Tag Archives: Bangkok

Siam Park City

There are a number of amusement parks around Bangkok that are ideal for families of all ages. These include Safari World and Dream World which I have recently visited. Another large amusement park that I went to this week is Siam Park City (Suan Siam in Thai), a short distance north-east of Bangkok. It is very similar to Dream World with its rollercoasters and other rides. However, a large part of the 120 acre park is taken up with a water park. I went there with young Nong Grace to do a site inspection. I haven’t been here for about ten years and I must say that I was impressed with the large variety of things to do to keep everyone amused for the whole day.

We arrived at the park shortly before 10 a.m. when it was just opening its doors for the day. If you go at the weekend then it will open earlier at 9 a.m. The entrance to the park is through a large recreation of a Disney-like castle. At the ticket office they give you a bilingual map of the park where you have to make a decision of where to go first. Even if you stay all day until the park closes at 6 p.m. you will probably find it difficult to experience everything. However, as many of the rides weren’t open when we arrived, we decided to catch a ride on a golf cart for 10 baht each to the large water park on the other side of the park.

There is no doubt that for many families, that the water park is the highlight of any day at Siam Park City. In fact, you can easily laze around here all day. You don’t even need to feel pressurized to get your money’s worth by playing the other rides. This is because you can buy an admission ticket that includes only the water park. This is 200 baht for adults and 100 baht for children. When we arrived we weren’t planning on doing any swimming. However, when Nong Grace saw how much fun people were having splashing in the water we had to go to the shop to buy her some swimming gear. Apparently you can also rent. There are a number of different areas to the water park. Some were ideal for younger children who cannot swim as the water wasn’t that deep. However, it is advisable to keep an eye on young children as there are some rock pools and they could slip and hurt themselves if they get too excited.

The water park has three main features. First is the action river which flows around the park like a real river. Nearby is a giant waterslide with several levels depending on how brave you are feeling. The largest area is taken up by the artificial sea which even has waves. One area has shallow water with water fountains and waterfalls for the youngsters to play. The artificial sea section starts shallow but gets deep quite quickly by several meters. This area isn’t safe for young children to play alone. There were quite a few lifeguards on duty and one kept calling out in Thai to young kids who tried to play there alone. If your children are competent swimmers then you shouldn’t have too much to worry about. But, I fretted a little with Nong Grace as she is only five years old. She kept running off. There is actually a fourth feature which is the 3-storey high spiral slide. However, this was still closed after an accident earlier this year when 28 children were hurt, four of them badly, when a section of the slide broke and they fell two metres to the ground.

We spent nearly three hours at the water park. There were plenty of places to eat and buy food. You can even rent a deckchair for the day for only 10 baht. I think it is nice to come here for the day just for the swimming. However, there is also the theme park and amusement rides. If you bought an entrance ticket for the water park then you can pay as you go with each ride. The prices for these ranges from 30 baht for a boat ride for kids up to a whopping 300 baht for the Vortex rollercoaster where you are hanging beneath the tracks. The boomerang rollercoaster is 150 baht and Giant Drop is 120 baht. These are all new rides from 2007 and weren’t here during my last visit. If you are planning on doing a lot of rides you can buy a Silver or Gold combo ticket for 350 baht and 500 baht respectively. These give you discounts on many of the rides. However, the best value ticket is the Day Pass for 600 baht which gives you access to the Water Park and unlimited rides at all attractions. If you want to play everything then you should go for this one. However, if you are planning on coming more often then you should consider a Year Pass which is only 1,000 baht which gives you unlimited access for the whole year.

A new section that has just been opened this month is Africa Adventure. Nong Grace was really excited to go and see this one as she liked the drawings on the map. However, once on the boat ride, she kept saying, “They are not real”. But, she still enjoyed the boat ride through the jungles of Africa. The highlight was the waterfalls with the hippos and elephants. The most puzzling section was the African village where a white man was being burned alive over a fire. I am not sure what the story there was. At the end of the boat ride, we then switched to the train which took us around the jungle again. However, this time we had an unobstructed view of everything which made it easier to take pictures. The problem of the boat is that it has a low canopy and it was difficult to see anything high up. From my side of the boat I only saw the feet of elephants.

Near Africa Adventure there is a large building called Dinotopia. This is a kind of a dinosaur museum but it was a bit poorly maintained and really not worth a visit. We also felt let down by the Jurassic Adventure. Here we took a jeep ride through a park much like the movie of the same name. However, the dinosaurs were a bit pathetic. There was a commentary but only in Thai. The nearby Big Double Shock is a bit like a Ghost House. But, as Nong Grace was scared stiff of the one at Dream World we didn’t go in this one. However, she enjoyed the rides for kiddies in Small World. The park has two rollercoasters, a Viking Ship, a swinging Flying Carpet and 75 meter Giant Drop. We didn’t go on any of those but we did go up the 109 meter high Siam Tower which gave us some grand views of the park and surrounding countryside. We could also see a new area of the park which apparently will open in 2009. Grace also enjoyed the two-storey high Merry-go-round and feeding the fish on the lake.

We finally left the park six hours after first arriving. I think she wanted to stay longer but I was exhausted. We did have a great day and I am sure we will return again next year. Nong Grace certainly wants to play in the water park again. You can go to the park by public transport such as Buses no. 60, 71, 96, 115, Air-conditioned buses no. 168, 519, and Micro Buses no. 8, 17. We drove there easily via the outer-ring road and turned off for Serithai Road and headed towards Minburi. The signs were easy to follow for the park. From the new airport, I reckon it is only 30 minutes or less. So, if you have a day to waste then you might consider going to Siam Park City for a swim while you are waiting for your flight. Just take a taxi to the park. It is easy to find one to take you back.

We wish to thank the management of Siam Park City for sponsoring our visit for the day at the park. If anyone reading this runs a tourist attraction or a tour in Thailand and would like to invite us on a site inspection, then please contact us through www.PaknamWeb.com.

Safari World

One of the largest theme parks in Thailand is Safari World, on the northern outskirts of Bangkok. According to their brochure it is “Thailand’s greatest and most popular open zoo and show park”. They also claim to have “world class shows” and an “oasis for animals” which is probably going a bit too far. It is certainly a great day out for the family and that is where I took Nong Grace yesterday as her school has now broken up for the summer holidays. As she is only four years old I didn’t think she would survive the entire day. However I think I collapsed from exhaustion long before her. But, then she spent most of the day being pushed around in a stroller.

Safari World is split into two sections. Namely Safari Park and Marine Park. You don’t actually have to visit both as there are separate tickets for each. However, a combined ticket costs 700 baht for foreign adults with another 200 baht for the boat ride which we didn’t do. For an average sized family, that works out to be an expensive day out. We decided to first visit Safari Park which was probably the highlight. This is an open park area with hundreds of wild animals roaming around. If you don’t have your own car like us then you can join coach tours. However, having your own transport means that you can take your time and stop anywhere to take pictures. You can also wind down your windows to get better pictures.

Nong Grace loved this area. It was a great opportunity to get up close to some of the animals. Though, after an incident with a group of ostriches that tried to eat the car she was a bit nervous about winding down the window. But, she enjoyed taking pictures of animals such as Zebras, camels, storks, rhino, giraffes, deer and bears. We then passed through double gates to the area where the tigers and lions lived. However, as it was quite hot they were lazing away in the shade of a distant tree so we couldn’t get really close. These are mainly nocturnal animals so you would have to visit a night safari to see more action.

We then drove back to the main entrance where we parked the car and walked into the Marine Park. Here you can rent dolphin shaped strollers for young kids that cost 120 baht for four hours. This is when we realized that we had made a mistake by doing the Safari Park first as we had already missed the Orangutan Show that had started at 10.20 a.m. We were also late for the sea lion show which had started at 11 a.m. and was about to finish. I asked when the next show would be and they surprisingly said that there was only one showtime per day! For the bigger shows I could understand this, but surely for the smaller ones they could repeat throughout the day like at other parks. We next had the option of the Bird Show or the Cowboy Stunt Show that both started at 11.40 a.m. We opted for the bird show. To be honest I wasn’t that impressed and I think the show I saw at Jurong Bird Park in Singapore was far superior. This was mainly in Thai, though a few times they spoke some pretty bad English in order to get some foreigners to hold up a 500 baht note for the bird to fly to and bring back to the show’s host. Nong Grace enjoyed it though I was a little bored. When we finished she said she wanted to see the cowyboys but I had to tell her it was too late.

We next strolled around the park to visit some of the attractions while we waited for the Dolphin Show to start at 1.30 p.m. One of the first we visited was a new attraction called Mini World with many birds. The budgerigars here were very friendly. If you buy an exorbitant priced envelope of bird seed for 20 baht you could then easily attract the birds to your outstretched hand. You will soon find half a dozen birds on your hands, arms and shoulders. Nong Grace was a bit scared of this but she enjoyed the little birds. when we later went into the bird aviary the birds there were much larger and when they came swooping down at us it felt like we were on the set of Hitchcock’s horror movie The birds. Take a look at the bird in the top left picture for an idea how scary this was. For obvious reasons we fled this deserted aviary as we feared for our lives. Though I am sure it wasn’t really that dangerous. From here we went to see more animals such as monkeys, kangaroos, crocodiles and giant fish. Here we could buy food to feed the fish. Nong Grace enjoyed that though I wasn’t happy the price was double compared to other parks.

Nong Grace was excited when she saw a poster advertising polar bears. But then she said, “polar bears like cold”. Maybe someone should have told the park management that as the bears didn’t look that happy. They had set up a fine mist to spray on them but it was doubtful it was having much effect. It is good that Thai children can get to see animals from around the world in real life, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the animal’s health. Our next stop was the Safari Terrace which I think was my highlight. Here we went up a ramp which brought us to the same height as the giraffe’s in the neighbouring Safari Park which we had toured earlier. For 40 baht, you can buy a small bucket of leaves to feed the giraffes. Luckily, Nong Grace didn’t want to feed them, as this was quickly turning into an expensive day. We had just bought a bottle of water that was 100% more expensive than the regular price. So, we just sat there and watched a group of school children feed the giraffes. Nong Grace said she had never seen tongues so long.

Our next destination was the Beluga and Dolphin Show which started at 1.30 p.m. This was going to be the highlight for Nong Grace as she had never seen a dolphin before and was really excited to get a chance to see them jumping in and out of the water. The day before I had shown her a brochure for the park that showed the dolphins jumping through hoops, shaking “hands” with the trainers, and jumping up to hit a ball with their nose. Unfortunately, apart from swimming around the pool a few times we didn’t get to see much action. The dolphins refused to cooperate and several times the trainers had to dive into the pool to retrieve the hoops and then the balls. It looked like this was then cut short and they brought in the next act which were the more cooperative beluga. These are small white whales. I am not sure how often this happens, but I must say the place is looking very rundown. The backdrop desperately needed a paint job. It is nice they have been adding new attractions, but they should spend time renovating some of the older and more established shows.

Our next show was Spy War which started at 2.30 p.m. Like all the shows, everything was in Thai. Which of course is strange as the foreigners are paying a lot extra. You would think they would cater for this market if that is where most of their money is coming from. However, as it was an action show based on James Bond it didn’t really matter too much about the plot line. It was pretty thin anyway. Nong Grace sort of enjoyed it though she spent most of the time with her hands over her ears. The last show at 3.30 p.m. was more enjoyable for her. It was the elephant show. They did the usual stunts such as tightrope walking and playing football. She did like it but by this time she was starting to get a bit tired. I think Safari World is a good day out for the family if you are not too concerned about the costs. For me it was an expensive day out and we certainly won’t be coming back in a rush even though Nong Grace said she wanted to come again. The shows certainly weren’t world class and I don’t think we got good value for money. Not only is the entrance fee expensive, but they take every opportunity to take more money from you. Like the 200 baht for the boat ride and the photo opportunities with the animals. I believe Singapore is cheaper as they don’t have the two price system for foreigners.

From Bangkok you can join tours to Safari World. There are no direct buses, but you could try and catch a bus first to nearby Fashion Island shopping mall and from there maybe a taxi. From Samut Prakan, I drove on the outer ring road to Ram Intra Road and in total took me less than one hour. With the bad traffic in central Bangkok, it could take you much longer than that by bus. It is basically a full day of your holiday so you will have to decide whether it is worth it. My sister is coming to Thailand in July with her family and I doubt she will take them there. With four of them we will be looking for places with better value for money. I will talk about the planning for this trip later.

Bangkok Canal Trip

A great way to explore the old Bangkok is to take a canal tour. In the past, Bangkok was known as the “Venice of the East” as there were so many canals. People used to live on floating rafts and they got around town by boat. Over the years, many of these canals were filled in to make way for new roads. Fortunately, many of these old canals still remain on the Thonbui side of the Chao Phraya River. A boat tour here is an excellent way to see close up how Thai people used to live along the canals. Even today, many of these residents are visited by postmen who come by boat. Even the monks have to do alms rounds by boat. Every now and then you can also see boat vendors selling not only food but essentials for householders. I have rented longtailed boats several times at the Tha Chang pier near the Grand Palace. They usually ask for 1,000 baht per boat though if you try hard you can knock the price down. While on these personal boat trips, I had often seen boats tours with Thai people. As that seemed like a cheaper way to explore the canals I set off last weekend to find where I could join a Thai tour.

Last weekend I was at Taling Chan Floating Market . From the pier under the railway bridge you can join a boat tour at the weekend of the local canals. The price for this has just gone up to 90 baht for adults and 50 baht for children. This includes free water and a fan to keep yourself cool. Though I used it more to shade my face from the sun like all the other Thai people. Although the price is obviously good for foreign tourists, (there is no two price system and no need to haggle over the price), there are of course disadvantages. The tour guide only speaks Thai and there is very little leg room. When I first got into the boat I was hoping that it wouldn’t fill up. I made sure I sat behind a seat where the back could be removed to make more room for this long-legged foreigners. That is what they do for tours for farang. They use the same boat but every other seat has the back removed. Unfortunately, the boat was packed to capacity so I was a little uncomfortable to say the least. But we had several stops on this two hour tour so I was at least able to stretch my legs.

My tour left at 9.45 a.m. They run all day but it is best to go as early as you can as it can get quite hot in the middle of the river. Fortunately, whizzing along on a boat provides you with some natural air-conditioning. A tip for photographers. If you sit in the middle and towards the front of the long-tailed boat you will find that you don’t have a clear due to the spray from the river. Sitting at the back gives you a clearer view though you are closer to the noisy engine! We started on the busy Chak Phra Canal where we passed many other boats with foreigners riding in pairs. But, we soon found ourselves on smaller canals and away from the crowds. Our first stop was at an indistinct temple. To be honest, as it wasn’t really an impressive looking temple I got the feeling that this was more of a commercial break as we were urged to make merit by donating money to the temple. It was a shame as we passed some really fascinating looking temples. Some were very old. We also passed Wat Paknam which is a famous temple that I haven’t had the chance to visit yet.

The highlight of the tour was undoubtedly the orchards where we stopped to wander around to look at the orchids. So many different species and so many different colours. I was tempted to buy some for my house as the prices were good, but the trouble would have been too great. But, other people bought some orchids. The canals in this area are much narrower and there was only just enough room for two boats to pass. It was a truly unique experience to see up close how people lived alongside the canal. We even passed another floating market and I made a quick note of the name of the temple so that I could come back and visit in my car. On the way back, we paused outside one temple where they had a fish sanctuary. We were encouraged to buy bread to feed the fish. As you can see from the top picture, the fish were desperate to eat. a word of warning, don’t throw the bread too near the boat as you will get splashed by the frantic fish for sure.

I did enjoy my boat trip though I don’t think I will do it again due to the cramped conditions. I am sure there are other local boat tours around here and I will continue looking for better ones. You can get to Taling Chan Floating Market by bus 79. I believe the sky train is being extended this direction which will then make it easier for you.

Taling Chan Floating Market

In the olden days, people in Thailand didn’t go to markets like we do today. The markets came to them. This is because most people either lived on canals or along the banks. The canals were the road system of the past and anything you needed would pass your front door. In addition, there were sometimes gatherings of vendors on boats which is their version of our land based markets. Today, floating markets are few and far between. Probably the most picturesque, at Damnoern Saduak, is now almost exclusively run for foreign tourists. Recently I have been visiting some alternative floating markets. On Sunday I went to Taling Chan Floating Market on the Chak Phra Canal on the Thonburi side of Bangkok. I have passed here before several times when I rented a long-tailed boat to tour the Thonburi canals.

If you go to Taling Chan Floating Market and expect to see hundreds of vendors on boats selling fruit and delicious things to eat then you will be disappointed. Damnoern Saduak is like a floating market on steroids so everything else, including the genuine article, will be a disappointment. However, Taling Chan does have its charm and it also has the advantage that it is open all day, though only at the weekends. I arrived there before 9 a.m. which is a good idea if you are coming by car. They have limited parking space. It also helps to beat the heat of the day. The road leading to the canal is lined with market vendors selling plants as well as a large variety of freshly cooked food and sweets.

The main attraction of the market seems to be the floating restaurants on the canal. Moored alongside the platform were a number of boats where vendors were cooking up a variety of mouth watering dishes. The floating restaurant has groups of low tables and you sit on the floor to eat. The food is cooked for you on the smaller boats. There are also traditional tables and chairs if you have long legs like myself. The size of the market isn’t that large. It is nothing compared to Don Wai Market which I visited the other week. There were also more foreign tourists at this one. Though most of them turned out to be on a boat tour of the Thonburi canals and this was one stop for them.

Although I enjoyed wandering around and sampling the food on offer, I don’t think it is worth a special trip to come all the way out here just to visit this floating market. Maybe do a brief stop here when you rent a boat on the Bangkok side of the river. Alternatively, you can catch bus number 79 to the market and then join a boat tour that starts by the floating restaurant. As this tour is mainly for Thai tourists it will work out cheaper for you. I went on this boat trip and I will tell you about that soon. When I came back, the market was very crowded. There was no space to eat on the floating rafts so I ended up having lunch at one of the land based restaurants. I probably would come back here though I think I prefer Don Wai Market more. Even though Don Wai is further away in Nakhon Pathom Province, it was a lot simpler for me to driver there. Plus there is a greater variety of Thai food on offer there.

Ban Phiphithaphan

There are literally hundreds of museums in and around Bangkok. Some are government sponsored but many are run by private citizens. The latter group can sometimes be far superior. Many of them are little known and you will hardly ever find them in the English language guidebooks. I recently visited Ban Phiphithaphan (House of Museums) which is in Thawee Watthana District, on the Western outskirts of Bangkok. Although this museum was a little out of the way in a private housing estate, the trouble it took finding it was well worth it in the end. The brainchild of one of my heroes, Anake Nawigamune, the museum details what life was like in Thailand over 50 years ago. Anake is the author of a number of pictorial books about the olden days in Thailand. It is fascinating browsing through his books. And this museum is much the same, though here he has brought it all alive.

Downstairs there are recreations of olden day shops. For example, a toy store, a barber shop, a coffee shop and a drug store. Even though this wasn’t my history, I could still understand and appreciate everything that was on display. And anyway, it wasn’t really that different to what my own parents experienced. It was interesting looking through the cabinets spotting familiar brands or trying to guess what was being sold in exotic looking containers. Upstairs I discovered literally hundreds of objects that had been donated by different people. They also had done recreations of a cinema, government office and a school room. You could easily spend several hours here browsing through everything on display.

I quickly discovered that Ban Phiphithaphan is not your normal museum. For a start, they actually encourage people to take pictures. Their argument is that they want to educate people about what life was like in days gone past. You are also allowed to touch and even play with some of the exhibits which is almost unheard of these days. I saw some people playing a few table top games and others leafing through books and magazines which were decades old. Not everything is just on display. Downstairs you will find books as well as some candy from yesteryear which are now hard to find and are for sale. I have always said that Thai people don’t appreciate their history and do nothing to save their historical past for future generations. But, the owners of this museum proved me wrong. They started saving items years ago with the clear understanding that one day they would become antiques and therefore of interest. I am so glad that they took the trouble to do this.

Admission to the museum is 30 baht for adults and 10 baht for children. I don’t think they get too many foreigners here. When I asked in Thai how much the ticket was the lady in the souvenir shop was so taken back that she shouted out that there was a farang here that was speaking Thai. There is nothing like having your arrival announced over tannoys. The museum is located at 170/17, Khlong Pho Land Village, Sala Thammasop Road. It is not far from the Boromrat Chonnanee elevated highway which people take to go to Puttha Monthon, the giant Standing Buddha. I drove here after visiting the nearby Thai Human Imagery Museum . If you are coming from Bangkok, you need to turn right when you reach Puttha Monthon 2 Road. (The giant Buddha is on number 4 road.) You actually need to overshoot and then do a u-turn. Turn left up this road to the end and follow the traffic to the left. Continue for a short while looking for the soi on the left. You will see one sign in English saying “House of Museum” but the remainder are in Thai. Either follow the arrows through the housing estate or just your nose! You will the find the nondescript house with many cars parked outside. The museum is only open at the weekends from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Boat Trip to Nonthaburi

Public Express Boat and a Private Long-Tailed Boat

I was in Bangkok last week in order to take some pictures for our web sites. I love doing boat trips and I thought I would explore the river north of the city. I have explored the canals before on the Thonburi side of the river in a long-tailed boat (see picture to the right). You can hire these boats for about an hour or so for about 400 baht from the pier near the Grand Palace. But, this time I wanted to explore on public transport. This is a lot cheaper though you don’t really have much control of where you go! To get to my starting point I took the Sky Train to the end of the route at Saphan Taksin. Here I transferred to a Chao Phraya Express Boat. This is Central Pier for the boats. You can go south a short way towards Rama IX bridge or north for an hour to Nonthaburi. I chose the latter. This one hour trip cost me 13 baht which is less than 50 cents.

Singha Beer Brewery and the Rama VII Suspension Bridge

It is a good idea getting on at Taksin Bridge because you have a better chance to get a seat. Later on you might have to stand up as it gets pretty crowded. These boats are much like buses. You take your seat and later on a conductor will come around to take your money and give you a ticket. They do speak enough English to help you get by. “Where you go?” and “You get off now”. The boats are quite long and as they are usually crowded, it is a good idea to go to the back of the boat as you are approaching your pier. These are all numbered and are written in English and Thai so it is quite easy. A bell tells the driver that someone wants to get off. Everyone is used to foreigners taking these boats so you will have no problems. Get on and off where you like or, like we did, go to the end of the line at Nonthaburi.

Taking a dip in the water and river-side life

In our hour long journey the scenary had plenty of time to change. At the start we passed a number of famous sites like Wat Arun and the Grand Palace. Later on we passed Conception Church which was built in the reign of king Rama III. The orignal church on this site was built several hundred years ago. As we started to leave the city the tall and modern buildings became fewer in numbers and these were replaced by wooden houses which fronted the river. Here people had easy access to the river for both transport and also a means to keep themselves clean. In the old days, Bangkok was regarded as the Venice of the East. In fact, many of the houses back then were built over water and not so many were actually on land. If you want some views of life by the side of the river a generation or so ago then I would suggest taking a river bus north of the city.

At the Beach in Bangkok

In the spirit of adventure, I decided to kick off the new month by going somewhere that not many people have gone before. I went to the beach in Bangkok! Yes, you heard right. Bangkok actually has a beachside resort. Not many people know that. It is not even in the Lonely Planet. I first heard about it last year and then I saw a brief mention on tv the other day which reminded me. So, I decided to go and do some exploring.

Bangkok Beach is at Bang Khunthian. It is only about 5 kms wide and is squeezed between Samut Prakan and Samut Sakhon. You saw on my map the other day that this whole area is just shrimp farms and canals. Hardly any roads at all. On my map, there is a road that goes that direction from Samut Prakan but then suddenly stops. So, Bang Khunthian isn’t the kind of place you would pass on the way to somewhere else.

Like before, I had to take the expressway into Bangkok and then cross the river on the King Rama IX bridge. (Incidentally, there are some great views from the top of this bridge and it is a shame you cannot stop to take pictures!) I then drove along Rama II road towards Samut Sakhon. I have driven down this highway before. I have done several weekend trips to Cha-am and Hua Hin as well as a massive drive down to Phuket a number of years ago. After a while I started seeing road signs that said “Talay Bang Khunthian”. Some of them were really big. But, as usual in Thailand, they are good with signs that say straight on but they are not so good at telling you when to turn off! So, I missed the turning and had to do a u-turn. Twice!

I didn’t really have many clues about where to go or what to expect. I knew I could join a boat tour. But I didn’t really know where. Also, the road marked on my map suddenly stopped a long way from the sea! But, it turned out a little easier than expected. I eventually found the correct turning from Rama II road onto Bang Khunthian Road. After about 8 kms or so I saw a small sign on the left that said “ta reua” which means jetty. I wasn’t sure if it was what I was looking for, but there was a big parking lot and a number of factory outlets. I went in and eventually found the jetty. I was just in time, a tour was about to leave. For the record, the boat leaves at 11.30 a.m., 12.30 p.m., 2.30 p.m. 4.30 p.m. on weekends only. It then returns 90 minutes later. It only costs 100 baht for adults and 50 baht for children.

There were about a ten of us that climbed into the very long long-tailed boat. They gave us life jackets and took our photos. That reminded me of a newspaper report after the speedboat tragedy near Koh Samui. The government said that they would now make it compulsory for people to wear lifejackets and that everyone would be photographed. Of course, that made me a bit nervous. How far out to sea would we go in this flimsy boat? But, on my return, I soon discovered that they were taking pictures for a souvenir plate!

I enjoyed the boat trip very much. We went down some small canals passing houses on stilts and many many people fishing. In the photo above, the lady is using this contraption to catch fish. She lowered it into the water for a while and then quickly lifted it up hoping to catch some fish! The mangrove forest was lush and green. The wildlife was plentiful, we even saw some monkeys! On either side were fields of water! These are shrimp farms. You can probably guess that the main occupation for these people is fishing. And the main means of transportation is boat. Just about every house we passed had a boat moored underneath it. Some had two!

After about an hour we finally reached the sea. The concrete marker you can see above is the boundary between Bangkok and Samut Sakhon. It is a famous landmark which I have seen on tv. I guess this is what we all came for. We circled around it for a while. Our guide pointed east and said over there is Chulalongkorn Fort. Too far to see but it made me wonder how long it would take to get there by boat. Maybe quicker than the roundabout route I had to take to get here. If only I had my own boat! Actually, that is one of my dreams. Anyway, back to reality. In the photo on the right, you can clearly see a line of electricity poles. Apparently fishermen used to have huts here but the sea has long since eroded the land. From what I can tell, a lot of this shoreline has disappeared over the last number of years. Our guide said that you can sometimes see dolphins. But, we weren’t lucky today.

It is funny about the electricity poles. You are in the middle of no-where, but they have tv and electricty. Even the small wooden huts made from bamboo had a telelvision set. But, it looked like they didn’t have running water. Outside every house were about six or so large klong jars to catch rain water. This would be their only source of clean water. The houses also had numbers, so I wonder if the postman came down here in his boat to deliver the mail? Some canals in Bangkok even had mobile banks!

Near the stone marker, we stopped at a restaurant built on stilts high above the water. There were quite a few people here eating lunch. Our guide only gave us 15 minutes to get out and stretch our legs. While I was walking around, I noticed several more boats arrive with tourists. It was too soon for another boat to come so I deduced that there must be another company operating boat tours. I decided that when I got back to the car I would drive further down the road as far as I could and see what else was on offer. I also wanted to see if the road between here and Samut Prakan had been built yet. If it had, then that would be a quicker way of getting back.

A Fishing Village in BangkokĀ 

Yesterday, I told you how I drove down to visit the Beach in Bangkok. It wasn’t really a beach in the traditional sense. There was no sand to play in and you wouldn’t want to swim in the muddy water. However, a boat ride along a canal in the mangrove forest was really refreshing and a good way to beat the summer temperatures.

After I had returned from my boat trip I got chatting with the security guard in the car park. I asked him first if it was possible to drive all the way to Samut Prakan. He assured me that you could. I then asked him if it was possible to drive down to the coast and he said no, “mai teung” meaning the road didn’t reach there. It turned out he was wrong on both counts!

I think I was only driving for about 10 minutes and then I was off the map! The road wasn’t that good. A bit broken up in places and I had to weave in order to find a smooth surface. In the end I just followed the path of the songtaew drivers. They go up and down here all day so I am sure they knew where to go for the smoothest drive.

Judging by the number of large seafood restaurants on both sides of the road, I would say that they would get a lot of people coming down here at the weekend. Though not by coaches yet as the road is pretty rough. Another five minutes or so I reached a t-junction with no road signs saying what was where. In theory, if I turned left I would end up in Samut Prakan. Turn right I would end up in Samut Sakhon. I could see a temple to my left and decided to go and investigate that first. It was marked on my map but there was no roads marked. Just after the temple there was a brand new bridge and a good road, but it only lasted 50 metres before I hit a pile of dirt! That was the end of the road. I guess when the security guard said I could go to Samut Prakan he meant the province! I turned around and headed back the other way.

Five minutes later I reached another parking lot full of cars with a sign saying “ta reua tee neung” which means “the number one jetty”. I pulled in to investigate. Another sign by the river announced that tickets cost only 40 baht for adults and 20 baht for children. However, this wasn’t a tour. The boats left here at 30 minute intervals to that restaurant I had seen earlier on the coastline. Apparently it only took 15 minutes from here. Even though it was cheaper here, I am glad I had gone on my longer tour.

I decided to keep driving. By this time I was back on the map. I could see that the road now went straight to Samut Sakhon. I have never explored that city but I would save it for another time. It was now mid-afternoon. I hadn’t finished exploring this area. I was trying to find a road or track that would take me south towards the sea. Judging by the map, the road was running parallel to the sea by about 4 kms. Eventually I found a turn off. I followed it for a while over a few bridges. After a while, the road suddenly became narrower and then became dirt track. I saw some people up ahead on motorcycles so I guessed it must be going somewhere. I finally parked the car and then just kept walking south along a narrow track. Five minutes later I saw a welcome view. It looked like there was a small estuary here with fishing boats on either side. And straight ahead was the sea! I had made it!

I walked through a small mangrove forest and came out on a muddy beach. There was quite a large number of people here. Some were on the shoreline and others were wading through the knee high mud. I asked one of the guys what he was looking for. He said his friend was looking for crabs under the rocks and that he was looking for shellfish. He showed me that there was two different kinds. You can see his “catch” in the photo below. He said some of his other friends were wading through the mud. Can you see the bamboo polls stuck in the mud? If you go and look closely you can see oyster shells stuck to the side. I took his word for it. I didn’t want to investigate! I asked if he was going to sell what he had caught but he said they would probably eat it themselves. It was the weekend and they had only come here for a bit of fun.

I am glad I had managed to find the sea. It had made the trip more worthwhile. Now I had been here, it wouldn’t be too much of an effort to come again. It was only about 55 kms door to door and had taken just over an hour and a half. I think there is more to explore and see in this area. But, I will save it for the next time I have a guest. This trip was really like sending an advance party. I think later this week I will do some more exploring by boat, but this time closer to home! There are still quite a few unanswered questions about the coastline along Samut Prakan.