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Jesada Technik Museum in Nakhon Pathom

Literally in the middle of no-where, in Nakhon Chaisi District of Nakhon Pathom Province, there is a sprawling private transport museum for lovers of any vehicles, both on land and in the air. This large collection of vehicles can be found at Jesada Technik Museum and is the brainchild of Mr. Jesada Deshsakulrith, a Thai businessman. The museum first opened to the public in 2004 though Jesada bought his first vehicle back in 1997.

I was completely lost when I stumbled upon this red double decker bus from London and the yellow school bus from America. Beyond no doubt, I had arrived. Jesada Technik Museum is ironically not served by any public transport. You will have to find your own way there from Nakhon Chaisi (see map). It is open every day from Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed on Mondays. Surprisingly there is no entrance fee to the well kept museum though donations are welcome.

The inspiration for the museum came after Jesada visited automobile museums in the USA and in Europe. He decided to collect antique and hard-to-find cars for his own collection. He started with a 1958 Bubble Car bought in Switzerland. His collection has now grown to 500 pieces which includes Airplanes, Helicopters, Tanks, Buses, Sedans, Bubble Cars, Motorcycles, Tricycles and Bicycles from around the world. There would have been a Russian made submarine as well but it apparently sunk while on the way to Thailand.

It is a credit to Jesada that all of the vehicles have been kept in excellent condition as you can see from these pictures. Not only on the outside but the inside as well. The upholstery is in very good condition. Also don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a “dead” museum as many of these vehicles are in good working order and have taken part in car rallies. I have also seen one of the red double decker buses out and about too at charity events. They actually have three London buses, one of which is open-topped.

The transport museum is probably not worth visiting on its own. Best to do it in conjunction with something else in the area. Visit our Thailand Photo Map website to see what else there is to see in Nakhon Pathom Province. Nearby is the riverside Thana Market which is a great place to have lunch.

Rangsit Floating Market

One of the latest markets for people from Bangkok can be found at Rangsit Floating Market. It is just north of the city on the Rangsit-Nakhon Nayok Road. It is just a short distance from Future Park and is not too far from Dream World. I went there for the first time at the weekend. It has been open since March 2009 but I hadn’t heard of it until someone on Twitter suggested that I should go there. I am glad that I did.

It’s not really a floating market like foreign tourists would imagine it. It is true that there are a couple of boat vendors selling food. However, the majority of food is sold from normal stalls. Having said that, technically it is a floating market as the whole thing is on a series of linked flat barges moored to the banks. Anyway, it is good, open-aired, clean and has a nice atmosphere. For a weekend I was actually expecting large crowds, but it was to our advantage that, unlike other markets, we were easily able to find some seating.

I usually say that you judge a good food stall by the crowds. I think that in this case we have some delicious food being sold in a great location but suffering greatly from bad promotion to the public. I don’t think that many people outside of Rangsit really know about it. Which is a pity as the food was good. I don’t normally eat that much but I had three full meals here. Two of them were from this vendor that sold 12 different kinds of pad thai. My favourite was pad thai made with green papaya (see here). Very unusual but surprisingly good. The other was crispy noodle pad thai (see here).

It is probably not worth going all the way here for this one market. But, you could visit here on the way back from or to Dream World. Or if you are going to the shopping mall at Future Park. On this trip we also visited the Thai Royal Air Force Museum which is not that far away. However, I definitely want to go back again to try some more of the variations of pad thai. Noodles are also very famous here. In fact, they have a museum dedicated to the history of noodles. Unfortunately this is only in Thai.

The floating market is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can get there by buses 538, 559 or 188.

Map showing the location of Rangsit Floating Market:
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Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market

Another one of those riverside markets in Bangkok that isn’t visited much by foreign tourists is Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market. It is in the same district as the more famous Taling Chan Floating Market. I had never been there before and when I visited last Sunday I was expecting to find a quiet market. I guess the first sign for me that Lat Mayom is a popular place for locals to visit at the weekend were the numerous car parks. In 2007 it deservedly won the Thailand Tourism Award for Community Based Tourism.

It is probably best to go early as it got very crowded as the morning progressed. Like other markets, it is only open at the weekends and public holidays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. I was there shortly after 9 a.m. and even though some stalls were still being set up, it was easier for me to park and then explore the market. When you arrive you will soon discover that there is more than one area. There are numerous stalls around the car park, in an orchard and also along the canal bank.

Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market was set up in November 2004 after the local community saw the success over at Taling Chan. However, this one prides itself on being more of a green market. It is famous for organic vegetables as well as freshly-cooked food and home-made desserts. You will find vendors selling food on both the land and on boats along the canal. The stalls in the orchard area sell mainly local products and souvenirs under the OTOP banner.

The highlight of any floating market for me is the opportunity to eat some delicious food. Lat Mayom certainly didn’t disappoint. There were plenty of large eating areas that were served by vendors on both the land and on boats. It is always best to come here hungry so that you can snack as much as you like. There are so many temptations here. My favourite was Kuay Tiaw Kua Gai bought from a boat vendor. This is a wide noodle cooked in a pan with chicken and egg.

A visit to a floating market wouldn’t be complete without a trip on a boat. This is the best way to explore the local communities that use these canals as their life-line. If you want to just explore the immediate area then you can go on a small flat bottom boat for only 10 Baht each. There are no seats, just a cushion. You can also join a longer tour on a bigger long-tailed boat. This is what I did. The 90 minute boat tour costs only 50 Baht per person. They will leave as soon as they have at least 15 people.

We travelled quite far on our trip. We ended up in a small community where we disembarked so that we could explore on foot. We were first taken to an old house alongside the canal where we were told some of the local history. We then walked a bit further to visit Sawangchan Homestay. Here we were able to buy some food and refreshments being sold by the local people. It is a good idea to help support them. From here we continued on until we reached the canal again for our return journey to Lat Mayom.

Map showing location of Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market:
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Klong Lat Mayom Floating Market is located on the Bang Lamad Road (off Bang Khae-Bang Bua Thong Outer Ring Highway) in Taling Chan, Thonburi, Bangkok

By Bus: Take No. 146 to Kanchanaphisek Road and alight at the offices of Samakom Chao Pak Tai (Association of People from the South).
Then take a 15-minute songthaew (Rod Fai-Wat Pu Theun route) to Bang Ramat Road.

By Car: If you’re driving, take Kanchanaphisek Road and turn onto Bang Ramat Road when you see the sign for Natibunditiyasapa (the place where Thai law students sit examinations for admission to the Bar). I also saw plenty of meter taxis here if you don’t have your own transport.

Wat Takien Floating Market in Nonthaburi

A good excursion to do at the weekend is to visit one of the many floating markets that are within easy reach of Bangkok. The one that I visited last weekend is called Wat Takien Floating Market which is in Nonthaburi Province, to the Northwest of Central Bangkok. From Samut Prakan it only took us about 40 minutes to drive there along the Kanchanapisek Outer Ring Road. But, if you are coming from Bangkok, you can get there via the Rama V Bridge.

The floating market at Wat Takien is relatively new. There used to be a much older one nearby called Bang Ku Wiang Floating Market. However, that has long since closed due to the modernization of transportation during the last century. Once the roads and highways were built, people went from getting around by boat to travelling by car which is obviously quicker and more convenient. However, there is a growing trend these days to revive some of the old markets. That is why the local community opened this market at Wat Takien.

Many of these markets open early in the morning. However, even though we arrived there after 9 a.m., many of the stalls were still being set up. So we explored the temple first. In front of the chapel there is a giant tiger’s head which has a doorway which takes you underneath the building. Inside there are a number of different shrines. Buddhists here were walking around these shrines in a clockwise direction while chanting. They were doing this to bring themselves good luck. The exit was through the head of a giant dragon.

The market is open every day from about 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. However, it is a lot more active at the weekend. Probably best to aim to be there by about 10 a.m. But don’t have breakfast before you leave home. Like most markets, the highlight for our trip was the food. You could just snack all day long. You can buy food from one of the boat vendors or from one of the stalls set up in the grounds of the temple. I had a very tasty crispy and red pork on rice. For dessert I had deep fried bananas and a coconut pudding. All prices were very good.

For me, a trip to a floating market is not satisfactory unless there is also a chance to go on a boat trip along the canals. Only by exploring this way do you get to see the daily life of local Thai people, which probably hasn’t changed much in a hundred years. Even today, most of the houses that we passed are cut off from the road and people have to use boats to get around. Even the postman and garbage collector has to use boats.Some of the houses we passed were more modern but many, like this one, looked like they have been around for years.

I don’t think that many people go on these boat trips. We saw the boats there but we had a hard time trying to find someone who would take us out. I don’t think Thai people like going out in the heat of the day. We eventually found this guy who took us out for an hour long trip for a low 200 baht. If this was Bangkok we would have probably been charged 800 baht at least. For the whole time that we were at this market, we didn’t see any other foreigners at all. So, the vendors and local people were really friendly and happy to see us there. It is not a major floating market, but it is a good escape from the other tourist traps.

Map for Wat Takien Floating Market:
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Day Trip to Farm Chokchai

If you have ever driven along the Friendship Highway on your way to Nakhon Ratchasima then you have probably noticed this giant cow. It belongs to Farm Chokchai which is in the heart of cowboy country in Northeastern Thailand. I now that sounds strange as we are not in America. Normally we think of rice fields and buffaloes roaming the countryside. Not cowboys on horseback herding cows around large estates.

Farm Chokchai was started by Chokchai Bulakul back in 1957. The farm began with beef cattle but later turned their attention to a dairy heard. Today the farm covers an area of 8,000 acres and has 5,000 head of cattle. In recent years, the farm started their award-winning agro tours where people can learn about the running of a dairy farm which also includes hands on experience of milking a cow, making ice cream, petting farm animals and watching a cowboy show.

I took Nong Grace there at the weekend for her first visit. The farm is open from Tuesday to Sunday. During the week they only have two scheduled tours at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. However, at the weekend they have six rounds starting at 9 a.m. and the last one at 3 p.m. We were advised to telephone in advance to book a tour. You then have to turn up about 30 minutes beforehand to pay for it. As it turned out, we were over an hour early and were lucky to be able to change to an earlier time. Tickets cost 250 baht for adults and 125 baht for children. During the week it is slightly cheaper. Incidentally, foreigners and Thais are charged the same price.

The tours start off with a short movie. Then you are taken outside to see the Machinery Museum where you can see the original vehicles used at the farm. Our guide only spoke Thai but there were signs in English. Our next stop was the Milking Parlor. Apparently, the Friesian cows have a high yield of milk and so they are milked three times a day. On my father’s farm, we only milked the cows twice a day. The milking procedure is fully automated with enough room for 192 cows to be milked at the same time. Our tour guide gave us a demonstration on how the machines work and also how to milk the cows by hand. If you are keen, you can change into some Wellington boosts and have a go at milking the cows.

We were next taken into the Dairy Plant. This is where they produce four milk products: milk, yoghurt, ice cream and milk toffee. Interestingly, the brand name “Farm Chokchai” was sold some years ago so they call their milk products “Umm…milk”! In the dairy plant we watched a movie which showed us how the milk is pasteurized. We were then taken on a tractor and trailer ride to tour the rest of the farm. Each tour is limited to 80 people due to the size of these trailers. This part of the tour doesn’t have any English subtitles so you just have to admire the views of cows grazing in the fields and farmhands working the land.

A short while later, we reached our first destination. A kind of Wild West Town. In a small arena, we were treated with some stunts where a horseback cowboy lassoed a cow and then showed how they would then brand it. Another cowboy showed us tricks with a lasso and then one more impressed us with his dexterity with a gun. Afterwards, we had some free time to wander around. There are souvenir shops and shooting games to play. These cost 30 baht a game. For older children, there is a chance to ride a horse for 40 baht or to take your whole family on a horse and cart ride for only 100 baht. Unfortunately for Nong Grace, there wasn’t much for a 7 year old girl to do.

A little while later, were back on the trailer to continue our tour. A short distance away we paused by the side of the track to see a demonstration of how a sheep dog can successfully heard sheep into a pen and then up into a truck. We then moved on to our last and final stop. This was the petting zoo and animal show. This is a great place for the younger family members. They have smaller ponies here for the younger kids to try their hand at riding. In the petting zoo you can buy food to feed the animals. Here they have some camels as well as some deer and rabbits. You can also give some milk to the baby calves.

Nong Grace obviously loved the final stop as she could finally ride a pony and also feed the baby animals. She also enjoyed the animal show. In fact she enjoyed the whole day out even though it took us over two hours to drive here from Bangkok. My only complaint is that they put all of the activities for younger kids at one place. This meant that Nong Grace was rushed to ride the pony and feed the animals once she had finished watching the show. They should have had the pony ride at the first stop where she didn’t have so much to do.

I am not sure if foreign tourists would find Farm Chokchai of interest as it isn’t what you see as “traditional Thai”. However, the highlight of any stop here is the Chokchai Steakhouse which had the best steaks I have had in a long time. Whenever I drive to Khorat for a holiday, I always stop here on the way home. I think the tour itself is of more interest to Thai families and expats living in Bangkok. However, if you are on your way to Khorat then it might be worth a small stopover. They even have a boutique camp where you can stay the night in “tents”. If you do this then there are more activities that you can take part in including ice cream making.

Visit farmchokchai.com for more information, We have more ideas for excursions from Bangkok over at Bangkok-Daytrips.com

Map showing the location for Farm Chokchai:
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Bang Noi Floating Market

A short distance north of Amphawa there is another riverside market that has been trying to revive its old community. This is Bang Noi Floating Market that straddles a canal of the same name near the Mae Klong River. There has been a market here for more than one hundred years and at one time hundreds of market vendors and locals used to gather here to buy and sell. They used to meet on the 3rd, 8th and 13th days of the waxing and waning moons of the lunar calendar. However, once they started building roads in this area, the number of people visiting this market dwindled until it nearly died out completely.

After the success of the late afternoon market at Amphawa, the local government here decided to do something to revive Bang Noi Floating Market. They pumped a lot of money into the community to pay for renovations and infrastructure like walkways and bridges. It was formerly re-opened a couple of years ago and has already been hailed a success. Although it doesn’t get as busy as Amphawa, it still has a lot of charm and things of interest. The small numbers allow you to walk comfortably up and down the canalside walkways and visit the shops without interruptions. I like Amphawa but it is getting too crowded these days.

Bang Noi Floating Market is open during the day and starts to wind down in the late afternoon at about the same time as Amphawa starts to get busy. So, if you are looking for somewhere to eat lunch while waiting for Amphawa to open then you might want to consider Bang Noi. It is open every Saturday and Sunday from about 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. I arrived a bit late as I had lunch at Bang Nok Kwaek Riverside Market. By the time I got here at 5 p.m. some of the shops had already started to close. But I could see that there was a good variety of shops that sold souvenirs and handicraft. There was also a lot of delicious food on show.

At one of the piers I noticed that they had a boat service. I spoke with one of the locals and they said that it was a free boat tour up the canal. It was getting late but they agreed to take me. There were two rowers and I sat in the middle. I felt a bit embarrassed as they had to work so hard rowing against the current. I guess it was nearly low tide as a lot of water was flowing down Bang Noi Canal and out into Mae Klong River. From there it flows south past Amphawa Canal, through Samut Songkhram City and out into the Gulf of Thailand. Other canals that feed into Mae Klong River include Damnoen Saduak and Bang Nok Kwaek.

I didn’t really have any idea where we were going, but we ended up at this temple called Wat Sai. As we got out of the boat, one of the monks started talking over the loudspeaker about the history of the temple. Apparently Wat Sai is believed to be over 500 years old. Many of the buildings are built in traditional Thai style with teak wood being used a lot. As I approached the temple I heard the monk suddenly exclaim that “a farang has come to look around the temple”. Nothing like your presence being announced to everyone. Though I seemed to be the only visitor and I could only see half a dozen monks who were sweeping the grounds.

One of the monks offered to give me a tour of the temple. He took me into one of the teak buildings where they had a kind of museum of ancient artefacts. These varied from Buddhist scriptures written by hand on palm leaves to old Thai typewriters. In the basement of another building he showed me around a museum that contained a large variety of different kinds of boats. I asked him how many visitors he had shown around today and he said that I was only the second. Back outside my two oarsmen were waiting to row me back to the market. I felt a bit awkward having this all for free so I gave them a good tip once we got back. I will definitely come here again but next time I will come in the morning and eat lunch here.

The following is a map showing the location of the market and other attractions nearby.
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Bang Nok Kwaek 100 Year Market

After the success of Amphawa Floating Market in Samut Songkhram, other communities in the area decided to try their hand at a weekend market. One such example is Bang Nok Kwaek Market which is alongside the Mae Klong River north of Amphawa [MAP]. The buildings and market here are actually over one hundred years old, but after the roads were built and less people travelled by boat, the market was practically abandoned.

Then a few years back, the local community decided to revive the old market. Although it doesn’t have the hustle and bustle of its younger cousin at Amphawa, it certainly makes up for it with its old time charm and friendly shopkeepers. If you want to experience an old Thai riverside market without the crowds of tourists then its worth spending an hour or so at Bang Nok Kwaek Market. Incidentally, the name comes from the Black-crowned Night Heron which is common along the river banks here.

I arrived at Bang Nok Kwaek in time for lunch. There was a decent variety of food worth trying out. There were crab noodles, khao haeng (rice soup without the soup) and pad thai kung maenam. It is the last one which I opted for and what you can see in this picture. I am sure many of you have had pad thai with fresh shrimp before, but this version has a large river shrimp. It tasted very good and cost 40 baht. My other snack was krathong tong which was equally delicious.

A visit to a riverside market wouldn’t be complete without a boat ride. That was why I was happy to spot this boat moored at one of the piers. I quickly finished my iced coffee and headed for the pier. Another surprise was a sign in Thai on the pier that said that the boat trips were free. I asked the boatmen about this later as we cruised along the Mae Klong river. He told me that the intention was to help promote the market but also the house of a local man who sells plants and herbal drinks. It was this house which was our destination. It was only a 30 minute trip but certainly worth doing.

You can reach Bang Nok Kwaek from Amphawa by travelling north on Highway 6006. You can also catch local transport from Samut Songkhram or from Amphawa. Just before the market on your left is the large white cathedral called The Church of the Virgin Mary. Here you go over a bridge and the market is then on your left. Interestingly, this canal is the Western end of Damnoen Saduak Canal which has a famous floating market at the other end. The market and river tours only operate at the weekends from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The following is a map showing the location of the market and other attractions nearby.
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Monks Doing Alms Round by Boat

For those of you who are finding that Amphawa Floating Market is becoming too crowded and touristy, then I recommend that you step back in time by staying overnight in one of the many homestays that can be found along Amphawa Canal. In the olden days, before roads and cars, these canals were the lifeline of the local villagers.

The first markets were floating markets as people came together on their boats to buy and sell. Other vendors would row up and down the canals selling direct to people in front of their houses. Monks would also leave their temples by boat and row along the canals on their early morning alms round. You don’t often get a chance to see this being practised these days so it is great that it has been revived at Amphawa.

The monks leave their temple before dawn. At the homestay where I spent the night, the owner came and knocked on my door at 6 a.m. to say that the monks would pass our pier soon. About three or four other people sat on the wide verandah waiting for the monks to come. We were lucky that our homestay was right on the water’s edge so the monks would pass right by us. The first monks came into view about ten minutes later.

The Thais at my homestay politely called out to the monk to come over so that they could make merit. Some of the monks had people rowing for them while others were alone. After the Buddhists had made merit, the monk gave them a short blessing. Even if you are not making merit yourself, it is a peaceful experience just to watch. Most people made merit with about three or four monks.

I stayed watching them for a while then went for a walk along the canal. Compared to the hustle and bustle of the previous night it was such a delight to stroll along the toll-path. It was virtually deserted. The only boats on the water belonged to the monks or vendors selling breakfast to the local people and the few tourists that stayed the night. The monks continued to row up and down the canal until about 7:15 a.m. I am really glad that I had got up early to experience this.

Cathedral in Samut Songkhram

One of the most beautiful Gothic cathedrals in Thailand is The Nativity of Our Lady Cathedral next to Bang Nok Kwaeng Riverside Market in Samut Songkhram. The cathedral has been a dominant feature of the river banks of the Maeklong River for over one hundred years. The walls are made of highly-heated clay brick coated with sugar cane molasses mixed into the lime. The colour of the exterior walls comes from a mixture containing charcoal powder.

In the year 1835, Bishop Courvesy was installed by the Holy Father in Rome as the first Bishop of Siam. He invited Friar Albrand from Singapore to help with the pastoral work at Rosary Church in Talad Noi in Bangkok. On his missionary journey, Friar Albrand passed through the Maeklong River valley. On reaching a village on the banks of Simuen Canal, he found eight Chinese Catholic families who had moved there from Rosary Church and had settled on this fertile land.

By the year 1847 there were about 200 Catholics and they built a wooden church with a thatched roof near the Raung Yao irrigation canal. In 1850, Friar Marin acquired a piece of good land near the Damnoen Saduak Canal which linked the Tajeen and Maeklong rivers. In 1890, Friar Paulo Salmon, whose statue you can see in the picture above, started the construction of the cathedral. It took six long years before they were finally able to celebrate the grand opening on 11th February 1896.

The stained glass windows were made by the Hector Co. from France. They depict stories from the Bible and of the Virgin Mary. During World War II, some parts of the church and the stained glass were damaged. The cathedral was renovated in 1994 just in time for its centenary celebrations. Today there are about 2,000 Catholics registered in the district though some of these have now moved away to work elsewhere.

You can reach the cathedral by heading north from Amphawa. Pass the Rama II Park and head towards Bang Nok Kwaeng [MAP]. The cathedral is open Wednesday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you find it locked then inquire at the nearby information center. Mass is celebrated Monday to Friday at 6:15 a.m., first Friday and Saturday of the month at 7:30 p.m. and on Sundays at 6:30 a.m. and 9 a.m.

Tha Kha Floating Market

The most popular floating market in Thailand for tourists is undoubtedly at Damnoen Saduak. However, if you want to avoid the bus loads of tourists on a very well worn trail then I suggest that you head out to Tha Kha Floating Market (ตลาดน้ำท่าคา). This market is a short distance away in Samut Songkhram Province [MAP]. I was using a homestay at Amphawa Floating Market as my base and it only took me about 15 minutes to drive here. It is a bit in the middle of no-where if you don’t have your own transport. But, I am told you can catch a songtaew here from the market in Samut Songkhram City.

The Tha Kha Floating Market is far more genuine than Damnoen Saduak. Just think the same but twenty years ago. It is the kind of place where the boat vendors were also selling to each other in addition to the small number of Thai tourists that turn up. For the entire time that I was there I only saw three foreign tourists and each of them had personal Thai guides. I seemed to be the only foreigner there without a guide. One thing that I don’t like about Damnoen Saduak are the rows of souvenir shops all selling the same tacky items. At Tha Kha it was mainly fruit and vegetables but also some OTOP products made by local people.

Like at Damnoen Saduak, you can also go on a boat tour of the local canals. If I remember right, at Damnoen Saduak this costs something like 400 baht if not more. However, here it costs only 20 baht each! Which is ridiculously cheap. When I first went to Damnoen Saduak most boats had people rowing, though these days they all seem to have noisy motors. At Tha Kha they will paddle you along the narrow canals in peace and quiet so that you can better appreciate your environment. I was taken to three locations. Two old houses that are more than 100 years old and also a sugar palm factory.

The market starts running at about 8 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. The earlier you go the better. As it is a traditional market, you will find that the main days are on the 2nd, 7th and 12th days of the waxing and waning moon. You will need a special lunar calendar to work this out. As they are trying to develop this market as a tourist destination, it is also now open at the weekends. While I was there they were constructing some wooden buildings on the opposite bank. I presume to add places for people to eat or maybe more shops. I suggest that you go here sooner rather than later before it becomes too commercialized.

The following is a map showing the location of the market and other attractions nearby.


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Ban Rak Amphawa Homestay

Ban Rak Amphawa Homestay – Amphawa Home of Love

Most people go to Amphawa Floating Market in Samut Songkhram as an easy day trip from Bangkok. It is only about 90 minutes away. I have done it several times myself. However, the popularity of homestays in recent years has seen a boom in business in this once sleepy town. Now it seems that almost every other house is offering homestay. As tourists we are really spoiled for choice. Or you would think so. Four days before my trip I called half a dozen different homestays only to be told that they were already full.

The majority of homestays have websites though most of these are in Thai language only. They are catering for the Thai market. Foreigners do go, but for them it is mainly walk-in. However, if you want the best rooms and locations, you need to book at least a week in advance. Sometimes two. The problem is that Amphawa is a weekend market so the majority of people come to stay only Friday or Saturday nights. If you are a tourist, who doesn’t need to work on Mondays, then arriving Sunday is your best bet.

Many of the homestays are quite expensive. Average prices are about 1,500 baht. The problem is the rooms are usually empty for the majority of the week and owners only make money at the weekend. I was lucky to be able to book the last room at Ban Rak Amphawa Homestay.The price wasn’t bad at 700 baht, however I didn’t have a private bathroom. On the plus side, I had a comfortable bed, air-conditioning and a television. The most expensive rooms were these two on the verandah by the river. These two are 1,400 baht each. As you can see, you only have a thin mattress on the floor. Other rooms with normal beds and bathrooms are 1,200 baht.

Ban Rak Amphawa is at the far eastern end of the market [MAP]. It is alongside the river which is important when looking for a good homestay. Although there isn’t a footpath along the river here, that was actually to our advantage as it gave us a little bit of privacy. Anyway, food vendors were going up and down the river all day and you just called out to one when you were hungry. The market itself is only a ten minute walk away. I had lunch here after I had arrived and had unpacked. And then I went to explore the market in the afternoon.

 

The owners of the homestay don’t really speak any English. So, you will need to get a friend to call them to book a room. You will then need to use an ATM to transfer about 500 baht as a deposit to their bank account. Keep the slip as you need to fax it to them. The homestay is down a very narrow Soi so you cannot park your car there. However, there was no problem in parking at Rong Jay (the Chinese Shrine) which is only a few minutes walk away. Another homestay here is called Ban Mae Arom Homestay [MAP]. The owner did say that she speaks English so you might find this one easier.

I enjoyed the peace and tranquillity at Ban Rak Amphawa. The owners were very kind and always did their best to please you. They have bicycles that you can use for free. Also, in the morning they will wake you up shortly after 6 a.m. if you want to make merit by giving alms to the monks. I only stayed here for one night but would have liked to have stayed longer. There is a lot to see in the area and I did enjoy the short bicycle trips that I went on around Amphawa. I also enjoyed walking through Amphawa Floating Market during the early morning when there were hardly any tourists. Most people don’t arrive until mid-afternoon.

This last photo shows Ban Rak Amphawa from the other side of the river. It was taken about an hour after the monks had finished their alms round. For more information you can visit their website www.baanrak-amphawa.com. The website for the homestay next door where they speak some English is www.banmaearom.com. I am going to be working on my own website as I think that you will find most sites about Amphawa are only in Thai. I would suggest that you bookmark www.AmphawaFloatingMarket.com as I will soon be updating it with new information and pictures from my recent trip there. I will also be working on a Map of

Return to Amphawa Floating Market

I first went to Amphawa Floating Market in Samut Songkhram exactly five years ago. I went there for the annual Rama II Fair. This year it takes place on the weekend of 5th-6th February 2011. I have been back to Amphawa a few times since. I really like the floating market as it seems very authentic compared to the tourist trap at the nearby Damnoern Saduak. I also enjoyed the boat tour of the local river and temples.

Five years ago I didn’t see any foreigners at all and there was hardly anything about it on the Internet. Certainly not in English. Also at that time there was nothing in the guidebooks. Things have of course changed since then. Judging by chatter on the Internet there will most likely be more foreigners today. I think one of the things that many people like about it is that it is a late afternoon market. So, no need to wake up early. It is also only a weekend market.

This weekend I am going to go again, but this time I will be spending the night at a homestay by the river. I’m really looking forward to that as I have heard a lot of good things. However, I am worried that it may have become over commercialised with every other home becoming a homestay. There is certainly a lot of demand. The first four homestays that I called on Wednesday were already fully booked. I will be blogging about my weekend when I get back, but you can follow me live on Twitter @RichardBarrow.

I will be collecting new content for my Amphawa Floating Market website and also for the Samut Songkhram Map.

Monkeys at Bangsaen

One of the nearest places to Bangkok to go and see monkeys in the wild is probably at Sam Muk Hill [MAP]. This is very near to Bangsaen Beach which is in Chonburi Province. It should take just over an hour to reach there from Bangkok. There are a number of attractions in this area which you will see from my map. One of the most popular stops here is to go and see the very naughty monkeys on this hill. There are also some good views of the sea from the top.

I say that they are naughty because you really have to be careful with your personal belongings. If you are carrying a bag, or even just wearing a cap, be careful as they might try and snatch your things. I started to take pictures of the monkeys with my iPhone then changed my mind. I was worried one of them might take a fancy to it. Near the top of the hill there is a car park, where there are some vendors selling food for the monkeys.

 

As well as naughty monkeys grabbing your belongings, you also need to be careful of stowaways on your car or pick-up truck. I stopped briefly at one point to take some pictures and then drove off. A few minutes later I heard something jumping around on my car roof. One of them had decided to come along for the ride. Although it might be fun to see wild monkeys, we do need to act responsibly and only feed them food which is appropriate for them. It is not a good idea to feed them candy or fizzy drinks.

Have you seen monkeys in the wild in Thailand? Can you recommend any places to see them which is within easy reach from Bangkok?

Ayothaya Floating Market

There are now two floating markets in the old city of Ayutthaya which make a nice change from just visiting old temple ruins all day. Now you can break up your time to make a more balanced day trip from Bangkok. Earlier I visited Ayutthaya Klong Sa Bua Floating Market which is to the north of the old city. The next one that I visited is to the East [MAP] and goes by a similar name, though they use different spelling. This one is Ayothaya Floating Market. It is conveniently next door to the Elephant Camp so you can do an elephant ride for 600 baht if you like before visiting the market.

The two floating markets in Ayutthaya are very different. This one is more traditional and what you would expect to see at a floating market. Like the Pattaya Floating Market, it is purpose built. It is free to enter and wander around. There are shops with handicraft and souvenirs. Nothing tacky like the ones you can find at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. If you want to eat then there are plenty of stalls selling delicious food. You can also take a boat ride around the canal for only 20 baht.

 

You can easily spend a couple of hours at this floating market. As well as shopping and eating, there are also regular shows during the day. These include boat parades as well as traditional dancing at various arenas around the market. We were there at the weekend and it was very crowded with coach tours and Thai tourists. If you want to escape the crowds then come during the week though the shows are not so regular. Parking is also a problem at the weekend.

If you are visiting Ayutthaya for the day from Bangkok then there is really only time to visit one of these floating markets, do an elephant ride and visit 3 or 4 temple ruins. If you want to visit both floating markets then I would suggest that you stay over night. I enjoyed myself at this market and would certainly bring friends here on my next trip. The market is open every day from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Weekday shows are 12 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. At the weekend it is 10:30 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Ayutthaya Klong Sa Bua Floating Market

I have been to Ayutthaya a number of times. Sometimes by myself and sometimes taking friends. Every time, I go to the same old places; temples, ruins and a museum. It is an historical city and very different to other holiday destinations such as Pattaya and Chiang Mai. It is only an hour or so away from Bangkok and so it is an easy day trip. You can go there by bus or train and once there you can rent a bicycle. I was back there at the weekend with a friend, but this time to see two new attractions.

The first attraction was Ayutthaya Klong Sa Bua Floating Market and Water Theater [MAP]. In Thai it is called ตลาดน้ำอยุธยาคลองสระบัว. This is found just north of the old city not too far from Wat Na Phra Men. It is not your traditional kind of floating market. The name is a bit misleading. It is more of a “Dinner Theatre” experience that you sometimes get in Bangkok. There are some food vendors on boats like you can see in this picture, but most have set up normal stalls.

Despite it being the weekend, there weren’t that many people here. When you arrive you have two choices. First choice is to buy a ticket just to watch the Water Theatre. Adults are 50 baht and children 30 baht. The second choice is Dinner Theatre and the buffet. Regular price is 199/119 Baht or 119/99 Baht if you turn up after 2:30 p.m. This is excellent value for money as you are allowed to eat all day. All prices are the same for Thais and foreigners.

In this picture you can see why they call it Water Theatre. It is basically a large pond surrounded on three sides by bamboo buildings on stilts. When you arrive, you are told where to sit depending on which ticket you bought. We decided not to go for the buffet meal as it was too early for lunch. But, we still had an opportunity to buy some of the Thai food on offer. We sat at tables and watched the show while we ate some snacks. The actors walk on pathways just below the surface making it look like they are walking on water. Signs by the edge warn you that the water is really 3 meters deep.

 

The floating market is only open at the weekend and on public holidays. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. There are five scheduled shows in one day. What I didn’t realize at first is that each show is different. The first one is at 11 a.m. and this is followed by four more shows at 12 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. So, if you like, you can stay all day to watch as many shows as you like. Not only that, they have a rotation of about a dozen different shows so if you come back again, the chances are high that you will see something new.

We enjoyed the two shows that we watched. We had about half an hour between them but we spent that time buying and eating some more snacks. I would have liked to stay for a third show but we had a few more stops to go on this trip. I think the floating market makes a nice break from the ancient ruins and I highly recommend for you to come here. Maybe it would work out well if you saw a few temples first thing in the morning and then come here for a buffet lunch and a couple of shows and then back to more temples and ruins in the afternoon.

A couple of things that I want to mention about this place is that firstly it is wheelchair friendly. Secondly, the staff seem to be very honest. As well as some snacks, I bought an ice coffee. A little while later, one of the staff came over and said that they had forgotten to give us a coupon for a free iced coffee. As I had bought one already she just gave me my 20 baht back. That honesty was unexpected. And it also made the Water Theatre even more good value as the show was then 30 baht as I got a free ice coffee.

Trip to the Beach in Bangkok

Boat Ride to the Seaside in Bangkok

People often ask where is the nearest beach to Bangkok. Usually I reply Bangsaen and Pattaya to the East or Cha-am and Hua Hin to the South. However, the answer is nearer than expected as Bangkok itself has its own coastline. Though, to be honest, it is only about 5 kilometers wide and it is mainly mangroves and shrimp farms. The Bangkok district of Bang Khun Thian is sandwiched between the provinces of Samut Sakhon and Samut Prakan. Linguists believe that it’s name “Thian” comes from a word meaning a wagon pulled by an oxen. Bang Khun Thian used to be a rich and fertile land with vegetable farms, rice fields and orchards. But a combination of being used as drainage for the city, pollution from new factories and land erosion along the coastline, the area today resembles more of a water world than the Garden of Bangkok.

Wat Hua Krabeu – Buffalo Head Temple

At the weekend I decided to go to Bang Khun Thian in order to try and find some new destinations for Bangkok day trips. My first stop was Wat Hua Krabeu which has become famous as the Buffalo Head Temple [MAP]. According to newspaper reports, it was the aim of the abbot to use these skulls to build a giant shrine. Although it is believed that he has now amassed 8,000 skulls, this isn’t apparently enough to start building. I also remember this temple from another newspaper story about the abbot’s large collection of luxurious cars. The Buddhist Council didn’t take kindly to monks keeping a collection of Mercedes Benz cars. He argued that they were being used for novice monks to learn a skill while they stayed temporarily at the temple. The matter was later dropped. However, judging by the poor condition they are now in, there is no-one to look after the classic cars. The temple was quiet the day that I went there, but I was told that there is a small floating market on Sundays and it is possible to rent boats to explore the nearby canals.

 

Shrine for Prince Chumphon – Father of the Thai Navy

From this temple I drove back out to the main road that runs between Rama II Road and the coast. A short distance south I spotted something strange that looked like a large ship with what looked like a temple on top of it. I decided to stop to take a closer look. It turned out to be a shrine for Prince Chumphon who is regarded as the Father of the Thai Navy [MAP]. The shrine is in the shape of a warship. It is based on the ship Phra Ruang which is now berthed as a permanent memorial at Sairee Beach in Chumphon Province. The replica is 79 meters long and 19 meters wide. On the deck is a replica of a building in Prince Chumphon’s palace. Here there is a museum showing pictures of his life and on the floor above there is a shrine which has a statue of Prince Chumphon and a copy of his naval uniform. I have seen his statue in many coastal areas as I believe it is good luck for fisherman and any seafarers to prayer in front of his statue before going out to sea.

Bang Khun Thian Museum

From the shrine I continued driving south down the main road. I must say they have done a good job of beautifying this road. There is even a dedicated bicycle lane for much of the way with some special bridges too to take cyclists over the canals. At the end of the road I turned right at the intersection and a short distanced later I pulled over to visit the Bang Khun Thian Local Museum [MAP]. This is in the grounds of Klong Phitthayalongkorn School. It is open daily from 8.30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. but is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. It is located in two old classrooms towards the back of the school but it will be moved to a new building next to the road soon. The museum was actually a lot better than expected. It details the history of the local community as well as showcasing its unique culture. The labels are all bilingual though the English font was a little small. There is a lot to learn here and it is popular with visiting school parties.

Bike Ride to the Seaside in Bangkok

While I was looking around the museum, one of the office staff suggested that I rent a bicycle in order to explore the nearby shrimp farms and mangrove forests. This sounded like a great idea. It only cost 20 baht for the day though I did have difficulty finding one big enough for me. They obviously don’t get many foreigners here. The Bicycle Trip [MAP] starts at a small soi on the other side of the road from the school. There is a mini mart here and it is advisable to buy some water first. The path is easy though it sometimes goes over steep bridges that cross canals. Along the way you will pass many shrimp farms before going through a stretch of mangrove forest. After about 45 minutes I came out onto a wooden pier that stretched out into the Gulf of Thailand. There was a wonderful sea breeze here and was really great to have the place to myself even though it was a weekend. There are a couple of shelters here if you want to stop to have a picnic. Some concrete structures in the water reminded me that this area used to be dry land and in the past there were houses and roads here.

Bangkok Seaview Restaurant

A short distance from the school, and back towards the intersection, you will find the Bangkok Seaview Restaurant [MAP]. Though, to be precise, this is the car park and the actual restaurant is some distance away! This district doesn’t have that many roads and most people get around on boats. If they don’t have their own then they will take a taxi boat. From this car park you can take a shuttle boat to the restaurant which is at a location surrounded by the sea [MAP]. You can’t get a better view and sea breeze than that. The return boat ride costs 50 baht and lasts about 15 minutes. They run every day apart from Mondays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. You are not obliged to eat anything and can walk around enjoying the sea breeze until the boat returns 30 minutes later. If you decide to eat there is no rush as there are regular boats. Looking out to sea you should spot the demarcation marker for the boundary between Samut Prakan and Bangkok. Another reminder that this used to be on land. You won’t find much English spoken here and the menus are only in Thai. But, a nice spot to enjoy a meal.

 

Eat a meal in a restaurant on stilts

Access from Bangkok is via the Rama II Road. There are a number of buses running along this road heading towards Samut Sakhon and beyond. Get off at the first intersection after Big C on your left. From here there are blue songtaews that go up and down the road to the coast. I also saw some empty taxis here but best to arrange your own transport. From Samut Prakan the main road along the coast isn’t finished yet but they have finished the stretch to Samut Sakhon. From Bangkok it is an excellent day out if you like doing boat rides and eating seafood. I last came here five years ago and so was happy to come exploring here again at the weekend. I will certainly be going back again soon to find new attractions in this area. You can follow me live on Twitter @RichardBarrow. The archives for these blogs can be found at the Bangkok Day Trips website. Also check out the Map for Bangkok Day Trips. I go on trips in Thailand most weeks, so do come back for new updates.

Bangkok Day Trips: Temple in the Sea

My Bangkok Day Trip for this week is two locations in Samut Prakan Province. Although you can still see the skyscrapers in Bangkok from these places, it is very unlikely that you will meet any other foreigner on this trip. However, be prepared to go off the beaten track a bit to an area where there are no roads or public transport. The day trip today is to Phra Chulalchomklao Fortress which protects the approach to the Chao Phraya River and Bangkok further upriver. The next stop is a temple which is surrounded by the sea at high tide due to land erosion. Click here for my map of the area.

It is possible to go to Phra Chulachomklao Fortress by public transport but the service is not very regular. From Phra Samut Chedi, there is a large songtaew and a bus that go to the fort. Obviously if you are driving it is much easier. I have marked the location on the map. Just follow the road to the end. The fort is on navy property so you will have to show some sort of identification at the checkpoint. But, it is free to enter the fort. There is a restaurant here as well alongside the river so you could easily spend 2-3 hours exploring the fort.

The main attraction here are the seven Armstrong guns which are still in good working order. The fortress was built in the 1890′s and the guns were fired only once in anger against the French in 1893. In addition to the guns, there is also a Navy ship that you are allowed to explore. From the bridge there are some fine views of the river and the Gulf of Thailand. If you are interested in nature then it is worthwhile to also explore the mangrove forest as there is an extensive boardwalk built above it. Near the car park with the vendors and in the mangroves you will probably see some monkeys that swim in the water hunting for food.

If you came by your own transport, then you need to drive back up Suksawat Road looking for a turning to Sakhla on your left. Alternatively, take a songtaew that is heading back to Phra Samut Chedi and nearly halfway get off at the turn-off for Sakhla. Wait for another songtaew going down this road. Halfway to Sakhla, you will see an archway across the road in the middle of no-where. A short distance later there is a bridge over a small river. Get off there and you will see on your right a pier where you can rent a boat. Tell them you want to go to Wat Khun Samut. The taxi boat will take about 10-15 minutes. Make sure that you get his number as you will need to ring him to pick you up!

I know this is a bit challenging but it is really worthwhile. You are now literally in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by shrimp farms. No roads at all. Walk south for about 30 minutes and you will reach a concrete walkway that will take you out into the sea. I have been here many times and I really love the place. The village chief also has homestay which is worth considering. We go here every year to volunteer teach in the local school. Many of the local people have moved their houses inland three or four times because of land erosion. The temple is the only building that is still standing. Out to sea you can spot the concrete water tanks at low tide and also the electricity poles that used to follow along the main road in town. Visit our website www.KhunSamut.com for more information and also our site for Samut Prakan at www.Paknam.com.

I hope you enjoyed this Bangkok Day Trip. I am out every weekend looking for new attractions. You can follow me live on Twitter @RichardBarrow where I post pictures as I travel. Also check out my moblog at www.MyThailandBlog.com which I post from my iPhone as I travel. You will find news and links about my next trip on my website at www.RichardBarrow.com

Bangkok Day Trips: Swimming Monkeys

My Bangkok Day Trip for this week is to Samut Songkram Province. With the completion of the Kanchanaphisek Outer Ring Road it is now much quicker to travel to this province from different locations around Bangkok. From Samut Prakan it took us only an hour to reach this seaside province. The most famous destination here is Amphawa Floating Market which I will talk about another time. The day trip today is to see the swimming monkeys in Khlong Khon district and the market on the railway in the city itself. If you have time, you could also have a meal by the sea at Don Hoi Lot. Click here for my map of the area.

It is a little challenging to reach this first destination but the rewards are worth it. If you are driving from Bangkok you need to take the Rama II Road (Highway 35) to Samut Songkram. Once you reach the turn-off for the city, keep driving for another 8 kms until you see a PTT petrol station on your left. The road to Khlong Khon is right after this. There is a bilingual sign. There are quite a few signs for homestays in this area and many offer boat trips out to see the fishermen at work and of course the swimming monkeys. On our second trip we rented a boat from a pier near Wat Khlong Khon which worked out cheaper than the resort. We gave him 500 baht for the one hour trip. While we were there we spotted some songtaews that were coming from Samut Songkhram city so it would be possible to come here even if you don’t have a car.

The first time I came here I didn’t bring any bananas. So, we didn’t have much of an interaction with the monkeys. This time I brought some from home but you could also buy at the market in Samut Songkram. The boat man took us to several places where we were able to see the monkeys. They were hidden in the mangroves at first but as we came closer they came out to see if we had any food. Some even started to swim out to the boat. They weren’t really that aggressive with us but some monkeys were much greedier than others. It was a great experience and fun for all of us. I am sure I will go again. Make sure you take a hat and sunscreen as it can get quite hot.

From Khlong Khon we drove back to Samut Songkram and parked the car near the train station. The main attraction here is the market that is on the train tracks. There is hardly room for us to walk down the tracks but somehow a train passes through here eight times a day. We checked the timetable at the train station and saw that we had about 45 minutes before the next train arrived. So, we walked around and had something to eat. For the record, the train leaves the station at 6.20 a.m., 9 a.m., 11.30 a.m. and 3.30 p.m. The trains arrive at the station at 8.30 a.m., 11.10 a.m., 2.30 p.m. and 5.40 p.m. Of course, these times are subject to change.

The first time I saw this market was some years ago when I arrived from Bangkok on the train. This a good day trip in itself. You could then catch a songtaew out to see the monkeys in Khlong Khon. A small tip if you are on the train. You won’t get a good view from the front of the train. By the time you arrive, all the market stalls have already been pulled back from the tracks. Better to be at the back of the train and watch them as they push everything back. Better still, the best views of the action are from the tracks. If you are feeling up to it, and if you are here at the weekend, you could also drive out to Amphawa Floating Market. They also have public transport going this way.

I hope you enjoyed this Bangkok Day Trip. I am out every weekend looking for new attractions. You can follow me live on Twitter @RichardBarrow where I post pictures as I travel. Also check out my moblog at www.MyThailandBlog.com which I post from my iPhone as I travel. You will find news and links about my next trip on my website at www.RichardBarrow.com

Bangsaen Beach and Monkey Hill

My Bangkok Day Trip for this week is to Bangsaen Beach in Chonburi Province. This is the closest seaside resort to Bangkok which has sand and water clean enough for you to swim. Chonburi City is just over 60 minutes from Bangkok and you can get there by using the Bang Na-Trad Highway. Most people by-pass the city on their way to Pattaya. But, they are missing out on some good tourist attractions which are worth at least a day if not longer. There are buses from Bangkok to Chonburi and the nearby Bangsaen beach. There are also songtaews running up and down the beach front. However, to explore the area properly, it is better to have your own transport. You will find motels, hotels and guesthouses along the beach. If you are able, best to visit during the week when it is less crowded.

The first stop on my tour is the fishing village of Ang Sila. This is about five kilometers to the south of Chonburi city. Apart from fishing, the main occupation of the local people is making things out of granite. The most famous examples are a mortar and pestle which you can find in various sizes. There are also figurines of different animals. You will find many stalls along the road in front of Wat Ang Sila, so make sure that you shop around to get a good price. Further along this road you will reach the fishing pier which has a fish market. There are plenty of stalls selling snacks here such as dried squid. Not too far away from here is the The Mangrove Forest Conservation Center. It isn’t that easy to find but is a good place to see the mangroves up close as you walk along the 2.3 km board walk. If you are with young children you might want to skip this as it is a hot and tiring walk in the sun with not much shade.

On the road between Ang Sila and Khao Sam Muk you will pass the colourful Chinese temple called Wihan Thep Sathit Phra Kiti Chaloem. The four storey high building is beautifully decorated with many figurines and Chinese deities. You are allowed to take pictures in the compound but no photos are allowed to be taken inside. However, it is worth climbing to the top for the wonderful views of the bay. In the distance you can see the hill called Khao Sam Muk. The Chinese shrine is open daily. On weekdays it is open 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. At the weekend it is open a bit later until 6 p.m. on Saturdays and 8 p.m. on Sundays. As you are passing this way on your way to the next destination it is definitely worth your time to visit the shrine even if you are not Chinese. It is certainly very beautiful.

Continue driving south with the sea to your right. There are plenty of restaurants along this route which sell delicious seafood. If you are hungry then stop at any place. Personally I prefer to wait for lunch at Bangsaen Beach. The next stop is Khao Sam Muk. The main attraction at this small hill are the hundreds of monkeys that are really naughty. Be careful if you have a bag as they will most likely snatch it from you thinking there is food inside. I stopped briefly to take some pictures of some monkeys and as I drove on further up the road I suddenly realized I had some stowaways on the roof of my car. At the top of the hill there is a great lookout place and a small car park where there are some vendors selling food for the monkeys. At the foot of the hill, there is a Chinese shrine for two lovers who apparently jumped to their death when their parents objected to their marriage.

Continue driving south following the coastline and you will reach the cape at Laem Thaen. This area has been developed by the local authority as a place to come and relax. They have also set up a “walking street” here. This is the point where the beach becomes sandy for the first time though at the cape it is mainly rocky. From this point onwards there is an umbrella city with deckchairs. This end is quieter if you want to sit and eat your lunch in the shade. However, if you have come with children then best to keep driving until you reach Bangsaen Beach. On your left you will see plenty of places to stay the night. On the beach the kids can rent inner tubes for swimming and also go on a banana boat ride. You won’t find many Europeans here as it is mainly a beach resort for Thai people. If you go swimming here then please don’t walk around in speedos! Thai people swim in their clothes and most are shocked by how little Europeans wear in the local shops.

Once you have finished at the beach, you might want to check out Wang Saen Suk which has models showing what will happen to you in hell if you have been naughty. Little kids might be scared of some scenes but you might want to take this opportunity to show your children what will happen if they lie to you! You can reach the temple by going down Sai 2 which runs parallel to the beach road. Then look for Soi 19 on your left. The temple is at the end of the road. The Buddha Park is open every day from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Before you head back to Bangkok, you should stop at Nong Mon Market to buy some souvenirs. For Thai people, a souvenir usually means something that you can eat. The market along Sukhumwit Road has a lot of well-known local food and various dried seafood. To reach the market, drive out to Sukhumwit Road and turn right heading away from Bangkok. A short distance away, you will see many market stalls along the road on your right.

Siamese Fighting Fish Gallery

One of the latest museums to open in Thailand is the Siamese Fighting Fish Gallery in Bangkachao in Samut Prakan. It is in an area which is commonly called the “lungs of Bangkok” as it is covered in lush green foliage and is only a stone’s throw away from the busy streets of Bangkok. For Bangkokians who want to escape the pollution during the weekend, they can just catch a ferry boat from Khlong Toei Pier to the other side. These small boats run every 15 minutes and cost only 5 baht. Here you can rent a bicycle for only 100 baht for the day in order to explore what Time Magazine once called, the best “urban oasis” in Asia.

To start your tour of Bangkachao, you should visit the newly opened Siamese Fighting Fish Gallery. The museum is open every day, apart from Wednesdays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. At present it is free of charge though this may change in the future. From the pier, you need to ride your bicycle or walk about 490 meters down the small lane to the first intersection. On your left you will see a sign advertising the museum. Walk down here for 70 meters and you will see the front entrance on your left. There are also motorcycle taxis at the pier and they will probably take you there for only 10 baht.

Siamese Fighting Fish Gallery is set in some of the most beautiful surroundings I have seen for a while. The buildings use traditional Thai architecture and if you are not in a rush to go elsewhere, then you should take your time and relax in the gardens while taking some refreshments from the snack bar. The museum was the idea of Peerapong Thanompongphan, a retired politician. He wanted to preserve the unique culture of the Siamese Sighting Fish which have been around for hundreds of years. In his opinion, the fish should be much a part of Thai culture as “tom yum kung” or “Thai silk”.

The Siamese Fighting Fish are better known around the world as “betta”. These days they are mainly found in aquariums but in the past, they were native to the paddy fields of Thailand and Cambodia. They are known for their bright colours, though really, they are only like this when they become agitated. These days, breeders have managed to produce fighter fish that are colourful all the time. The fish are carnivorous and often go to the surface to receive oxygen unlike other fish. That is why they can live in tall jar like containers with no pumps.

When you first visit the center, you should go up to the second floor to watch an educational video which explains more about the history of the fighting fish. Then afterwards, you can go downstairs to see the fish which are on the ground floor of three of the buildings. It was good to see that there were plenty of bilingual information boards here. You will soon learn why most of the males have to be kept apart in separate jars. In addition to the aquariums, there is an outdoor exhibition area along one side of the property. As you walk along the path you can learn all about the history of Samut Prakan and the local area in Phra Pradaeng.

Once you have finished here, you could get back on your bicycle and explore Bangkachao a bit more.There are plenty of elevated concrete walkways so you can easily stay off the roads. If you are here at the weekend then you could also go and explore the Bang Nampheung Floating Market. If you want to go by motorcycle taxi to the floating market, then this will cost about 30 baht from the pier. I wish to thank Marcel for inviting me to visit the fighting fish museum and for showing me around. If you are ever in the area then I would strongly recommend that you drop by here.