Monday, April 19, 2010

Visit to the Famous Floating Market and More

Our visit to the floating market started a little late as our guide had some problem getting across town with heavy traffic due to the demonstrations. Once we reached the expressway out of town we were flying along. On the inbound lanes traffic was heavy and bunched as it is when it is moving slowly or not at all. Whether this is normal Bangkok inbound traffic on Monday morning or if some was caused by the demonstrations, I don’t know. I did see two groups of white vans with flashing red lights headed toward town. The second group was trailed by trucks marked POLICE.
In the van with me was a family from Pakistan, father, mother, and a young daughter.
When we were near the market, the driver pulled off into a dirt lot. We got out and went to a counter where they were selling tickets to elephant rides. The guide said we could stay there for a half hour. I asked him if this were part of the tour. He said it was “an option.” Having ridden an elephant once and wanting to get to the market, I told him I wasn’t interested. Apparently the Pakistani family wasn’t interested either, so the guide loaded us back in the van and said that the market was just five minutes away.
When we arrived at the market, we had a ride in a motor skiff to a large shed which is the actual market site.. The guide said that we could look around until 10:30 and to meet back by where the boat had left us. He suggested that we take a half hour ride in a paddle skiff (a 150 bhat “option”) I thought this reasonable and bought a ticket for a ride. My skiff was propelled by a Thai woman at the rear and there were four others sitting in front of me. The skiff was just wide enough for two to sit side by side. Luckily, I had a seat to myself.
The market consisted of buildings on piers separated by narrow canals, which were about as wide as three of these narrow skiffs abreast. Some vendors were on the buildings, and others were on similar skiffs alongside the buildings. When two moving boats passed, where there were vendors on the buildings, it was quite tight.
It was apparent early on that there was very little variety among the vendors. There were some vendors that had fruits and coconuts and some vendors that had trinkets. All the trinket vendors had the same selection. After we passed a few, there was no buying interest, so we enjoyed the ride.
After the ride, I looked around the building on shore, went up to the bridge to take the iconic floating market picture and had some ice cream. I met the Pakistani man and we chatted about his job and his vacation with his family. The tour guide arrived as did his family and we were off again.
Our next site was the Cobra exhibit, another “option”. I wasn’t really interested and would sit it out if the Pakistanis wanted to see it. They got in the ticket line, and then decided they didn’t want it either, so we were off again.
The next stop was the handicraft factory. We could watch the workers doing wood carving and making furniture for no charge. Of course we could also buy, but saw nothing of interest. At this point, the Pakistani family, who were on the full day tour, went on to the crocodile farm, while I was passed to another driver.
He said something about a short factory stop also. There were several other people in this new group and he said that this group was going to five different hotels. Strange since there were only four of us in the van and two were obviously together. We went back toward Bangkok on a bunch of back roads, different than the way we had come. We finally arrived at the Jewelry factory. Some people were interested; I wasn’t and after wasting some time, I was handed to yet a third driver. This time I was the only one in the van.
We hit quite a bit of traffic in Bangkok on the way to the hotel. It appears that the trip to the jewelry factory required returning to Bangkok from a direction different from the one we had left toward and there was quite a lot of heavy traffic. After it all I did return by two o’clock as promised. The trip to the market had taken less than an hour and a half. The trip back with detours had taken three hours.

Tomorrow morning at 3:30 we meet at the front of the hotel for our trip to Bhutan. The next post will be from there.

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