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Published: November 28th 2010
Kidnapped by Ray and Nok
“Hey Ray, how much does the room you booked us at your condo complex cost per night?” “I think between 500 and 600 bhat.”
“Cool, and we’re driving to the famous floating market right now?” “Yep.”
“How long does it take to get to the market?” “About an hour and a half.”
“Wow. That’s a ways away. So if it’s an evening market rather than a daytime market will it be opening when we get there?” “Yeah.”
“That seems quite far to go there and come back since it’s already 6:00pm now.” “Oh, we’re not coming back tonight.”
“Nok, is he serious? “ “Oh sorry, we forgot to tell you. We canceled your other reservation, but you will be staying with us in Amphawa tonight after we go to the market. We booked a place. It’s nice, right on the river. Is that ok with you?”
We knew that when Nok said it that there was no joke. It was then that we realized that we had nothing else pending and getting out of town for the weekend would be a nice break from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. It is a
Corridors of vendors on the way to the floating market
pretty cool feeling to have everything you need in your backpack.
Arriving at Amphawa, we came to the conclusion that we should never question Ray and Nok as tour guides. The Amphawa market began with cozy corridors that eventually opened up to the floating market. The walkways were filled with a variety of tasty Thai treats ranging from pork on a stick to fried sweet vermicelli noodles and coconut concoctions of various natures. As we got deeper into the market, we found handmade clothing, talented musicians, home cooked curries (Aaron accidently ordered one with chicken blood, oops). About 500 meters in the market opened up on a canal where locals would moor their hollowed out canoes, prepare food on a grill in their boat, and get in on the action of a buzzing marketplace. The best part about it all was that at each booth we were received openly. Our desire to be adventurous was met as we sampled new foods and attempted to communicate in an unfamiliar language. Being the only foreigners in the market gave us the opportunity to break down barriers and draw smiles from strangers. What at an authentic Thai experience!
From the Amphawa
Pork on a stick
Doesn't always make you sick. In this case, it was delicious!
market, Ray and Nok found our hotel. Never would we be so fortunate to find this place by ourselves. Located along a feeder canal to the Chao Praya River, Baan Dalha, a rustic boutique hotel with several cabins nestled in between beautiful gardens filled with orchids, shaded decks with bench seating and grassy walkways. It was perfect place for a restful night’s sleep.
We knew Sunday was going to be a big day because it started with us rising before the sunrise. For those of you who know us well, this is not our norm, but there was a special opportunity for us to give offerings to the monks from a nearby temple. Whether it is by river or by foot, it is customary practice for monks to come around each morning collecting offerings. This practice encourages them to focus on their religious studies while connecting them with their local community. From our hotel grounds, we saw the monks’ soft silhouettes as we waited for them to float downstream in their canoes. As they arrived at each dock they would receive their offerings in a bowl (anything from rice and noodles to fruit and instant coffee), and with the
So many options of things to try
receipt of each offering, the giver would receive a chanted blessing of happiness and good health. We were humbled by the grace of the monks and calmed by their chanting prayers, enough so that shortly after we decided to go back to bed.
Once we awoke again, we were back on the road, headed to Ayutthaya to celebrate Loi Krathong, the Festival of Lights. Ayutthaya, Thailand’s second capitol (Bangkok is the current and 4th capitol) was sacked by the Burmese in 1767. The city was set ablaze, robbed of its gold and gems, and fell to the ruins that you can see today. We spent the afternoon exploring the ruins and imagining what this beautiful city was like during its prime. We visited two main Wats (Wat meaning Temple): Wat Phra Mahathat, the former royal monastery and home to the iconic image of the Buddha head intertwined with the roots of a Banyan tree, and Wat Phra Si Sanphet, the former royal palace.
As the sunset and the festivities of Loi Krathong were beginning, we found our way to a traditional Thai restaurant on a boat anchored to the river’s edge. With our shoes off, we took our
seats on the floor to watch the fireworks as we ate our delicious meal. After dinner we asked permission of the security guard to enter the adjacent Wat Chaiwatthanaram, one of Nok’s favorites. Otherwise closed at night, this Wat was lit by floodlights and cast amazing shadows upon the grounds, creating a sense of serenity and majesty.
Ayutthaya, aside from being a UNESCO World Heritage site, is also known to be one of the best places in Thailand to celebrate Loi Krathong. What better way to experience the festival of lights than to walk about and become absorbed in the craziness of the local festivities. Celebrated Thai style, the festival was actually quite overwhelming. As we walked through the thousands of people, every one of them was participating in some way by eating, selling something, blasting their music or setting off fireworks. Of course we ate and browsed the local fare of cheap clothes and floating lanterns, but by far the coolest part of the whole festival was launching our own floating sky lantern. For 40 baht ($1.33) we bought a square lantern made of tissue paper, a wire frame and a small kerosene soaked rag similar to a
The two framed pictures in the upper right corner are of the Thai King and Queen when they were younger.
small square hot air balloon. It is tradition in Thailand to let your lantern float into the night sky, releasing with it anything negative that you no longer want in your life. Thus there were hundreds of lanterns glowing like stars together in the sky.
We finished off our weekend in Ayutthaya by sending off our lantern, arm in arm, before heading back to Bangkok. We will miss Thailand, but eagerly anticipate the next stop along the “Jack Backpacker Trail,” Siem Reap, Cambodia.
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