresh produce. The Railway Station was built few years later to transport the goods conveniently to other parts of Thailand. Anyway, if I didn’t hear wrongly from the guide, she said that the market wasn’t originally at the railway tracks. The market simply kept expanding due to its popularity and somehow ended up on the tracks.

I remember watching a video of this umbrella market back on Facebook a couple of years back and I this local ‘secret’ hideout somehow got viral and today you see tons of tourists visiting this place though they don’t usually end up buying anything at all. Anyway, due to its surging popularity, the tracks underwent an 11-month maintenance work last year from May – Mar 2016. As a result, I didn’t get a chance to visit this place back in Sep 2015.

We were late for the train’s arrival and only managed to capture the train departure. The tour guide got us the “best seats” at a cafe situated at the further point from the station where we sipped on Thai Milk Tea while waiting. If you focus properly in my video below, you can see the cafe owner’s hand passing 2 drinks to the train driver! Also, do you see a basket of papayas left unharmed despite being in the tracks? I was pretty impressed with the “riskiness” of this market.

As this was an arranged itinerary, I did not get to experience getting here by Public Transport.

How to get there?

Choice #1 – Cheapest, Challenging and Long Way

According to this useful blog link that I’ve found (Dated May 2016) you will have to

  • Take a train from Wongwian Yai Railway Station to Mahachai Station (10B/60 mins)
  • Cross the Ta Chin River via ferry to get to Ban Laem Railway Station (3B/5 mins)
  • Take a train from Ban Laem Station to Maeklong Station (10 Baht/105 mins)

FFT: I asked my tour guide why didn’t they consider building the railway tracks/bridge across the river since it would have been so much more convenient and accessible. She replied saying that the Thais didn’t mind the extra inconvenience of ferry transfer against sacrificing their beautiful riverbanks and existing infrastructure. Such thoughts sound pretty foreign in my country..

Choice #2 – Slightly Faster and still affordable Way

  • Mini Van from Bangkok Southern Terminal (previously Victory Monument) (70 to 100B/90 mins)

Choice #3 – Fastest & Expensive Option

  • Take a Taxi (1500 to 2500B/65 mins)

Choice #4 – Join a Day Tour

2. Amphawa Conservation Project

Apart from visiting the Amphawa Floating Market which only operates on weekend evenings, do check out the Amphawa Chaipattana Nurak, a royal project by the princess which serves as a cultural center where locals can learn and experience new farming methods, learn about environment sustainability or engage in handicrafts (we learned to fold roses with Pandan Leaves). In addition, there are spaces where farmers can sell their produce too.

You can watch the video below to understand more about this project

I’m pretty impressed with the efforts that are done to promote self-sustainability and increase the quality of life within the community. Above all, this conservation projects wants to preserve the culture and traditions of Amphawa by giving the people a place to gather sell and promote their products, an agriculture demonstration garden showing coconut sugar making processes and a community exhibition room that promotes local culture and activities.

Also, by the riverbank, we spotted some advertising for firefly tours. We didn’t get a chance to try it but the guide said that the chances of seeing fireflies are very high/almost guaranteed!

3. Floating Markets

My impression of floating markets was somewhat different from what it actually is. Many years back, I visited one as part of a tour itinerary and it was the type where tourists get to sit on the boat at literally “float” through the market.  Read more about Damneon Saduak Floating Market.

Amphawa Floating Market

Please note that the market is only open on weekends (Fri-Sun, 2 to 8PM) afternoon/evenings. According to the guide, the reason why the market only operates on weekends is because the villagers spend mon-thu working (mainly agriculture related) to produce the goods to be sold. Another thing we noticed at the floating market was that only females were ‘working’ on these floating boats. Can’t recall the reason but I guess you can read this link.

Due to our tight itinerary, we only managed to visit Amphawa after dinner. There was a night market along the streets leading up to the river but there were not many boats left at the floating market as it was late plus it was the friday before the Late King’s birthday and some villagers may choose to not work the entire weekend. Anyway, if you have the chance, do try out riverside dining on those tiny tables and chairs! I’m pretty sure the seafood prices are reasonable.

Also, don’t be fooled by my photos as the guide said it is usually very crowded!

You can also consider taking a longboat river tour. You can read this blog link for more information.

HOW TO GET THERE

By Bus

Take the Bangkok – Ratchaburi – Damnoen Saduak bus to get off at Amphawa Market

By Other

By car: Take Highway 35 (Thon Buri – Pak Tho) to Km 63. Drive through the town of Samut Songkhram to take Highway 325 (Samut Songkhram – Bang Phae). At Km 36-37, take a left turn toward the King Rama II Memorial Park. The Market is near the King Rama II Memorial Park

Information retrieved from Tourism Authority Thailand

Tha Kha Floating Market

On Saturday morning, we were brought to a more localized floating market. This market is only open on Saturday and Sundays from 6am.

Apart from the food, expect a lot of local agriculture produce from the shops here. The fruits and vegetables are so fresh and delicious (we tried the guava) and the thais who were with us ending up shopping a lot too! I bought a pandan rose hand bouquet as it reminded me of the bouquet that we were gifted as a welcome gift back in our Sofitel Krabi! Anyway, we ended up learning how to fold this bouquet at the Amphawa Conservation Project too.

Similar to Amphawa, it was riverside dining too! Don’t miss your chance to feel and act like a local!

HOW TO GET THERE

By Car

To visit, take Highway 325 (Samut Songkhram–Bang Phae). At Km 32 (after passing a junction to Wat Ko Kaeo), turn right for another 5 kilometers.

By Bus

Take a bus from the market in town, which stops to collect passengers in front of the TMB Bank. The Tha Kha–Wat Thep Prasit bus is available from 07.00-06.00 and leaves every 20 minutes.

Information retrieved from Tourism Authority Thailand

4. Alms-giving by the River

To be honest, I didn’t know anything about alms-giving in Thailand as it is not as widely publicized as the one in Luang Prabang (Laos) where too many tourists spoils the entire experience. In fact, when this came out in our itinerary, I was pretty excited as it was something I’ve yet to witness.

The alms-giving event that we witnessed and experienced was arranged for by the hotel we stayed in, Kanokrat Resort (Website in Thai | Tripadvisor Review | Agoda Booking)

We were there for Friday night and on Saturday’s breakfast, there was a big group of Buddhist devotees together with us.

The hotel made arrangements to prepare the food and drinks suitable for alms-giving and halfway through our delicious breakfast, a monk came by on a boat. The monk stopped by at an area with mats laid out and devotees took turns to give the offerings. We were reminded not to touch the monk as we were women. In a single fashion, since there was only one monk, we knelt down within the mat’s area and did a bow before putting the packets of food into the monk’s bowl. As you can see in the photo below, he also has a massive pot where he will transfer the stuff once his bowl is full. During the process, the monk does not speak a single word and maintained the same expression throughout.

Photos were taken (of course) but there were no unruly or crazy people trying to take selfies or photos while ‘interacting’ with the monk. You can tell that this sacred ceremony is widely respected and everyone kept their noise level to the minimum.

Waited in line with my offerings.

After all the food were given, everyone knelt down and the monk gave some prayers and blessings which was of a language I cannot understand. To be honest, I’m not sure if he was chanting scriptures or actual Thai Words. There was a bowl and some water given to people who wish to pray for the deceased. The prayers took almost 10 minutes and I was really impressed with how the Thais can stay in the kneeling position for so long!

Anyway, I felt a little confused with this alms-giving as the idea I had in mind was similar to the ones in Laos and I was somewhat expecting a lot of monks in boats lining the river and going around receiving the alms. However, in our experience, the monk was kind of arranged to visit our accommodation. I’m not sure if this was a daily affair or was it because of the large Buddhist group that were staying. Anyway, I did a bit of google search and very few articles (Blog 1 | Blog 2)pop up with regards to river alms-giving. I guess it is not exactly publicized as a ‘tourist activity’ and I hope it remains this way somehow. In fact in all my visits to Thailand, I’ve not noticed the monks going around to collect alms before but I suppose it is cause we hardly wake up early.

Well, I’m glad that I’ve experienced and tried out this activity which is sufficient for me to write my thoughts about it but somehow I hope that the alms-giving ceremony will never reach the touristy level of Laos. In fact, I’m pretty glad that the information about it online is so little.. Oh wells.

5. Dinosaur Planet

Situated in the heart of the EM District, walking distance from Phrom Phong BTS, Dinosaur Planet is the newest attraction/theme park to open in Bangkok City. How should I describe this place.. it reminds me a lot of Jurassic World with dinosaurs roaming all over.

Anyway, if you really like dinosaurs or if you have kids under 12, this place would be really lovely! For adults, it seems a little too kiddish unless you wish to fulfil your wish for a dino-selfie.

The dinosaurs on display are really huge and the best part of it is that you are able to touch and feel the texture of it!

Apart from the outdoor exhibits, there are a few indoor educational zones and bone display which could be really exciting for the dino fanatics.

Website: https://www.dinosaurplanet.net/en/attraction/

Price: 600B (Adult) | 400B (Child)

6. Nang Leong Tour

We went on a half-day Nang Leong Neighbourhood Discovery tour organized by Hivesters – a tour agency specialising in local thai tours that are off the beaten track!

This was my first time going for a local tour in Thailand and I would say it is pretty interesting as we were kind of like the only tourists? It’s nice to know that efforts are being done to preserve the culture and heritage of such communities. It felt like a Social Studies Field Trip which is really interesting given that I left school for a while.

We visited the home/kitchen/workplace of a really old thai lady. Despite her old age, she still works hard and her desserts are well sought after. We were only given sampling sizes as everything else by her that she is making has been ordered. We were really lucky to be even given a sample!

The food we tried were delicious too, some of which I was tasting for the first time!

Crispy pancake (Khanom Bueang in Thai) is a common sight in Thai markets and this is really delicious! It comes in 2 styles – sweet and savoury.

Apart from the food tours, we had 3 hands-on activities:

  • Making Traditional Thai vintage powder garland (Pang Puang), which has a very nice scent! You will also be keeping the final product as a souvenir.
  • Learning dance movements from a traditional Thai performance “ Lam Sud Chatree” (Story about a lady washing up and putting on makeup to wait for her husband to return home)

  • Thai Dish Cooking – Stir-fried Chicken Basil

The half day tour ended with lunch at a thai-chinese restaurant.

If you’re interested in this half day tour, you can read more information on Hivesters website.

7. Night Market-hopping

Thailand’s night life is vibrant in every way. Apart from my top favourite Artbox Market (which I’ve already blogged twice about it), there are many places to visit!

Rot Fai Market Ratchada (or Railway Market Ratchada) is a hipster market which originated at a disused railway yard in Bang Sue. It is located near the city at Thailand Cultural Centre MRT Station, beside Esplanade Shopping Mall. This market is nearer to Bangkok city. Do not confuse it with the Rod Fai Night Market near Seacon Square which is further and not accessible by MRT or BTS. If you have the chance, do visit both but they may look/feel pretty similar!

The Street Rachada is a shopping mall located about 10 minutes walk from Ratchada and there was also pop-up night market while we were there! It has a slightly more hipster feel with the bright neon lights and setup but a lot smaller than Ratchada.

Talad Neon @ Platinum (next to Berkeley Hotel) is the new kid in the block in this night market scene (First Day – 1 Dec 2016). It only opens from Thursday to Sundays (17:00 to 00:00) and (sadly) I did not get any chance to visit it during my trip due but I’ve found several blog links that have visited this place. From the photos observed, it seems like a complete similarity as Artbox (with its food trucks and more premium-looking food) which means that it must be an awesome place. Do check it out and let me know how it is by commenting in my post below!

8. Husky Love @ True Love Cafe

I’m pretty sure this husky cafe needs no introduction if you are a dog lover. This cafe is definitely a MUST VISIT if you want to snag that selfie with a husky!

It is priced at 350B and it entitles you to a drink, a cake and 1 play time session with the huskies!

Watch this video by Asiaone to see how awesome this place is!

9. Luxury Spa @ Divana Nuture Spa

When I visit Thailand, I usually do massage as it is relatively cheaper and usually I’ll go for the cheaper options of 200 – 300B/hour but in my previous trip, I did a session at mid-tier and pricier  healthland asoke where I didn’t really feel it was worth my money.

This time round, though sponsored, I was glad to enjoy a spa session at a more luxurious spa @ Divana Nuture Spa (BTS Nana exit 3).

Upon entering the spa premises, you can tell that it is truly a luxurious spa. I haven’t been to many luxurious spas (perhaps about 3) and everything from the consistent scent (I believe it was Jasmine) to the service touchpoints from our entry to the refreshing drink was soothing to our tired bodies. Before the massage, we were given an english questionnaire to fill up and we could indicate the pressure or areas of focus (if any). The information will be translated to your masseur before the massage.

Phikat Bua Prakob Remedy

(Ashiyu Foot Soak & Refreshing Foot Toner)(Authentic Thai Massage)(Phikat Bua Compress)

Ease the soreness of your body through the application of the Authentic Thai massage remedy. This is a systemize style that perfectly indulges you in a bind treatment along with the healthy benefits of the “Phikat Bua Prakob,” a legendary herbal compress that adds up to the bona fides of therapeutic treat.

100 Minutes/ 2,250 THB

I don’t really know how to describe this massage as I’ve never done this style before. It focuses a lot on the pressing of the knots (pressure points) of your body and it comes with a very relaxing warm herbal compress. It does not have the cracking and swinging of the usual Thai Massage but it is also not that relaxing (like Balinese massage) where you can fall asleep easily. Throughout the treatment, it feels like you are somewhere in between of sleeping and relaxation yet being aware of the “pain” pressure points. I don’t really know how else to describe the treatment but it was a pretty interesting feeling. Usually for those massages that I’ve experienced, you either feel like dying from the pain or you just doze off cause it is too relaxing as the masseur was not using enough force. This Phikat Bua Prakob Remedy (perhaps it is uniquely belonging to Divana) was really at the in between!

I guess if you haven’t felt this way before, please experience the massage without much expectations as it might be a new and refreshing experience for you!

Anyway, one of the best part was that there was absolutely zero “asking for tips” from the masseurs which had been pretty common for the cheaper ones that I’ve been to. You are not obliged to tip if you do not want to and they do not wait outside your door expecting for something. They are really professional and I guess that’s the difference you get for a more premium option.

At the end of the massage, you will enjoy a plate of fruits and the pineapples were one of the sweetest ones I’ve ever tasted!! It is pretty much like a cherry on top of the cake where you complete your entire experience at Divana Nuture Spa.

Although you may feel that it may be a little pricey but it is actually about the same price you pay for a super ordinary massage in Singapore. I’ve been to places about the same price range ($80-100) in Singapore and I’ve never felt this amount of pampering before. I guess I’m starting to be convinced that it is worthwhile to indulge in these luxurious treatments once in a while =p

Anyway, do verify my reviews with their social media sites cause I know I do sound a little too positive to be true..

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My trip to Bangkok in December 2016 was hosted by Tourism Authority of Thailand (Singapore).

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