Thailand offers an endless array of interesting fascinating experiences! Be it new foods to taste, cultural events to experience, natural attractions to visit, or new locations to tour and explore.
Since moving to Hua Hin back in 2015, we’ve continued to explore our new ‘backyard’ – Thailand. There is just so much to see and do – fun, adventure and discovery around every corner!
Our most recent ‘discovery tour’ was to Amphawa just 145 km north of our home in Hua Hin and only 70 km south of Bangkok.
This whole area at the top of the Gulf of Thailand is dissected by three major rivers and their tributaries – with the land and waterways being ideal for food production. The naturally rich region has an abundance of seafood, fruits and vegetables and is renowned for its pla tu (mackerel), salt fields and coconut palm sugar.
For centuries, the easiest way for locals to move their produce to markets was by boat on the narrow canals (Klongs) and broader rivers. Villages and towns were built on these same waterways, becoming the centre of life and transport.
The village of Amphawa, sitting adjacent the Mae Khlong river, has managed to retain this classic rural Thai charm. So much so, the town received an award from UNESCO in 2008 for its efforts to conserve the centuries-old teak wood homes and temples that line Amphawa’s canals.
One of the key attractions now days is its Floating Market. The market itself sits on the quaint Amphawa canal. With elevated banks boasting teakwood heritage houses and canal-side walkways, it really is a picturesque spot that feels like it hasn’t changed all that much over the past century.
Unlike other floating markets that typically finish up by late morning, Amphawa’s market operates from 12noon to 8:00pm Friday through Sunday. And in contrast to the exceptionally tourist-laden Damnoen Saduak floating markets a little further north – the atmosphere at Amphawa feels very local. Our experience this trip suggests Bangkok Thais do flock here to enjoy the food offerings of the town’s famous floating market. We farang (foreigners of European descent as the Thais describe us) were definitely in the minority.
Hundreds of vendors sell prepared foods and artsy souvenirs. Some on the walkways, footpaths and side stalls beside the canal and others from anchored boats within the klong itself. It feels like the market indeed overtakes the entire town; there are no clear lines as to where it begins and ends. It’s a very photogenic scene and a phenomenal place to sample the area’s food specialties.
Take the steep, rickety timber steps leading from the main walkways down to the water’s edge to sellers floating in their wooden sampans waiting to serve up their speciality. Whole steamed crabs, fried mackerel (a local speciality), and my favourites – grilled prawns, and som tam (Green Papaya salad) await. Unless you ask otherwise, it’s served on disposable plates ready to be eaten on the spot! Dining by the water, the sun going down, on delicious fresh cooked seafood for just 100 baht…it doesn’t get much better than that!
One of the market’s many draws is its endless spread of khanom or Thai sweets/snacks, which the town is known for. There’s even a “Thai dessert museum” nearby. We wandered the banks frequently stopping to check-out what was on offer. The sweet sticky rice stuffed into 20-30 cm long pieces of bamboo and grilled (steamed) over coals was delicious. Also on offer – all manner of colourful treats made from rice flour, coconut, mung bean and more – many a little too bright and wobbly for my liking!
The narrow walkways along the edge of the canal do seem to magnify the sense of crowds, yet it’s easy to pop into a little coffee shop or eatery with comfortable seating for respite if feeling overwhelmed.
We discovered a tranquil garden just off the walkway – tables set under frangipani trees laden with sweet smelling flowers. An ideal spot to enjoy a late afternoon Iced Coffee. At the back of this peaceful garden, we also spotted a line of armchairs with footstools in front – Thai massage! Precisely what our weary feet and legs wanted. One hour of expert manipulation takes away all manner of pain, reviving us for more market wandering!
If experiencing Amphawa from on the canals is your thing then for around 100 baht you can join a 45-minute tour on one of many long-tail sampans. Long timber flat bottom boats with a sharp bow and a more full stern where the motor and skipper are placed. Rows of timber planks across the slender sampan act as seating, often only fitting 2 or 3 people per row. A very traditional ‘on water’ experience taking you into the nearby canals and along a stretch of the Mae Khlong.
was fantastic and reinforced how lucky we are with so many new opportunities just waiting for us to get out and experience in this adventure and discovery-filled “Land of Smiles”!
About the Author
2.5 years ago from Brisbane Australia and find delight
in exploring the delights Thailand offers.
This article originally appeared in International Living Australia, https://internationalliving.com/au/8-dollar-massages-tempting-treats-sunset-sampan-rides/.