Tag Archives: Boat Trip

Swimming Monkeys in Samut Songkhram

Over the years, at blog.bangkok-daytrips.com, I have written about many of the day trips that I have been on in the Bangkok area. I have long since been to all of the major tourist attractions and now I spend most of my time looking for new attractions within driving distance of Bangkok. The other day I found a new one just 90 minutes away from Bangkok in Samut Songkhram Province. Along the coastline, at a small community called Klong Khone, I found a group of homestays which provide various activities for mainly Thai visitors from Bangkok. These include boat tours where people could see up close the life and work of local fishermen. However, the highlight of these tours is the visit to see the so called sea monkeys who live along the coastline.

Samut Songkhram Province is fast becoming a popular eco-tourism destination for people living in Bangkok. I first went there on the Maeklong Railway trip where the train passes through the market on the tracks. Then on another visit I went to the emerging floating market at Amphawa. When I went back again last year I discovered literally dozens of new places around the market that were advertising homestay and various activities such as giving alms to the monks who passed the homestay early in the morning paddling a boat. It is possible to also join boat tours here and along the coastline at Don Hoi Lot. This is a popular destination for families to come to eat seafood and relax in the shade of the trees. If you continue on Highway 35 for about another 8 kms then you will reach the turn-off for Tambon Klong Khone.

Although this area is relatively unknown to independent foreign travellers, it has become popular with Thai people who come here with their university or company to take part in various activities such as planting mangrove saplings. At the main turn-off, there was a large bilingual sign pointing out places such as the Conservation Mangrove Center and various homestays. However, apart from that, there was very little in the way of English signs to show you where to go. The only clues we had were colourful signs advertising numerous homestays. Hardly any of them had any English, but many had pictures of the sea monkeys swimming in the water. We decided to follow the sign for “Baan Khlong Clone Resort” mainly because it also advertised their own dot com website.

On our arrival we were greeted by the resort manager. He ushered us to a large dining area over a pond where he showed us various photo albums of people who had already enjoyed their stay at the resort. He told me that about 60% of them were students from universities. The resort has a number of bungalow type buildings where you can sleep four people comfortably for 2,000 baht. He said that they would put in an extra mattress for 300 baht per person. For bigger groups he also had the options of renting out a large dormitory for 4,000 baht or people could sleep in tents. I have posted more pictures of this resort over at our ThailandQA.com Forums. Although I was tempted to stay the night, what we had mainly come to do was to join a boat tour to see the sea monkeys.

The manager told us that it would cost us about 700 baht to rent a boat for a trip that would last one or two hours. He seemed quite vague when he was giving me prices of the accommodation and various activities. It wasn’t like he was trying to cheat me, but rather he wasn’t sure how much he could get away with charging. While we were looking through the photo albums a Thai couple came and he told them the same price of 700 baht for the boat trip. It did seem to be on the expensive side but as you can get up to five people in one boat it could be good value for money if you take advantage of that. So, we agreed to rent a boat straight away. We were given a lifejacket, a large farmers style hat with a wide brim, and a cold bottle of water. Before we set off, I double checked that we would indeed see the monkeys. The other side trips of “jet skiing” and observing fishermen activities were of incidental value to me. We were assured that we would indeed see monkeys. And as it turned out, we saw literally hundreds.

I have said many times before that I really like doing boat trips as it is a great way to experience natural air-conditioning as you whizz down rivers and canals. The boat wasn’t too comfortable as we were basically sitting on a low stool with no backs to lean onto. The boat also didn’t have a canopy so make sure that you put on sunscreen and a hat. About ten minutes after we had left the homestay resort the boatman slowed down and then cut the engine. As we drifted towards the bank we quickly spotted the monkeys that were racing to greet us. I counted about 30 monkeys. Some were young babies being carried by their mothers. Many were on the banks while others were in the trees. Then we heard a splash as one had jumped down into the water to swim out to us.

It is a funny, I had always thought that monkeys were scared of water. But, here we were watching monkeys swimming in the canal. Not only that, but they were diving too. One of them had spotted some fruit floating on the water, and then after grabbing it, the monkey dived under the water and swam for 2 or 3 meters before coming back up for air close to the bank. Our boatman told us that on hot days that the monkeys would play in the water in order to cool off. They would hang from the branches of the trees and dive bomb into the water. As there were only the two of us on the boat, there was no pressure to move on and the boatman said that we could stay as long as we liked. However, as we didn’t have any food to give the monkeys they quickly grew bored of us and just sat still on the banks.

After a while, we continued on with our boat tour. We soon left behind us the mangrove forest and we were taken out to sea. He showed us some of the many fishermen huts that were built on stilts over the water. In Thai these are apparently called “krateng”. He then took us further down the coast and then up another estuary to a small fishing community. Along the way we stopped at a few spots to observe the monkeys. We passed about 4 or 5 other tour boats though for most of the time we were alone. Some of these tourists had come prepared with bananas for the monkeys. In other boats I could see that they had mangrove saplings so I presumed that they were going to help replant the mangrove forests. Many of these had been cut down to make way for shrimp farms. They now realized that this was causing land erosion so the community were desperately replanting. But, it takes time.

Our boat went up as far as Wat Klong Khone before turning around for the return trip the same way. We stopped again to see the monkeys on the way back. By the time we had returned to the homestay resort nearly two hours had passed. We hadn’t seen much about the way of life of fishermen. They were probably sleeping inside to escape the midday heat. However, seeing the monkeys swimming in the water was alone worth the trip. If you are feeling adventurous, there is an opportunity to do the local version of “jet skiing”. This involved a wooden plank shaped a bit like a surfboard and a long piece of rope tied to the end of the boat. The boatman then offered to pull us along at high speed. We declined. This surfboard is really used by the local people at low tide to skim across the surface of the mud as they look for sea creatures. They knelt on these boards and then pushed themselves along with the feet.

Before we left, we decided to check out another homestay in order to compare prices and activities. We next decided to follow the signs for Home Krateng. I had seen a report about this one on a Thai language blog. On arrival we were again greeted by the manager and then showed around. The homestay here seemed cheaper at 1,200 baht but I soon realized that this price was per person and not for the room! However, it was a package price. If you arrived at noon, you would be given, lunch, dinner and breakfast. You could also have one of the meals on their krateng out in the sea. Some people also opt to sleep here at night. This price also includes the boat tour similar to the one we had already been on. You would need to have a minimum of four people sharing the room. If there was only two of you then you would need to pay more per person. Like the other resort, these people also seemed to be unsure of prices as I grilled them. They kept saying “about”. When I asked about children they had to have a discussion between themselves first on how much the discount should be.

Home Krateng also offer boat tours if you don’t want to stay the night. However, at 1,000 baht for the boat it was more expensive than Baan Khlong Clone Resort. But, the seats looked more comfortable with backs and there was also a canopy shading you from the sun. The pictures of the tour that they showed me also looked a bit more interesting than our own tour as they took you to a mussel farm where you can see various shellfish stuck to poles in the sea. Some of the pictures also showed foreigners. Apparently a popular Thai tour guide called Tong has been bringing groups of foreigners to this location for the last few years. However, the homestay manager told me that it was very rare for foreign independent travellers to come here. I really want to come back here again. Maybe bring Nong Grace as well as she would love to see the monkeys. However, to make it economical you would need at least four or five people in your group. Nothing I had seen so far was for independent travellers.

Tambon Klong Khone is not easy to reach by public transport. On the way out I did see some songtaews that had come from the nearby town of Samut Songkhram. But the sign on the front was only in Thai. As the place is also spread out then you would need to choose a homestay before you arrive if you don’t have the luxury of a car. During the weekend and on public holidays you would need to book in advance if you intend to stay the night. Like I said before, there are hardly any road signs in English and no-one seemed to be able to speak English. It is a bit adventurous but certainly worth the effort. Follow this link to our forums at ThailandQA.com where I have posted pictures of road signs and more instructions on how to find this location. Don’t forget to also post your experiences if you go to see the monkeys.

Boat Trip at Bang Phli

At Wat Bang Phli Yai Nai in Amphoe Bang Phli in Samut Prakan Province, you can join boat tours at the weekend along the Samrong Canal. The name “Bang Phli” dates back to the Ayutthaya period. In 1498, King Ramathibodi II commanded for Klong Samrong and Klong Thao Nang to be built. At the point where the two canals intersected, two images of deities were discovered. The king organized a ceremony to make offerings to these images. In Thai, “phli” means “offering” and so Bang Phli can translate as The Village of Offerings. Also during this period, legend says that a famous Buddha image, Luang Pho To, was seen floating down Samrong Canal. The legend says it was one of three brothers who were escaping the wars during the Ayutthaya period. Many villagers along the canal tried to entice the Buddha image to come ashore. None of them were successful until the image reached Bang Phli. Every year now, two days before the end of the Buddhist Retreat, the locals pay homage to this famous image.

My boat tour started at Wat Bang Phli Yai Nai. There are two trips you can take. Either “3 Temples” or “9 Temples”. The most common trip is the first one which lasts for two hours and costs only 40 baht per adult and 20 baht per child. They told me that they have 3-4 trips per day though on busier days they will put on more trips. The first boat leaves at 10 a.m. The tours only go at the weekend and during public holidays. However, you can rent a boat yourself for 1,200 baht. My tour guides were two junior high students. They only speak Thai so you will just have to make do with the scenary and fresh air. We passed quite a few lotus fields on the water. Literally thousands of these are needed for the pilgrims who come for the “rub bua” festival in October. We also saw a lot of waterside activity such as fishing and boating.

Strictly speaking, we only visited two temples as the first one was our starting point. The first stop was supposed to be Wat Bang Chalong Nok. However, as they were rebuilding the waterfront they took us up another canal to the nearby Wat Bang Chalong Nai. Nothing too impressive as temples go, but a good opportunity for me to stretch my legs. The Thai tour boats are not designed for the long legs of foreign tourists. I asked my tour guides if they have many foreigners on their tours and they said hardly at all. Usually they came with Thai girlfriends. We stayed at this temple for twenty minutes and then came back the same way. We stopped briefly by Wat Bang Chalong Nok where we were allowed to buy loaves of bread for 20 baht to feed some really massive fish.

We then came all the way back to our starting point then continued further up the canal the other way. Here we passed the Old Bang Phli Market which dates back more than 150 years to 1857. After your boat trip, you can eat your lunch here at the many restaurants along the canal. Our final destination was Wat Bang Phli Yai Klang. This is the home for the fabulous Reclining Buddha which is the longest in the country at 53 metres. Not only is it bigger than the one all the tourists go to in Bangkok, this one you can go inside. The highlight is the shrine for the heart of the Buddha. This is something unique which I have never seen before.

Bang Phli is very close to Suvarnabhumi Airport. In fact, they are both in the same district. If you are at the airport with some time to kill, why don’t you take a trip to Bang Phli. But be warned, it is unlikely that you will meet any other foreigner despite being so close to the entry point to millions of foreigners each year.

Bang Pakong River Tour

One of the major rivers in the eastern part of Thailand is the Bang Pakong River which drains into the Gulf of Thailand. At the estuary, you can go on boat tours that take you out to see the Irrwaddy dolphins. Their visit is seasonal and you can only join these dolphin watch tours between November and February. I went to see them about three years ago and wrote a story about it for Bangkok Day Trips. I went back to Chachoengsao Province last weekend for another boat trip on the river. Though this time I started further upriver in the city of Chachoengsao. The boat trips run seven days a week. Monday to Friday there are only two rounds per day at 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. At the weekend, there are seven trips leaving on the hour starting at 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Each trip lasts about two hours.

The river tour starts at the pier behind Wat Sothorn, which is a gigantic landmark in Chachoengsao and very hard not to miss. People from all over the area make a pilgrimage to this temple to pay respect to the Luang Pho Sothorn image. If you are driving there by car you will find plenty of free parking space around the temple. It is best to come early as the place gets very crowded at the weekend. I was hoping to go on the boat tour straight away, but the next round was fully booked. So I had just over an hour to wait. But, it didn’t matter, there was plenty to see around the temple grounds.

The ticket price for the boat tour is only 100 baht for adults and 60 baht for children. There is no two price system. However, you will find that the commentary during the tour is only in Thai language. I asked the tour guide about this and she said by far the majority of tourists here are Thai people. Out of the handful of foreigners that come to Chachoengsao, the majority are with Thai wives or Thai friends. So, virtually no independent travellers at all. Which is not surprising as the province is no longer featured in the Lonely Planet.

The river tour itself was enjoyable. It was a hot day and the breeze created by travelling up river by boat was refreshing. On one side of the river was the city with some waterfront buildings that were more than 100 years old. I also spotted a couple of Christian churches, the oldest being St. Paul’s. Near the city hall, we passed an old section of the foritified wall that used to protect the city. On the other side of the river it was mainly isolated wooden houses and a great deal of nipa palm trees. One of the famous local food is “khanom jaak” which uses products from this tree. The boat trip itself was only 30 minutes. It would have been good to have gone on for longer, but the place they brought us to turned out to be the highlight of the tour. This was the 100 year old Ban Mai Market. We basically had an hour to explore this area before boarding the boat for the return journey.

The last time I had been to Ban Mai Market was more than five years ago. And what a difference. Back then the place was deserted with only a handful of tourists. Most of the houses had their front shutters closed. Now it was difficult to move in some sections. There were so many tourists wandering around. Either browsing the shops or sitting down to eat some authentic Thai food. Nearly every house was open and having some interaction with the public. Either selling food or souvenirs. There was even an old barber shop. I enjoyed myself with some great snacks and a so-called “original recipe” for iced coffee. None of the wooden houses have changed much since the reign of King Rama V. In fact, this market is a popular location for filmmakers doing period dramas.

An hour wasn’t really enough time to sit and eat. Particularly as the tour guide also took us to a nearby Chinese shrine. Well, I should say that she took me alone. There were 40 people who disembarked from the boat at the market pier. However, along the way she managed to lose them all. Maybe they were more interested in sampling the Thai snacks and desserts. But, there was time to do both. To her credit, she took me through the market to the far end to reach Wat Chin Pracha Samosorn. On the outside of the shrine it loked much the same as any other. However, inside there were a number of interesting images. One was a set of three Chinese Buddha images that were incredibly made of paper. You can see them in the above picture. Another shrine there was popular with people who wanted to make a lot of money or win the Thai lottery. I will tell you more about that another day.

Chachoengsao is to the east of Bangkok and there is plenty to keep you busy all day. Disregard the fact that not many guidebooks cover this area. If you want to go by bus, you can catch one at either Mor Chit 2 Bus Terminal or Eastern Bus Terminal (at Ekkamai). There are also regular trains leaving Hua Lamphong station throughout the day. I went there by car and it took me just over one hour. I drove along the Bang Na Trad Highway and turned left at Highway 314. You can also go by Highway 7 which is the Bangkok-Chonburi Motorway. You won’t need a map as it is well sign-posted.

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.

A Trip on the Maeklong River

I was telling you the other day about our trip to Amphawa Floating Market .  Unlike other markets, this one took place in the afternoon. When we first arrived, we explored both banks of the canal on foot. I told you about this before. By the time we got back to the pedestrian bridge it was nearly half past four and the crowds had started to build up. We could see quite a few people climbing into boats that they had rented. We went to take a closer look and we were then soon approached by a man who asked if we wanted to rent a boat. I asked how much and he said 400 baht per boat (about $10). Looking down I could see a flat bottomed boat with no seats which reminded me of my uncomfortable ride on the lake in Sangkhlaburi. But he saw my look of dismay and quickly said “No, no, your boat is the big one over there!” And it was certainly big. In fact, big enough for 16 people! He then said he had two Thai people already and it would therefore only cost us 100 baht each. We agreed. Why not? It sounded like fun. And it was.

Our boatman took us out of the canal and onto the mighty Maeklong River. He then took us in a northerly direction with the fast setting sun slightly ahead and to the left. We passed the King Rama II Park and many traditional style houses on both banks. This area isn’t really built up much and there were plenty of palm trees. It was coming towards the end of the day and a number people were already climbing down the steps from their houses to the river. Some were fishing but many were taking a bath and washing their hair. Although the light was good for taking pictures, I couldn’t really take anything on the West bank because of the low sun. It might have been better to have gone on this boat trip a little earlier. However, the sun would have been hot. The Thai way of dealing with this is using an umbrella  or improvising with a folded newspaper.

Our first stop on this pleasant journey was Wat Bang Kung. This is a historically important location because of a battle between King Taksin’s forces and the invading Burmese. It is also famous for being featured in the “Unseen Thailand” guidebooks. In the temple grounds there is a small chapel that is completely enclosed within the roots of a banyan tree. It is almost like the tree itself is the pillars of the temple and that without the roots the chapel would fall down. I took the above photograph from one of the windows near the back. You can also go inside to pay respect to the Buddha image. In the grounds of the temple is also a statue for King Taksin (no he is not related to Prime Minister Thaksin – their names are not even pronounced the same). There are also life-size models of  Muay Thai fighters in different poses.

Our boatman/guide then took us back to our boat. Before getting in, we fed some of the massive fishes in the river. For some reason, Thai people like doing this kind of thing. I have already made a mental note that when I get around to creating a tourist attraction, I will make sure that there is a pond so that Thai people can pay to feed my fish! Back on the boat, we turned around and headed back, though this time along the West bank. A short distance away we stopped at another temple. This one was called Wat Bangkae Noi. This one was very crowded as there was a big event going on. In the main chapel we found quite a breathtaking view. The walls and ceiling had some amazing teakwood carvings. These depicted the life and teachings of the Lord Buddha.

After this we headed back to our starting point at the Amphawan Floating Market. By this time our boatman was rushing us a bit as he was keen to get back. In the early evening they do another boat tour to view the fireflys which apparently is very beautiful. For this he can get more money as they charge 600 baht per boat. So, we could understand his rush. But, it was OK. The boat ride lasted about 90 minutes which was about perfect. We wouldn’t want to be on the boat any longer than that. As we arrived back at the floating market we were really shocked about the number of people. The pedestrian bridge and both sides of the canal were jam packed with Thai tourists. I am glad we had done our exploring earlier in the day.

I will certainly come here again and I strongly recommend for you to visit too. I think next time I will come earlier so that I can do more exploring. There certainly seems to be a lot to see in this small province of Samut Songkhram. Certainly there are hundreds of canals to explore and also to visit the local farming communities. There are also other floating markets here to be discovered.

Dolphin Watching in Bang Pakong

I have been racking my brains recently trying to think of a good day trip to go on in the Bangkok area. December this year has three long weekends, so I decided I should make the most of this and try and go somewhere new. Most of the other teachers already had plans, like going to see the sunflower fields in Saraburi. Although these fields are very photogenic, I was there last year. Then, one teacher asked if I had been to see the dolphins yet in Bang Pakong. I hadn’t, so that was the start of the idea for this trip.

I had first heard about the Irrwaddy dolphins several years back but had never gotten around to going. Apparently they are seasonal and arrive in the Bang Pakong River in November, at the end of the rainy season. They then stay there a full 120 days until February. Although this had been going on for nearly five years, I couldn’t find any mention in my edition of the Lonely Planet. Yet another omission. I have been finding quite a few recently. So, I set off this morning armed with my Thai language guidebook. They at least had a double page on this area.

I have passed through Bang Pakong many times on the way down to Pattaya, but I have never stopped there before. The city is at the point where the road crosses a high bridge over a river (which I now know to be Bang Pakong River) and then does a sharp right turn and heads south to Chonburi and Pattaya. From my house it doesn’t take long to drive there. In fact, we left at 8.15 a.m. and we were on the boat at 9.30 a.m.! It was quite easy to find as we just followed the dolphin signs as we drove down the Bang Na – Trad highway.

Once we were off the highway, and onto the side road in the Tha Kham area, our first mistake was to follow some handwritten signs for the dolphin boat tours. This took us down a dirt track to a few shacks by the side of the river and a very broken down looking fishing boat. We decided not to linger and just did a u-turn. Our guidebook informed us that we should only use the two tetsaban piers at Moo 1 and Moo 8. Apparently the boat operators there had been properly trained for dolphin watching. Arriving at an intersection we had the choice of turning right to Moo 1 or left to Moo 8. The guidebook didn’t say which was better so we flipped a coin and turned right.

About ten minutes later we arrived at Moo 1 pier. The car park was under water as it was high tide. A guy came out and told us where to park. I must admit I wasn’t really that impressed. It was nothing like the boat jetty I visited for my trip to the beach in Bangkok. This was like in the middle of no-where and pretty run-down. It hadn’t been developed for tourists at all. Our car park attendant doubled as an agent for the boats. He quickly led us down the dock as a boat was about to leave. As we waded through the water, he explained that each boat cost 1,000 baht to take it out to the Gulf of Thailand. As there were now eight of us, it would work out at 125 baht each. Not bad, so we agreed. It looked like that the other people on the boat were waiting to make up the numbers. There were no set times for these trips, the more people you wait for, the cheaper it becomes for you.

Our boat was basically a fishing boat that had been converted into a tourist boat. A couple of simple benches had been nailed to the deck and some garden netting had been stretched over our heads to provide some shade. Not exactly that comfortable but I later found out that we were better off than some people. I later saw some boats that only had some mats for people to sit on! I asked our driver what he did between March and October and he said that the boat was converted back into a fishing vessel. I guess they made good money during the tourist season so it makes sense for them to convert their fishing boats.

From our pier, we slowly made our way down the river towards the Gulf of Thailand. Along the way we passed a number of fishing huts perched on top of stilts. These bamboo poles had nets strung between them so it looked like fisherman stayed in these huts while attending their nets. At some of these places the nets were lowered into the water and other places they were pulled up. In the distance I could see four or five boats out in the Gulf of Thailand. I guessed that they were fishing boats. I was wrong.

As usual, I was taking plenty of pictures of this and that along the riverfront. It became quite funny as every time I lifted my camera to take another pictures, everyone quickly looked up to see where I was pointing. They all thought I had spotted a dolphin. But, they got their own back on my as every now and then they too pointed to something – but it turned out to be only driftwood. I started to prepare myself in the event of not finding any dolphins. I didn’t want to be too disappointed. But, I like boat trips and even if we didn’t see any dolphins it was still a nice trip out on a boat.

About 30 minutes later we had passed out of the river and into the Gulf of Thailand. The boats that I thought were fishermen were actually tour boats like ourselves. There was a circle of them and we could see people excitedly pointing towards the center. It was then that we spotted out first fin. A dolphin! Everyone was so excited (and relieved). Then we spotted another, and then another and another. They seemed to be in groups of about two or more. They didn’t seem to surface that often. They came up and then went straight down with hardly a splash. I suppose I was expecting a few jumps here and there. I think I had seen too many dolphin shows. But of course, this was very different. It was the wild. So, even though we didn’t see dolphins jump out of the water, the fact that the event wasn’t predictable at all, made it by far more exciting.

For nearly an hour, our boatman took us around in circles as we scanned the horizon in different directions. As soon as someone shouted out we swung around to get a good look. We reckoned that there must have been about 6 or 7 dolphins. It was actually quite fun though very hard to get any good pictures. You really had to be quick as they didn’t stay up for long. In the end, it was by far more interesting to sit there and just watch the activity. And also watch the humans in the other boats. By this time there were eight boats circling the dolphins with three more coming our way. Although I wanted to see the dolphins, I was conscious of the fact that I was encouraging the boatmen to keep chasing the dolphins every time they surfaced. As this tourist attraction becomes more popular, I hope they regulate it more. Like number of boats allowed to go and how close they can get to the dolphins. One of the boatmen had a radio blaring music which wasn’t really help. We were all happy to see that boat go.

After we had all seen enough, our boatmen took us back. It had been a really good trip and certainly worth coming. I would recommend it to anyone as a nice day out. In addition to seeing the dolphins, we saw other wildlife like the bats on Bird Island. We also saw the different methods of fishing. Back at the car we decided to drive down to Moo 8 pier to see how it compared. This one was further south and nearer to the Gulf of Thailand. The pier also had a restaurant where we stopped to have some tom yum goong for lunch.

After lunch, I got talking to one of the boat operators. He told me that the price was 1,000 baht per trip the same as at Moo 1 pier. I asked if he also went up to Bird island to see the bats as it was the opposite direction to the Gulf. He said they went to both. The set-up at this pier looked much better so I would probably come here the next time I visited. If you want to come yourself, I would suggest that you would have to come the last part by taxi as there is no public transport. The boat operator said he sometimes gave people a lift back to the main road for a small fee if they didn’t have any transport. But, I guess you could also hitch a lift. So, although it is a bit out of the way, it is possible for you also to come and see the dolphins in Bang Pakong.

A Trip to Koh Kret

A long-tailed boat

Just close your eyes and pray!

A few days back I was telling you about my recent trip upriver from Bangkok to Nonthaburi Province by public boat. My intention was not to just view the scenery but also to make my way up to an island called Koh Kret. I had heard about this place for several years now and wanted to go and visit for myself. It sounded mysterious. An island in the middle of the Chao Phraya River? How could that be? I tried to do some research but most of my guidebooks barely gave the place more than a paragraph worth of coverage. As I was in Bangkok I was tempted to join a tour. I don’t normally like doing that kind of thing as I prefer to go my own pace. But, sometimes it is beneficial as they can not only save you time and money but they will also take you directly to the places of interest. However, the two companies that were running tours seemed to run only at the weekend. We were in Bangkok on a week day. So, we decided we would make our own way up there.

The first part of our trip was from Bangkok to Nonthaburi on a public express boat. This lasted about 80 minutes but cost only 13 baht each. The tour companies were charging 250–300 baht per person. So far so good. When we arrived at the end of the line we knew from our map that we still had another 20 minutes to go. The conductor on the boat suggested we should take a mini van to Pakred Market and from there a local ferry boat across the river to Koh Kret. The van was advertised as 10 baht and the ferry probably would have been only a few baht.

Wat Paramaiyikawas

Wat Paramaiyikawas on Koh Kret

While we were deciding we were approached by a long-tailed boat driver. (The boat has a long tail and not the driver!) He showed us a leaflet detailing the places he would take us on a tour of Koh Kret. He pointed out all the stops on the map and said that the trip would last about three hours in total. The price? For a minimum of eight people the leaflet said it would cost 100 baht each. As there were only two of us, he said he would do it for only 600 baht. Basically the same price as the group tour though we would have our own driver. We told him that we felt it was a bit expensive and asked for 500 baht. He said he couldn’t.

After a little contemplation we decided we would hire his boat. Like I said before, I hadn’t been able to do much research so to be honest I didn’t really know what there was to see, let alone how to get to each place! Koh Kret wasn’t supposed to be a big island. In fact you could walk around it in about 2 hours or so. There were no roads on the island, just narrow paths. The only means of transport are the motorcycle taxis. Great if you know where to ask to go on the island.

Actually, Koh Kret isn’t really a proper island. A canal was built back in 1722 in order to bypass a large bend in the river. The king at that time was trying to save on sailing time for ships heading up to the then capital in Ayutthaya. The tide soon changed direction and the little canal became a raging river. The Mon villagers, who live there now, are very isolated, and up to now, their unique lifestyle has remained intact. The Mon people are famous for their potteries and Thai desserts.

Wat Phai Lom

Wat Phai Lom on Koh Kret

Our first stop was at Wat Paramaiyikawas. This could be found at the top right-hand corner of the island. A prominent feature is the stupa that is leaning out towards the river. The temple was built in Mon style about 200 years ago. Inside we found a large Reclining Buddha. In the temple grounds there is also a museum though unfortunately it only opens in the afternoon.  From here we walked along the northern side of the island a short distance to another temple. This one was called Wat Phai Lom and was built in 1770. Like the previous temple, this was also done in Mon style and was stunningly beautiful. After the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767, King Taksin gave permission for the Mon people to live here as a reward for fighting bravely against the Burmese. As you can see from these pictures, the style of temples are very different to the standard Thai temple.


Our boat driver told us that we should keep walking along the path to a pottery village. He told us that he would meet us a short way down. Looking around, you could see how commercial this place had become. It was all geared up for the tourists that come at the weekend. On weekdays the place is very quiet and many shops were closed. But, we did manage to see some potters at work. With hardly anyone around it did look authentic but I guess if you came at the weekend you would see that the whole place has been set up for the tourists.

As we walked back to the boat to continue our journey around the island, I couldn’t help but make comparisons between this place and another Mon community in Phra Phradaeng that had also been isolated inside a loop in the river. I have written several times before about Bangkrachao and the other communities in the loop. Despite being so close to Bangkok they still continue to live their very unique lifestyles. However, their “island” is big enough not to be so affected by tourism. You do see Bike tours there but there are many roads and local people cannot really take advantage of these passing tourists. However, on Koh Kret, there is basically only one track and so it was starting to look like that every house had set up some kind of shop.

Edible Flowers

A local speciality – deepfried flowers!

Back on the boat we continued our trip around the island. The driver was actually quite good as every time he saw me raise my camera to my eye he would slow down. He had obviously done this before. A short while later he took us to a shop to watch a demonstration of how to make traditional Thai desserts. This was a bit touristy and reminded me of those tours where they stopped at factories on the way back for you to see “free demonstrations” before being herded through the shop. I didn’t mind so much as we didn’t have to buy anything. After this he took us to another temple where people were feeding hundreds of giant fish in the river.

Just over three hours later we finally made it back to our starting point in Nonthaburi. It had been a good boat trip. I am not sure if we had got our money’s worth but it had indeed been a good and easy introduction to the lifestyle of the Mon people. I am pretty sure I will come here again. Maybe not this year though, as it was quite an effort to get here. But, if I go again, I would take public transport all the way. I would then take the time to walk around the island on foot in order to better appreciate what it has to offer.

If you are planning on going yourself, I would suggest you go by public transport which shouldn’t cost you more than 50 baht there and back. If your time is limited you don’t need to explore the whole island. Just visit some of the places along the northern edge.

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.

The Loop in the River

Last weekend, I went on a trip to a unique area close to Bangkok that seemed to be stuck in time. A large loop in the Chao Phraya River and a shortcut canal has virtually made this area an island. Indeed you can only enter it by bridge or by boat. Despite its closeness to Bangkok the area has hardly been developed at all. There are still many isolated communities surrounded by palm trees and banana plantations. There are no high-raised buildings. There are no factories. More importantly, 7–Eleven hasn’t arrived. Well, not yet. They are starting to creep in from the opening in the loop. However, you won’t find this area in the Lonely Planet.

The first place I wanted to find was the Bangnamphung Floating Market (figure 1). I first heard about this floating market back in April when I crossed the river to see the Songkran Parade in Phra Pradaeng. I noticed some billboards advertising this new place. I made a mental note to try and locate it another time. I had forgotten all about it but then on Saturday I bought a new guidebook in Thai which covers the top part of the Gulf of Thailand. The book had a map which gave me a rough idea of where to find the floating market. So, on Sunday I decided to go off exploring.

As it turned out it was quite easy to find the floating market as there were a number of bilingual signs along the way. I parked my car in Bangnamphungnai Temple and followed the crowd to what looked like a newly constructed canal. Or at least one where the banks had been recently reinforced with concrete slabs. I am not sure what I was expecting. I suppose I was thinking it would be a bit like the famous floating market at Damnoen Saduak. I thought there would be dozens of vendors paddling up and down the canal selling their produce to locals and tourists. Well, it wasn’t quite like that. Most of the vendors were on the river bank or were selling from boats which were firmly moored. The only people I saw on boats were some tourists who had rented them out.

There were the usual number of food stalls which was to be expected. But, there was also many OTOP stalls. If you don’t know, this stands for One Tambon One Product. It is a scheme started by Thaksin to encourage each district in the country to produce and sell at least one unique product. This alone made the trip worthwhile. It was interesting to see and buy some local products. There must have been over 100 stalls which provided quite a nice atmosphere. In addition to hiring boats, it looked like you could also hire bicycles. I walked along the canal for a while until the path stopped alongside a road about a ten minute walk away.

I think this is a place I would certainly come back to. The floating market is open every weekend between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. I came a bit late this time so if I bring some visitors next time I will try to go earlier in the morning. A nice touch for me was that there were no foreigners at all. Obviously it isn’t in any English guidebooks yet as it has been open less than a year.

My next task was to find Sri Nakhon Khuankun Park (figure 2 on the map). This was alot harder as the map wasn’t very clear and the roads were very narrow and winding. This whole area is hardly built up at all. It is very much like a jungle in places. I eventually found the park which was in the middle of no-where. Literally. At the entrance there were about a dozen cars parked. If you don’t have your own transport then I am not sure how yo uwould get to this place. Entrance to the park is free of charge which is nice but not surprising because of its remote location.

On walking inside I was amazed about the size and neatness of the place. Again I wondered about the remoteness and location of the park. How many people would come here? How many people know about it? In the middle of the park there is a large lake. Scattered around were a few salas, open planned buildings, and bridges crossing streams. Some people were lying on the grass eating a picnic and others were feeding the fish in the lake.

I decided to walk north to where I presumed I might find the Chao Phraya River. I actually had no idea where I was on the map but I was hoping I might be able to see a glimpse of the river. After walking for about 15 minutes or so I came across a watch tower which was about seven metres high. What was puzzling was that surrounding the watch tower was a wooden boardwalk which had fallen into disrepair. It was strange because the park looked new. Anyway, the view from the top didn’t give me any clues about which direction I should go. I was surrounded by palm trees and nipa palms.

I decided to keep walking north. The path became more overgrown. I then discovered another area which had some buildings and seating areas that had fallen to pieces. This looked like it had been a park in the past with maybe some shops and boardwalks out into the jungle. But now the jungle had taken over. I wasn’t sure whether to continue walking or not. I knew it must only be a hop skip and jump to the heart of Bangkok but it was starting to feel like I was in that DiCaprio movie The Beach. You know, that scene where the backpackers stumble across a field with drugs growing and they are gunned down by the farmers. The place was dead quiet and there was not a single person in sight.

I decided to head back but first I needed to relieve myself. As I walked behind a tree, a loud noise startled me. It sounded like an animal moving fast through some water. But this wasn’t a small animal. It sounded as big as a human but was moving much quicker. It crossed my mind that it might be a wild crocodile! I then decided I had done enough exploring in the jungle and decided to walk back to the new part of the park. I didn’t want to be eaten by crocodiles. If there were crocodiles these wouldn’t be doped like the ones that perform in the wrestling matches in Paknam.

Walking back to the lake I spotted some more wildlife. Apart from butterflies and birds, I could see something swimming in the river. It wasn’t fish. I went to take a closer look. A few minutes later I spotted a monitor lizard running across the grass and jumping into the water. It must have been about two metres long. It looked like it was quite powerful the way it was swimming. I wonder if this is what startled me earlier. Maybe there was a much larger one out in the bushes.

I decided to cut my walk in the park short when the wind started to pick up and it looked like it was going to rain. I probably would come back here again to do a bit more exploring. There certainly seemed to be plenty of flora and fauna. Again it would be a nice place to bring visitors. The park is open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The Loop in the River – Two months later

The loop in the Cho Phraya River

I had been meaning to go back to explore the area more thoroughly, so I was really excited last week to receive an invitation from Steve and his wife Jit to come and visit them in Bangkrachao. Steve has been a regular reader of our Thai Blogs for a while and he knew of my interest in this area. Steve and Jit are on a six month sabbatical from their work in Alaska. They have been building a house on her family’s property and it was now ready to move in. Their house borders the Sri Nakhon Khuankun Park which I visited last time. In the first picture, you can just make out the large green area of the park towards the top.

Sri Nakhon Khuankun Park

When I arrived at the park, I gave Steve a call as arranged. He told me to wait by the inner gate and not the one by the road. I was curious about this as I thought we were going to his house first. Then a few minutes later he came walking out of the park with his wife. Apparently there isn’t any road access to his community yet and they have to enter through the park. However, this is not such a bad thing. How many people do you know who have a large beautiful park on their doorstep? Not that they need it. As you can see in the picture above, their community, to the north of the park, is surrounded by palm trees and banana plantations. There are interesting and quiet walk along the narrow paths in just about every direction.

One of the paths around the community

This picture shows one of the main paths through this community. Jit told me that there were about 50 families living here. Some houses were next door to each other and some were more isolated as they were surrounded by small banana plantations. Steve told me to be careful of falling coconuts. Outside one of the houses, a group of people were busy making some candy. Jit explained to me that the whole community had been helping for the last few days to make this dessert. They were planning on using the candy to make merit to mark the end of the Rains Retreat early next month. Jit introduced me to her uncle who was busy ripping open a coconut. She then introduced me to various other relations including her father. At this point I decided to ask her what percent of the villagers were related to her. She didn’t seem to understand my question. So I asked her, how many people in the community were related to her. She replied, everyone!

Making candy

It was really nice having Jit show me around as she was very knowledgeable about what was going on. She told me that the chewy candy they were making was made from peanuts, popped corn, sesame seeds, sugar cane juice and plain white sugar. It tasted really nice. True to Thai tradition, as soon as I had said how good it was, she gave me a whole bag full! Nearby, a steamer was busy cooking another delicious dessert which I will tell you about another day! After a brief stop for a delicious meal, we then set off on foot to the local jetty to explore the river by boat.

On the River in Bangkok

Bangkok and Bangkrachao

I was telling you about my visit to Bangkrachao in Samut Prakan. This is an area that, despite being so close to Bangkok, hasn’t been developed at all. Look at the satellite picture above. The northern side of the river is Bangkok. This is the busy port area of Klong Toey. On the southern side is nothing but palm trees and banana plants. You can clearly see the lake in the middle of Sri Nakhon Khuankun Park (bottom middle of picture). Steve and his wife Jit live just north of the park. From here we walked along a narrow path to the river. After about ten minutes of waking we came out at a private jetty. Steve told me that you ring the bell here and someone would dash out of a nearby house and jump into a boat. Normal cross-river passenger ferries would cost you only a few baht but this one costs 10 baht. Not bad when you consider that sometimes you are the only passenger.

Boat on the Chao Phraya River

Jit suggested that we hire the boat for a while and just explore up and down the river. I jumped at the chance. I love exploring rivers. She then proceeded to negotiate a price of 200 baht to go down the river about 3–4 kms and back again. The boatman agreed and we jumped into his long-tailed boat (the propeller is at the end of a long shaft). The first picture above shows you the view looking across to the high-raised buildings in Bangkok. The buildings the opposite direction were very different in comparison.

Floating house

Here is one of the first examples. The little girl and her dog live on this floating house which goes up and down with the tide. Well, I hope it does as she will soon be flooded out at the next high tide!

House on stilts

This house on stilts is more typical. Notice the sala-like jetty where they can get into boats or just lie down in the shade. At dusk members of the household would go down the steps to take a bath and wash their hair. On the left is a lean-to for their boat. You can see that they have electricity because of the electrical pole in the water. Looks like they also get television. On some houses I saw red post boxes. I wonder if the postman approaches from the river or land. I suspect by the river is easier.

Ship on the river

I took several hundred pictures on this boat trip. Too many to show here. I will finish with this last picture showing the wake being produced by a big container ship. Ironically the name of the ship is “Smooth Sea”. Luckily this ship was on the other side of the river as it could have given us a pretty rough ride.

I wish to thank Steve and Jit for showing me around their area. It was a wonderful day out.

Exploring the River in Paknam

It has been one of my ambitions for some time now to go by boat all the way from Paknam to Bangkok. This is actually easier said than done because there are no commercial boat services that cover the entire length of the Chao Phraya River and out to the Gulf of Thailand. However, there are some local express boat services that use long-tailed boats (see picture above). My idea was to utilize these boats to leap frog my way to Bangkok. Well, that was the plan.

I left my house just after noon. I was originally going to walk to the jetty which is only about a 15 minute walk away. But, I was feeling Thai so I decided to take the car instead. It is a well-known fact that Thai people just don’t like walking. They will catch a samlor or tuk tuk to go around the corner. I remember one time I walked to one of the local banks to use the ATM. It was only ten minutes away. But when I came back, all the Thai people were saying “geng, geng” for being so clever! None of them believe that I used to go on hikes that lasted three or four days. They just thought the idea was crazy. Didn’t I have any money for transport?

Anyway, back to the story. When you walk into Paknam Market, you go straight ahead for the cross-river ferry or turn left for 10 metres and then right to the jetty for the long-tailed boats. When I arrived I could see that there were a lot of people sitting around waiting for a boat. There were actually two boats there already but no sign of the driver. There was a mother there with her two young children. I asked her if this was the boat for Phra Pradaeng. She said no. I had to catch the cross-river ferry and then take a songtaew to Phra Pradaeng. I told her I wanted to go by boat. She said I was daft and that it was quicker and cheaper by songtaew. I insisted I wanted to go by boat as I had my own car and I had been many times by road. She then said that the boat service had discontinued for over a year now! Well, there goes that plan. Failed before I even started.

As I was still eager to go on a boat ride to somewhere I asked her where this boat was going. I should explain at this point that most Thai people I have met just don’t understand the concept of going out somewhere for pleasure. They want to know where you are going. I say I don’t know. I just want to enjoy the experience of going somewhere new! Well, it was the same with this woman. She didn’t really understand why I would now want to catch a boat that was going the opposite direction. But, I asked again, where it was going. “It is going to my home in Sakla,” she replied. “But why would you want to go there? You might get stranded and won’t be able to catch a boat back.” I said I didn’t mind as I wanted to explore. I asked her what time the boat would go. She shrugged her shoulders and pointed to a guy fast asleep on the table. “He will shout out when it is time to go.”

So, I waited. And waited. And waited. After about 45 minutes the woman I was talking to before got up to go and get something to eat. A man then sat down in her place. Now, here is a small tip for when you are traveling in Thailand. Always ask directions or information from at least three different people. You will probably get at least three different replies but at least you would know enough now to make an educated guess. So, I asked this man what time the boat left. He just said “2 o’clock”. I looked at the clock on the wall. I had another hour to go! No wonder the driver was sleeping so soundly! OK, time to change plans again.

A little while ago, Sripan told me about a stretch of sandy beach that could be seen on the other side of the river. She said it might not be there any more but it was worth looking for as most coastal areas around here were mudflats. I was intrigued, so I walked back to the jetty for the cross-river ferry. Now, this was much simpler. These boats run all day and all night. As soon as one leaves another one arrives. The ten minute trip across the river only costs two baht. In comparison, the boat trip to Sakla would have cost about 40 baht.

On the other side, Sripan said I should look out for the motorcycle taxis and ask them to take me to Soi Thanakorn. When I arrived, I couldn’t see any motorcycles waiting around so I decided to walk instead. I am not really that lazy! I do like some exercise sometimes. And anyway, I am English. Do you know that old song, “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun”? Well, it was a bit like that today. As I walked along the road, the people were trying to get me to take a songtaew or a tuk tuk. I said no and just kept on walking. As I passed I could hear them commenting about the crazy foreigner. They were probably right. It was hot. Very hot. I later found out that it was 41 degrees Celsius and the hottest day of the year so far! That must be well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

After about ten minutes I reached the top of Soi Thankorn (or the “mouth” as they say in Thai). There was a motorcycle taxi stand here too but I decided that as I was already halfway I might as well carry on walking. Which I did. According to my map (I had photocopied some pages for this adventure) this was a dead-end road that led to the river. At the end there should be a vegetable oil factory. Walking down this road was like walking into the middle of no-where. All of the concrete houses had disappeared. On either side it was swampy with palm trees. Every now and then there was the odd tin-roofed house with a raised board walk leading to it. Hard to imagine that just ten minutes ago I was in a city which is apparently the most densely populated area in Thailand.

Another ten minutes or so I reached the gates of the factory. A big sign said “no photography” so I tucked away my camera and walked up to the guardhouse. I asked them if I could pass through to go to the river. “You have gone the wrong way”, they said. “You need to go back to the main road and walk to the jetty.” Yes, I know that. I said. I just want to see the river here. “It is the same river. Anyway, you cannot come in here.” That was it. End of discussion. Back at the factory gates I looked left and right to see if I could skirt around the walls of the factory. But, it was very swampy. So, I had failed again.

As I started to walk back a motorcycle taxi overtook me and stopped. He asked me where I was going. By this time I was feeling really hot so I said “ta reua” which is Thai for jetty. I asked him how much it would be. He said “10 baht”. You know, I have always liked the honesty of motorcycle taxi riders. If that had been a tuk tuk driver he would have said 60 baht without hesitation. Feeling that my adventure was finished, I rode the motorcycle back to the jetty and caught the boat back home. I was badly in need of an ice cold drink and some air-conditioning!

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 Bangkok 

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.