Bangkok: Discovering Maeklong + Amphawa
I was glad to discover the convenience of Maeklong Railway Market and Amphamwa Floating Market in one route. My hotel in Silom didn't allow check-ins before 3pm, leaving hours to spare. Instead of hanging around the area, I decided to start tackling my Bangkok itinerary, looked up the route to reach Maeklong *or* Amphawa and realised they were possible together.
However, the subway, sky train, bus and tuk tuk! Could I have possibly exhausted Thai public transport?
I had the subway (Silom to Siam) and SkyTrain (Siam to Mochit station) nailed down intuitively, but leaving the Sky Train, further directions to Mochit bus station were necessary. Ignored by several locals, most likely due to language barrier, I exigently looked for someone able to advise.
Unrecognisable. Even after another attempt.
Got it, I mispronounced. I was told the bus station was far and that I needed to take another bus first. Being a 30 minute walk, I decided on this to soak in the surroundings and catch unforeseen sights. I passed a market, which upon researching later, realised it was the famous Chatuchak Weekend market. Had I known then, I would have returned to browse properly in the evening, rather than walk through it briskly with semi-interest and rush.
The minivan took me directly to Maeklong market. A single, long and narrow street of vegetables and meats being sold in baskets, fish lay on strewn newspapers, and plastic pots spread over the floor on either side of the tracks shared by trains and visitors who walk on it. A stationary train parked at the far end, besieged by tourists awaiting their photo. The Thai tourist police (the bureau was set up amidst a growth in tourism) told me this ran hourly and is the last market train left in Bangkok. The train passes from Wongwian Yai, Bangkok, and Samut Songkhram in central Thailand, and was around since 1905, when it delivered fish to markets. Apparently, and unsurprising, it is also one of the slowest railways in the country.
An efficient rail? A good market? Unsure, but definitely a good tourist attraction. I could see the tourist police swamped with questions on the time of Maeklong's train passage. I wandered around the market and suddenly, a Thai announcement, followed by a beep and whistle was heard. Workers got up to move their produce and unwound market tents, pulling them back from the track. The train passed very slowly, with both those on it and tourists outside taking photos. Another beep and stall owners put their tents down swifty and re-organised their goods quickly. 8 times a day, I thought. They must be used to it, and as special and endearing as it was to observe, I emphasised a little with their annoyance.
Realising there wasn't much more to see, I headed to Amphamwa, and the tourist police insisted on walking me over to the tuk tuk driver 10 minutes away. The driver waited for a few of us to get on before departing. I grabbed tightly onto the rail, looked out into the roads at the back and enjoyed the breeze of sitting at the open tuk tuk back.
Tuk Tuk Ride in Amphamwa
Amphamwa Floating Market
For a moment, I thought I'd gotten off at the wrong stop and once I managed to get to the water market, this was still and relatively quiet. This was great for strolling around the side planks searching for colourful boats adorned with basketfuls of fruit, vegetables and meat. I initially didn’t see many boats, owing to late arrival. When a few finally appeared, there were tour boats or boats serving meals. I watched as people stepped on carefully to enjoy barbequed seafood, and the hot air mingled with smells of sizzling meat. If only I came in a group. As I crossed the bridge, boats lined up brightly, with placard menus and plates of delicious plates waiting to be served. Most boats will serve this, rather than be seen selling goods at this time.
Even under the cloudiness, the lively but quiet scene was a pleasure to watch for a few moments. It was far from chaotic, which I imagined it would be, although not romantic and historic in the same way as the Wuzhen Watertown in China which I went to see the previous year. Back to the canal side, I visited tourist shops and tried my first Miang Kham skewer snack; fried peanuts, shallots, shrimp, chillies, ginger, garlic and lime wrapped in betel leaf. How fragrant. A bottle of soy milk accompanied my nibble.
Wary of time, I left and passed market stalls which lead the way out. So many of them; street food Thai curries, coconut rice and mango takeaways, clothing, gadgets and various bits and pieces. No fear, I’ll chance upon another opportunity to savour more time on local Thai markets. Bumping into 3 other solo travellers at the bus stop, we engaged in conversation and eventually agreed to share a taxi heading back to Bangkok, and Silom for me. Then it hit me, the tiredness after a long day, and by night, I checked into my hotel. No sleep just yet! With Silom’s enticing bustle warming the night and my visit to Sky Bar due before its 1am close.