Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Life as a Time Traveler

We only have two more weeks in Bangkok before our second term in grad school is over. Time flies. Of course this means we have two weeks of non-stop work. Well, usually. This time we planned ahead, anticipating our NEED to see as much of Bangkok as possible. So our 10-ish page paper for one class is almost complete, along with our 30 pagers for another class, and the third class will be focused on next week. Wow. For once we didn’t completely and totally procrastinate. Hats off to us!

How do we spend our precious spare time? This past Sunday, at least, was spent at a floating market. Thailand is known for its floating markets. Actually, there are four or five of them just within an hour or so drive outside the city. Our original plan was to wake up at 5am on Sunday morning and take a taxi to the Southern Bus Station, then take a bus to the most popular floating market in the country, Damnoen Saduak, also known as Ratchaburi Market. However, our plans changed when there was no getting us up at 5am on a Sunday morning. Typical. So the next best thing? Taling Chan Floating Market, which is approximately 25 minutes northwest of Bangkok.

At 9am we finally make it out the door, ready to see this very traditional and less touristy floating market. (Ratchaburi Market is a much bigger market with tourist flocking in on tour buses every half hour starting around 9am. Supposedly, much of the stuff sold is comparable to the same souvenirs found in Bangkok. That’s great and all, but where’s the history? Where’s the culture?) The floating markets are how many traders sold their goods before modern road systems were perfected in Thailand. They would load their goods into a small, wooden boat and paddle up and down the canals selling their products. These traditions, although less common, are still practiced within some areas of the country. Taling Chan is one of them.

We arrived by taxi about 30 minutes after we left our apartments and were told to keep heading straight on the road we were on to find the floating market. The end of the road was lined with different stands, mostly consisting of plants and flowers, with food thrown in the middle. I snacked on fried quail eggs and then we headed down to the canal.

I’ll be honest, Taling Chan was much smaller than I anticipated. There were only five boats or so in the water when we arrived. We walked out on the dock and found tables down both sides. As I said, this floating market is much less touristy than others. These tables were filled with locals. Hardly any tourists were around. Ok, so maybe we made the right decision coming here – tourists ruin everything...

We wandered down one side of the dock and looked over the side. There was a long, wooden boat in the water, carrying an older Thai women and buckets of fish and prawns. 

She also had several lying on what I would call a small grill, for lack of a better description. The food she was making was for the customers sitting at the tables. And it’s true. It really was like stepping back in time. I see why the tradition has been carried on all these years.

We continued to follow the dock, taking pictures where we could. We then wandered down the other side, finding several more of these wooden boats selling everything from seafood to fruit to fish food. Wait, what? Fish food? Yes, the canals were filled, and I mean FILLED, with what Jonathan tells me is Mekong Giant Catfish…these were some of the biggest fish I’ve ever seen. Not to mention there were hundreds of them fighting to be closer to the top of the water, as people were throwing this food and other snacks to watch the fish and all their frenzy.

After several minute of watching a six year old throw food into the water, us being just as amused as she was, we finished taking our pictures and headed back down the road to catch a taxi back to the BTS (skytrain). Although it lacked the hectic atmosphere we wanted to find, with people everywhere, I’m glad we went to Taling Chan. I can’t imagine hordes of tourists lining canals, waiting to catch the next postcard worthy picture…Jonathan and I did enough of that ourselves… 

- BZ

 (pictures to come - I'm stealing JPs)

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