{Sawatdee, Thailand!} Shopping from a boat & a taste of Thailand

Screen Shot 2013 09 04 at 8.58.30 PM - {Sawatdee, Thailand!} Shopping from a boat & a taste of Thailand

While I haven’t been able to pay off even close to half of my enormous amount of sleep debt, it’s certainly no excuse for me to have taken this long to write this post (or neglect my blog for that matter), and for that I apologise. I was so meticulous in choosing the photos and planning them out that it took me nearly forever before I could finalise them all! But be sure that I’ve got tons of photos and things I want to talk about, so I’m separating the whole trip in to four long, but hopefully not boring, posts. I hope you’ll enjoy (and forgive my blabbering)!

Sawatdee, Thailand!

It’s been a couple of weeks since we got back from Thailand, and I do miss the clever elephants in Chaing Mai dearly, but mostly I miss the smells of kaffir leaves and pad thai from every single meal we had. To tell you honestly, I was feeling sick during the plane ride over to Thailand, and the small legroom in the plane did nothing to help me and my long legs. When we got to our hotel in Bangkok, it was already midnight. After so many adventurous years traveling abroad, by now I was already used to traveling well into the wee hours of the morning, but it was certainly my first time being sick. Half a good night’s sleep later, I was raring to go like I always am when we’re in a new country!

Our hotel in Bangkok is called the Ecotel, and it’s 30 to 40 minutes away from the airport. It’s a 3-star hotel, but budgets aside, our philosophy when it comes to choosing hotels is: as long as the bed is comfy and the bathroom is clean, it’ll be okay. For the rest of the day, you’re out anyway! It also helps that the feedback on this hotel is relatively good, and most importantly, it’s cheap. Their breakfast buffet was actually better than I expected.

The hotel’s location is a bonus as well, as it is in the Pratunam area, close to several shopping centres such as the Big C Supercentre, Platinum Shopping Mall (went nearly gaga over the choices of clothes, bags and accessories here! And it was so cheap!), Central World Shopping Complex and many others. The rooms are average, but the extra bed is really short! We slept in a Superior room but got bumped up in our last nights into a Deluxe Suite for free because they ran out of rooms. Awesome.

We always go with packaged tours whenever we visit a specific country for the first time, and the first place this tour led us to was the famous Damnoensaduak Floating Market.

Floating Market 1

This Floating Market is just one of many in Thailand, but it is the most popular. It is located 100 kilometres southwest of the capital in the Ratchaburi province, and is therefore about a mere hour away from Bangkok. The area is quite lively, with a lot of tourist-carrying canoes paddling along the canals. There are tinier canoes laden with fresh coconut, mangoes and other foods floating among the larger ones. The coconut’s juice tastes so refreshing and sweet, I recommend giving it a go! (The same goes for the fruits deeper in the market- mangosteen, rambutan, longgan. You can find the photo down below.) It’s probably best to come here before the lunchtime sun comes out, because it’s going to be rather hot.

My initial idea of a floating market is when you’re standing on dry land while the sellers are floating around in boats with their wares. While there are some of that, it’s mostly the other way around. When you arrive in the pier, they let you board motor canoes which can seat about 8 people. On your way to the central trading area, you get to see many houses with interesting architecture built over water, some of them isolated with only thin cement bridges connecting them to the rest of the houses. I think it took about 10 minutes to get to the heart of the market, murky water splattering all over your face and the works. Don’t worry, the water is just dark, but I didn’t smell anything.

There are the typical clothes, shawls, souvenir shirts, local handicrafts and trinkets here, but the most interesting I saw were alarm clocks made out of soda cans and action figures made out of recycled metals and clips. I bought a couple of coin purses with the adorable colourful elephants sewn on them, because no matter what you do, cute things will always be girls’ weaknesses. And they’re perfect for gifts, really.


Floating Market 2

The thing with the sellers in this area though is that they give you an incredibly high price initially; for instance, about 650 Baht for a pack of 6 elephant coin purses. By my standards, that’s kind of pricey, so I did the only thing I always do when I’m in places like these: I haggled. I haggled down to 200 Baht, since that’s the price I felt was fair for the item. And guess what, she sold it to me. I tried 150 Baht first, but considering the fact that they are trying to make a living too, we went with 200 Baht. There was this one stall that wanted to sell us a simple beaded shirt for 650 Baht apiece, and that was kind of too much. But the shirts were nice enough, so we decided to buy in bulk and asked her to give us the shirt for 200 Baht each. She agreed.

After motoring through the many branches of the canals, we docked in an area that leads to more shops, this time on concrete land. A lot of the shops here sell basically the same things as the shops in the canal, but their initial prices are a bit lower, so it might surprise some people who bought for a high price while under the magical novelty of shopping from a canoe. You can still haggle for a lower price, but the sellers are a tad more stubborn here. It’s much easier to browse this way though, and there are a lot of colourful and lovely handmade things as you walk along. Just keep in mind that if you negotiate and bargain for everything in here, you very likely can get to buy a ton of things for 1000 Baht.

Floating Market- dry land 1

I bought an adorable pair of sandals for 250 Baht (initally 450 Baht), and a nice skirt for 180 Baht (initially 350 Baht). I honestly don’t think I’m very good at the haggling mind-games; it’s just that sometimes when I want something and I know more or less the value of it, I’m stubborn. There are sellers you can approach with a smile, and sellers that are as grouchy as a tiger woken from sleep, for which my approach is a similarly solid and straight face. Either way, I thought it was really challenging yet fun to shop in this country, because you really get to test your people skills and patience.

In case you’re wondering, here is how we did our haggling: When the seller gives you their sky-high price, respond by saying 150 Baht. They will begin pounding on their calculators for their next price. You can increase your price a little bit by 30 or 50 Baht if the seller is uncompromising. Depending on the item you are buying, you will usually get a sense of the value corresponding to the quality of the item. For instance, if it’s a skirt made of really thin material and they ask you for 550 Baht, it’s very likely that you can get the skirt for about 200Baht. If they don’t want to give the item to you for the price you think is fair, walk away, walk around, chances are, there will be a handful of other stalls selling the same thing. You can try your haggling luck there. Just in case you don’t see any other sellers, it might be good to try and meet halfway with the price.

Floating Market- dry land 2

Be careful thoughmost of the sellers (whether here or in the malls in Bangkok) are actually kind of rude. When we went to the Plantinum Fashion Mall in Bangkok, there was one seller who as we were about to leave, brashly told us that if we leave the store and come back, she will increase the price of the item even if we begged for a discount because we wouldn’t buy it from her the first time. If it were me, I would have tried to charm my customer into buying things rather than turning them off with my unpleasantness. Needless to say, we didn’t buy from that store or even glance that way whenever we passed by. I don’t mean to offend since I’m not saying everyone is this way in Bangkok, but that’s the experience I had for almost all the shops I visited there. It’s all part of the experience I suppose.

Back to the Floating Market, as I was walking along towards the exit, I finally saw some of those famous food sellers on boats that appear so much on travel guides. Now this is my idea of a floating market!

Floating Market 4

I wish I could have taken some time to buy a dish or two from here, as a proper “traveler” ought to have done, but here I feel the vast disadvantage of going with a tour agency. Some other bloggers have said that they ate their best pad thai from one of the boat sellers, and it’s unfortunate that I didn’t get to eat any of that given that I actually love pad thai a lot. I ate it everyday for a week and didn’t get sick of it even for a second!

Anyway, exiting the Floating Market proper, the temple called the Phra Pathom Chedi in the town of Nakorn Pathom is a mere short drive away. Supposedly, it is the largest pagoda in Southeast Asia. We weren’t able to go inside to explore though, as most parts of the temple was closed for repairs. A lot of people still visited to pray to the statues of Buddhist gods on the steps up though, so we stayed for a bit for a moment of silent prayer as well.

Pagoda 1

Pagoda 2

As it was nearing lunchtime, some of us were actually feeling quite hungry already. Across the street from the chedi stood an small cluster of food stalls and carts.

I was curious about this purple mixture with some shredded coconut in them the seller stapled between two pieces of banana leaves and then cooked over charcoal. The trouble is I can’t seem to remember what this is called, but certainly it was delicious.

Food 1

The texture is reminiscent of sticky rice, but it was not too sweet and quite enjoyably chewy. We hungrily tore it off with our fingers and happily prepared our tummies for a buffet lunch at the Rose Garden Riverside Restaurant.

The restaurant is located within the Rose Garden Riverside 70-acre resort compound, and has a lovely view of the Te Chine River and some antique Thai houses that serve as accommodations for guests.

Rose Garden Riverside 1

The food in the restaurant is laid out in a buffet, with a section for typical Thai food, Japanese food, Halal food, and of course, dessert. The food isn’t excellent, but it was good enough to merit a second round for the family and friends. I’m certain they change their menu every so often, but at the time we were there, there was Pad Thai, of course; and the presence of my favourite Papaya Salad. But there were also Russian fish cakes and curried vegetables, as well as green curry beef and spicy stir-fried vegetables; some assorted Japanese maki rolls and soup were also present in the Japanese area.

They had some spicy chicken noodle soup, but they also had pumpkin cream soup– pretty much some Western food to balance out the Asian food on the table. The baked desserts weren’t anything stellar, but certainly the fruits were so sweet and so good.

Rose Garden Riverside Food

We actually only came here for lunch and a cultural show, but the place itself is quite interesting after some research. Apparently, it was developed from a botanical garden into a relaxing getaway, complete with a spa area and a golf course. The air was cool and soothing as you walked around among the chirping of the birds. Everywhere you looked was so green and lush, it was literally one giant park. No matter how many people there were in there, the Rose Garden seemed to resonate a sense of peace, right from when the breeze caresses your cheeks, to when the grass gently sigh under your feet, it’s really quite a lovely place.

Students also like to take their field trips here as aside from the Cultural Show, the Rose Garden offers lessons in Thai cultural dances and handiwork, among others. The Cultural Programme was able to give us a glimpse of the rich Thai culture, from Muay Thai and Thai martial arts, to Thai weddings (my favourite part as I thought the couple who performed here was adorable!) and folk dances, but we didn’t stay for the lessons as we had to head back to Bangkok.

Fighting

Couples

~~~

As this is my first time doing an actual travel post, I’m fairly certain I’m not very good at it. I don’t even know myself what information to give about the Phra Pathom Chedi as I didn’t get to explore it fully, but all the things I’m putting up here are things I thought were worth mentioning, not only because they are visual feats, but because I found them (or what I do know about them) to be interesting to some degree, and I therefore decided to share them with you all.

Stay tuned for the next installment of my travel to Thailand! I hope I get better at this as I make more travel logs.

Other posts in this series:

 

2 Comments

  1. howzitjt
    17 January, 2012

    Awesome! nice photos also 😀

    Reply
    1. Clarisse Shaina
      17 January, 2012

      Thanks! 🙂

      Reply

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