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Old 13th November 2012, 19:09   #91
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Default Re: Thailand | Third Time

We set off from the Khlong Mu Dong pier in a long-tail boat. My wife is happy. She had been terrified at the prospect of getting aboard a high-speed motor boat, after having watched an accident on our previous trip (10 days across Thailand (2009) - and 8 more days (2011)). The slower long-tail boat appealed to her - at least we wouldn't be going flying over the waves and getting hurt.
Thailand | Third Time-11.jpg

What we had in mind was a relaxed trip around a part of the coastline, and turning back after a half hour. What the two boatmen had in mind was something else.
Thailand | Third Time-11-1.jpg


The boat headed straight out to sea, instead of following the coast as we had asked.

Thailand | Third Time-11-2.jpg

Thailand | Third Time-11-3.jpg

In the distance appeared to be floating a few rafts.

Thailand | Third Time-11-4.jpg

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Closer up, these turned out to be floating restaurants!
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The boat wanted to pull up at one of these, but we were not interested to eat!
Thailand | Third Time-11-9.jpg

Denied their cut from our food bill, the boatmen headed promptly back to the pier, and our trip was over in 20 minutes.

Thailand | Third Time-dsc03012k300.jpg

But we were tolerating no such nonsense.

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 13th November 2012 at 19:12. Reason: Wishing everyone who reads this, a happy Diwali today, and a great year 2012-13 to come!
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Old 15th November 2012, 11:11   #92
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Default Re: Thailand | Third Time

A BHPian sent me this PM:
Quote:
Have been following your Thailand trips. I just wanted a rough idea of the accommodation costs. We are planning a last minute trip to Thailand for our honeymoon. Have absolutely no clue where to start.
... Maybe for 5-7 days .

Would you suggest visa on arrival or should we get our visas before we travel. minimum fund requirements ? Looking for some inputs from you.
I am answering on the open forum in the hope that it would be of help to others too.

Accommodation costs across Thailand are cheaper than similar equivalent accommodation in India. My usual method of booking hotels is
  1. Check place to visit
  2. Check hotel names and prices on sites like agoda.com, hotels.co.in, wotif.com, booking.com
  3. Check ratings of hotels shortlisted, on TripAdvisor
  4. Check prices of specific hotels on the hotels' website directly, or send them an email for a quote
  5. Book the best deal available
The usual price range that I am comfortable with is 2000-4000 INR/equivalent per night. Any room is always air-conditioned, even the cheapest (had once booked a room for ~550INR in Chiang Mai). Most hotels include breakfast, but reservation sites like Agoda might offer cheaper rates based on breakfast not being included.

I also need to keep in mind whether triple accommodation is allowed in my hotel of choice (often, sites like Agoda do not show costs and availability for triple accommodation, whereas the hotel allows it; at other times certain hotels don't allow triple accommodation at all - one case in point being the Holiday Inn Express Bangkok Siam, near MBK Mall in Bangkok, which has great prices, but don't allow triple accommodation).


Booking rooms from the hotels' site directly usually means they ask you for your credit cards details as a means of verification, but don't charge you (unless you cancel rooms too late, when cancellation charges would apply) - the final bill can be settled at the reception when checking out. OTOH, booking through reservation sites means you need to pay up in advance.

Pros & cons of VOA vs. pre-issued visa for Thailand:
  • Visa-on-arrival (VOA) is cheaper (1000THB, around 1800INR), whereas from the Thai Embassy it costs 2000INR + processing fees of ~350INR (http://www.vfs-thailand.co.in/).
  • VOA is issued only until your return flight date, but the Embassy issues a visa for a minimum duration of 3 months. Gives a margin of comfort in case it worries you that your return may be delayed due to unforeseen circumstances.
  • One additional hour required at the airport, standing in queue to process the VOA.
  • Two trips required to process the visa from the Thai embassy (to deposit and pick up documentation)
  • A travel agent would also do it for you. I don't have a trustworthy agent who I can hand over our passports to, and the reputed ones charge an additional processing fee themselves to do the job for you. In any case, we did it from Delhi, and the VFS office here is fast and efficient - took us less than 15 minutes to deposit papers, and 5 minutes to pick them up.
This has been mentioned before, and I'll repeat this: do carry 10,000THB or equivalent per person or 20,000THB/equivalent per family IN CASH when entering Thailand. Even if you have a visa issued from your own country. Thai authorities DO NOT recognize INR as a valid equivalent currency - most preferred is to carry USD/EUR/GBP.

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 15th November 2012 at 11:24.
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Old 15th November 2012, 14:14   #93
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Default Re: Thailand | Third Time

Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
But we were tolerating no such nonsense.
We wouldn't get off the boat until the fellow completes his one hour, and the boatmen want more money. Good thing is, their way of doing business does not include physical violence, or threats of it, to customers (I suppose, back in India, we'd have been dumped in the water for wanting to complete our 1 hour trip with an unwilling boatman).
Thailand | Third Time-12.jpg

The boatmen finally relent and extend the ride, and we change our plan a little, to take a ride upstream along the creek. It is peaceful to watch lots of mangrove trees, and the calm green waters.
Thailand | Third Time-12-1.jpg

We are told that there are monkeys and crocodiles to be seen too, but this late in the afternoon, I suppose no one was interested to hang around to meet us!
Thailand | Third Time-12-2.jpg

Hard a'starboard, and back we go, heading towards the pier again.
Thailand | Third Time-12-3.jpg

Thailand | Third Time-12-4.jpg

The golden glow of the setting sun is so attractive, we head out to open sea for a short while once again, just to capture the drama on camera. Notice the Big Buddha statue outlined against the sky in the distance.
Thailand | Third Time-12-8.jpg

Thailand | Third Time-12-6.jpg

Thailand | Third Time-12-7.jpg

Time to head back...
Thailand | Third Time-12-9.jpg

Thailand | Third Time-12-5.jpg

...get off the boat...
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Thailand | Third Time-12-11.jpg

...and time to settle the bill. Unhappy boatman - thought he'd make more money than originally contracted for. Didn't expect such adamant tourists!
Thailand | Third Time-12-12.jpg

Back on land, there seems to be a makeshift market in full swing in the nearby village. We saunter across to take a look.
Thailand | Third Time-12-13.jpg

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 15th November 2012 at 14:24.
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Old 16th November 2012, 08:34   #94
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Default Re: Thailand | Third Time

We are off to visit a local village market at Khlong Mu Dong, not because it's a tourist attraction, but out of sheer curiosity.

Thailand | Third Time-14.jpg

The lady looks at us with an expression that says: Now what are YOU folks doing in here?

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But we walk in nevertheless...

Thailand | Third Time-14-1.jpg

Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
Yes, you get vegetarian food quite easily in Thailand. There's even a vegetarian festival held in Phuket...

...and want to take a look at the kinds of vegetables available there...

Thailand | Third Time-14-2.jpg

Thailand | Third Time-14-4.jpg

But then we have never enjoyed our veggies, as much as we enjoy our fish (you've got to remember that we are hardcore SOBs - Sons of Bengal ). And here's a market permeated with a strong odour of fish.

There's red carp...
Thailand | Third Time-14-5.jpg

...and tiger prawns that tug at our heart strings...
Thailand | Third Time-14-13.jpg

...and lots and lots of squid and octopus...
Thailand | Third Time-14-10.jpg

Thailand | Third Time-14-14.jpg

Thailand | Third Time-14-6.jpg

Thailand | Third Time-14-7.jpg

...even crabs - some of them quite large...
Thailand | Third Time-14-8.jpg

...and more brilliant-looking things (I think these are conches / whelk)...

Thailand | Third Time-14-9.jpg

...even some kind of fish that that looks like pomfret, just sliced into two...
Thailand | Third Time-14-11.jpg

...of course, there's the usual assortment of sausages and fish balls that are a part of any market in Thailand, or even any footpath, where people congregate and feel hungry...
Thailand | Third Time-14-3.jpg

...oh, and even a nicely kitted out Honda Brio (I'm sure it wasn't for sale )
Thailand | Third Time-14-15.jpg

We decide not to take in any more of the sights of Phuket, but call it a day and retire to Sansuko Ville, having dinner there itself. Tomorrow, we'd have an early start, and it would be a long, long day, since we drive back to Bangkok.

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Old 16th November 2012, 11:02   #95
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Default Re: Thailand | Third Time

25 October 2012.

It's unnerving to be stopped by cops in a foreign land.

It's frightening to suddenly fall sick, sick enough to pull over, unable to drive any more.

But right now, it's a beautiful rainy morning, a cool 20*C inside and a balmy 25*C outside, and I hate the thought of getting out of bed, lugging suitcases into the back of the van, and start driving.

Thailand | Third Time-15-1.jpg


Thailand | Third Time-15.jpg
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Old 17th November 2012, 19:15   #96
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We finally leave the hotel at 8AM - about an hour behind schedule.

If you read up on Phuket as a tourist looking for information, the names of Patong Beach and Bangla Road (appropriate place for Bongs to head to!? ) would invariably strike you as the most hip and happening places there. We had planned to take a trip that way the previous evening, but ultimately did not. This morning, before heading towards Bangkok, we would drive by there.
Thailand | Third Time-dsc07915k300.jpg

We were told that these are the centres of Phuket's nightlife. But to drive down Bangla Road in the morning is like driving on any other street in any city, except the billboards that can be viewed. Here's one advertising women's Muay Thai boxing, a popular pastime in Phuket.
Thailand | Third Time-dsc07922k300.jpg
We get to Patong Beach, which is pretty deserted at this time of the morning, and stop at a couple of spots.
Thailand | Third Time-dsc03060k300.jpg

Thailand | Third Time-dsc07920k300.jpg

Thailand | Third Time-dsc07923k300.jpg


Crystal clear waters

Thailand | Third Time-dsc00377k300.jpg

Thailand | Third Time-dsc00378k300.jpg

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Sun, sea and sand
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Catch of the day
Thailand | Third Time-dsc07918k300.jpg

Getting late - it's time to hit the road.
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Old 18th November 2012, 11:59   #97
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We are on our way to Bangkok.

Crossed over from Phuket to the mainland, and the highway through Phang-Nga Province looks like this...


It's a pleasure to drive on roads like these, and I was sticking to what I perceived was the correct speed limit, i.e. 120 km/h.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
On the motorways, speed limits can vary from 80km/h to 120km/h, and most people stick to about 10% above the limit. Speed radars are deployed sometimes, and I've spotted at least two.
Also read http://www.novacarhire.com/thailand/...g-in-thailand/
Quote:
The maximum speed limit on expressways and country roads varies from 90 to 120 km/h while the speed limit in towns and cities is 60 km/h. Be aware that Thai police carry out regular speed checks so remain within the limits at all times.
But the cops had shifted the goalposts, and I didn't know about it.

I got stopped at one of the police checkpoints, with a smart salute and something spoken in Thai, with an indication to park on the left.

I am sorry, I don't speak Thai.

A senior officer walks up to me.

You were driving "overlimit" at 127 km/h. The speed limit is 100 km/h.

Uhh... it's 120, I thought...

I pleaded with the guy about not being aware of the new speed limiit because everything is in Thai, and he told me extremely politely, This is Thailand. Obviously everything will be in Thai!

Friend Suresh Padmanabhan, resident in Thailand, says:
Quote:
I believe the speed limit still ranges from 90-120km/h. 'public' vans have been limited to 90km/h from 1.4.2012. A rented van would not fall into that category for sure. As you would have noticed no van/car/pick up travels less than 120km/h except when it rains!
...You probably just saved me 400 baht! The Dept of Land transport and Thai traffic police websites are in Thai and google chrome makes a mess of the translation.
The senior cop asks me to step out of the car and accompany him. They have this table and chairs set up on the side of the road, and I am led to a chair facing across the table from 2 more cops, and I start to feel like it's the Thai version of the Spanish Inquisition - but all they ask for is my driving licence.
Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
An international driving permit is not required to rent, as long as your driving licence is in Roman letters and numerals. But they do warn you that if the cops catch you, they might insist on your having an IDP, else they might make things a little difficult for you.
I am a little worried that I don't have an IDP, but hand over my Delhi-issue DL anyway. The cops don't raise any objections, and ask that I pay a fine of 400 baht. So I pay the fine and get this piece of paper, plus a few salutes, and finally a warm handshake from the senior cop, with Have a good trip and enjoy your stay in Thailand.

Thailand | Third Time-th-ticket_ed.jpg

And the 400 baht did not hurt so much because of the smart salutes every cop gave us before speaking (it's a matter of routine for them, they salute each person they stop, but I'd have actually paid to watch an Indian cop salute me at all! unless I was accompanying a minister). Hell, 5 salutes for 400 baht was worth it!

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Old 18th November 2012, 17:08   #98
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It looks like I 'ate' a 'challan' for breakfast, as the Hindi expression goes (मैंने चालान खाया।).

And the challan disagreed with my gastrointestinal system at some point, without my realizing it early.

Without any music in the car I was feeling a little drowsy. Oh, no, we refused to listen to Thai channels, the only intelligible CD we could buy on the way had Gangnam Style on it, played back almost a zillion times - sorry, Psy, but I won't willingly listen to you again in a long, long time! The roads were mesmerically empty, smooth and straight, and I was trying so hard not to cross a GPS-indicated 100km/h - now why didn't someone design a portable bolt-on cruise control?
Thailand | Third Time-aaroad.jpg

Thailand | Third Time-aaroad-1.jpg

Thailand | Third Time-aaroad-5.jpg

Thailand | Third Time-aaroad-4.jpg

So, early in the afternoon, we pulled into another of those 7-Elevens, this time with this funny horse statue prancing outside, for a cup of coffee to keep me nice and alert.
Thailand | Third Time-aaroad-9.jpg

But the coffee felt awful - half way into the cup, I threw it away, and felt terribly nauseous - the horse had the last laugh on me, apparently, and was perhaps trying to make me the butt of all jokes (I didn't get the joke, but we saw the butt earlier on! )
Thailand | Third Time-aaroad-2.jpg

I was feeling so sick, it was impossible for me to climb into the driver's seat. The thought made me feel worse, with flashing images in my head of something like this happening...
Thailand | Third Time-aaroad-3.jpg
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Old 18th November 2012, 22:04   #99
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Looks like it is safe to drive with an IDP, do you have licence which is of book type or the new business card type ones. This boldy says India Driving Licence, hence I am a tad worried about this. Unfortunately I lost my US licence during my last trip, if not I would not have had any concerns.

Also did you stay only for a couple of days in Phuket, did you not visit the popular spots like James Bond Island/ Phi Phi Island

[/i]
Friend Suresh Padmanabhan, resident in Thailand, says:
The senior cop asks me to step out of the car and accompany him. They have this table and chairs set up on the side of the road, and I am led to a chair facing across the table from 2 more cops, and I start to feel like it's the Thai version of the Spanish Inquisition - but all they ask for is my driving licence.

I am a little worried that I don't have an IDP, but hand over my Delhi-issue DL anyway. The cops don't raise any objections, and ask that I pay a fine of 400 baht. So I pay the fine and get this piece of paper, plus a few salutes, and finally a warm handshake from the senior cop, with Have a good trip and enjoy your stay in Thailand.
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Old 19th November 2012, 20:30   #100
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Default Re: Thailand | Third Time

^^^
Indians and Thais certainly kindred spirits! Take a look at the juggad being used to support the front wheels of the bashed up pickup.

Regards
Sutripta
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Old 19th November 2012, 21:15   #101
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chillout View Post
This boldy says India Driving Licence, hence I am a tad worried about this.
My DL says Transport Department National Capital Territory of Delhi, and in smaller print below, Licensed to drive throughout India...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chillout View Post
Also did you stay only for a couple of days in Phuket, did you not visit the popular spots like James Bond Island/ Phi Phi Island
James Bond Island is not near Phuket, but Koh Phi Phi can be visited from both Phuket and Krabi - there are speedboat daytrips available from both ends. You can read about our Koh Phi Phi trip from Krabi in our previous Thailand travelogue.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sutripta View Post
^^^ Indians and Thais certainly kindred spirits! Take a look at the juggad being used to support the front wheels of the bashed up pickup.
I noticed. One does notice a lot of jugaad work on vehicles on the streets, but overall quality of the jugaad work is better and more solid-looking than the Indian counterpart.
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Old 20th November 2012, 23:00   #102
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I was feeling so sick, it was impossible for me to climb into the driver's seat.
The coffee has had a major argument for space with whatever I've had for breakfast. They're at war, and my stomach has decided to take disciplinary action against both because of the fight. Ten minutes into the drive with R at the wheel, we need to pull over at another fuel station, and as soon as I have found the loo, the warring coffee and sandwiches and whatnots are unceremoniously and forcefully expelled and rusticated.
Thailand | Third Time-1road.jpg

Folks in the car are really, really worried. The pic says it all. We still have over 450 km to go, and R is not happy driving the bus. But I need a bit of time to recuperate. To make matters worse, it starts to rain.
Thailand | Third Time-1road-1.jpg

Thailand | Third Time-1road-2.jpg

It takes an hour before I feel well enough to get back to driving again. It is getting dark, and traffic is heavy on the highway. Excitement whizzes by in the form of a group of Harley Davidsons running on full throttle, zipping past us at over 150 km/h with a combined exhaust note that would revive even a dead auto enthusiast.
Thailand | Third Time-1road-3.jpg

By the time we pull up to the Best Western Mayfair Suites Hotel, off the main street in Pratunam, Bangkok, it's almost 10 pm. A simple set dinner awaits us, and it tastes fantastic on a completely empty stomach. I'd stayed on liquids since the expulsion happened.
Thailand | Third Time-1road-6.jpg

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And then it's time for bed.
Thailand | Third Time-1road-7.jpg

Thailand | Third Time-1road-8.jpg

Tomorrow is another day. Good night, folks.
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Old 24th November 2012, 15:39   #103
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26 October 2012.

We have just 2 more days of our holiday left, before our return flight on the 28th.

It had been decided mutually among the ladies that one day would be dedicated to shopping. One of our chance discoveries on earlier trips had been the Bo Bae Tower and Market, because we happened to be staying at the Prince Palace Hotel then. Read more about it here:
http://www.discoverythailand.com/Ban...obae_Tower.asp
http://voices.yahoo.com/top-five-thi...e-8476921.html.

Thailand | Third Time-bobaek300.jpg

Thailand | Third Time-bobae-1k300.jpg

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Thailand | Third Time-bobae-3k300.jpg

The HiAce is with us for the morning - it has to be returned to Avis' Downtown office by 3pm or so. We set off to Bo Bae through the morning traffic Bangkok is so famous for. Despite the heavy volume and slow movement of vehicles, it is not as chaotic as most Indian cities during rush hour.


Parking around Bo Bae Tower would have been an issue, but then the tower itself has 7 storeys dedicated to car parking. The rest step out and I start to hunt for a slot - finally finding one on the 7th floor! It was quite a test of skill taking the long bus up the narrow, twisting ramps, but finally, success! For the 3 hours that we were there, it cost us 60THB.

The Khlong Saen Saeb runs alongside the market, and local folks use the waterway off the Bo Bae Pier as a faster means of transportation than by road. The water, though, is awfully polluted - but then we are used to worse when looking at the Yamuna flowing past Delhi.
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Old 24th November 2012, 17:31   #104
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It's 2.5km and less than 15 minutes' driving time from our hotel to Avis' Downtown Office on Wireless Road, according to the GPS. We also need to tank up before returning the car - add 10 minutes. Handing back the car and completing paperwork - 10 minutes. Getting back by taxi to the hotel - another 15 minutes. All predictions where Bangkok traffic is concerned - useless.

The time taken to reach Avis was about 2 hours. R and I walked back from there to Pantip Plaza in 25 minutes.

By this time, the rest of the folks have gone off to the Platinum Mall and its surrounding markets in the tuktuk that the hotel provides as a complimentary service to its guests, for transporting them to the main road.


We connect up on the phone and meet them there.

The rest of the evening goes by, with a trip to MBK Mall aboard tuktuks that start off by asking for 100 bahts for the 1.5km trip, finally agreeing for 60. Our tuktuk almost gets run over by a truck, when the driver decides to cut across his front right corner after jumping an amber light. Feels absolutely as if we are home already. How I wish the following video was running for 1 more minute - it would have been a spectaclar footage.
Enjoy the song-and-dance practice on the footpath in front of MBK. Heard it's a daily feature.

Last edited by GTO : 26th November 2012 at 13:24. Reason: As requested
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Old 25th November 2012, 13:31   #105
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Quote:
Thailand is home to numerous floating markets. Infact, historically Bangkok has been known as the Venice of the East.

Sadly, many of (the) klongs (canals) have been paved over in recent times to accommodate the rapid urban development of the city. Consequently, much of the traditional life style along the waterways has disappeared.

At present, floating markets are few and far between. The most picturesque of those that remain is the Damnoen Saduak Floating market in Ratchaburi province which achieved fame in the James Bond film ďThe Man with the Golden GunĒ. This market is situated 120 km southwest of Bangkok and is open every day until about 11.00 am. The Damnoen Saduak Floating market, with its abundance of souvenir shops, attracts foreign tourists from all over the world. Source
Quote:
Even though transactions are more concerned with tourists rather than locals these days, the floating market-boats are still piled high with tropical fruit and vegetables, fresh, ready-to-drink coconut juice and local food cooked from floating kitchens located right on the boat. To enjoy the atmosphere without haggling over prices, try relaxing on a guided boat tour of Damnoen Saduak market. Floating markets are Taling Chan Market, Bang Ku Wiang Market, Tha Kha, and Damnoen Saduak.
Source
Quote:
Damnoen Saduak is the most popular floating market in Thailand, great for photo opportunities, food, and for giving you an insight into a bygone way of life. An early morning start is worth it to avoid the heat and catch Damnoen Saduak at its liveliest. Most visitors who come to Thailand want to visit a floating market and many of them will end up here. Donít let that put you off though, itís an enjoyable morning out of the city and if you avoid the tourist shops you can get a real sense of the place.
Source
Quote:
Arguably the most famous floating market in Thailand, it is located off Highway 325 about 110 kilometers southwest of Bangkok. To get there, turn off the Rama II Highway at the city of Samut Songkhram and follow Highway 325 north for 15 kilometers.

The floating market runs daily from morning until about 3 p.m., when most merchants close up shop. The best time to visit is in the morning when the market is most active. Its footprint covers about one square kilometer and includes several open air markets that line a network of narrow canals (khlong, in Thai).

Some shops are accessible by foot via narrow walkways that follow the canals, although most vendors sell food and souvenirs from boats or shops on shore that tourists can only visit by boat.

Sources indicated that the canals in Damnoen Saduak District have been in existence since 1866, when the Thai King Rama IV commissioned a 32-kilometer long canal system fed by the nearby Mae Klong River. The market is a more recent development but has been in existence since at least the 1960s, when the canal scene in The Man with the Golden Gun was filmed there. James Bond floated down the Damnoen Saduak floating market in the 1970 film. The 2008 Nicolas Cage film Bangkok Dangerous also featured the market.

Many local vendors operate shops out of their homes and live behind or above their stores. A network of trails and footbridges limited to residents gives them access to the highway. The rural area beyond the market features a mixture of houses and fields where farmers grow rice, Malacca grape, pomelos, mangoes, bananas, and coconuts that are available to purchase at the floating market.
Source
Thus enlightened, we set off the next morning to visit the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, in a HiAce that we hired for the day, for 1800THB. This would be our first trip to any floating market in Thailand.
Thailand | Third Time-dsc03101k300.jpg

Our fake-Ray Ban-sporting driver was garrulous as most tourist-handling Thais are wont to be.
Thailand | Third Time-dsc03181k300.jpg

Ten minutes into the drive, he had already explained about his family, that he owns the vehicle himself, and is a devout Buddhist; and wanted similar information about our families to be given to him. His interest was perked up on learning that we are from India, and that we have visited Bodh Gaya, Sarnath and Nalanda. Every devout Buddhist looks forward to someday travel on the India-Nepal Buddhist Circuit at least once in his lifetime.

On the way to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
Thailand | Third Time-dsc03086k300.jpg

Thailand | Third Time-dsc03089k300.jpg

The Amphawa and Tha Kha Floating Markets are also on the way
Thailand | Third Time-dsc03094k300.jpg

Arriving at the Coke Pier, from where we continue the rest of the journey by boat
Thailand | Third Time-dsc03104k300.jpg
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