A few of us hired a driver to take us to a market (Damnoen Saduak) about an hour’s ride outside Bangkok proper. We eventually were dropped off at a large covered dock, where long boats waited for tourists. We carefully climbed into the boats, sure to balance out our weight so we didn’t all tumble into the canal, and our driver was off, speeding expertly along the narrow channels to the market.
At our first stop, we popped out to walk around and look at various souvenirs available. A few locals were brewing coconut sugar, a process that involves boiling the milk down in huge bamboo vats, letting the stickiness sweat out in a big pan, and then collecting the liquid sugar so it can be compressed and hardened into sugar that can be used in tea or coffee. Frankly, it was just like maple sugar treats that are so popular up north. The moulded cubes were easy to nibble and sublimely tasting of coconut – not overpowering, but just different enough to make morning coffee interesting.
Then, it was back on the boat, which meant navigating through the channels again, but this time, they were lined with other boats and the sides filled with tourist shops trying to get your attention as you floated by. Women in straw hats sold cut fruit, whole mangosteens, and mango sticky rice. Some sold coconuts with a straw hanging from them. Yet more sold kitschy tourist trinkets like carved elephants, besequined bags, and paintings of the boats. I’ll admit to giving in, only after bargaining hard, to buying a black and white painting of people in the river boats. Otherwise, many of the things could be found just about anywhere in Bangkok.
Overall, it was the experience of seeing how people lived and worked along the water channel was what made the trip interesting. We adapt to the places we are living in. The kids came out to wave to us and then went about playing with their toys. I imagine they see hundreds of foreigners go by every day, and the market is how their family makes a living – from our desire to having things to remember our travels by.
From the river market, we visit a large gem factory, but there’s no way I can afford any of that jewelry. It’s beautiful, stunningly so, but more suitable toward someone who isn’t a teacher. I can just imagine rocking a huge sapphire in class!
Again, the market is a lovely distraction from grad work. It’s nice to have the weekends to ourselves so we can see a bit of the city too.