Photo of the day: Steamed white snapper @ T & K Seafood Restaurant. Photo credit: Aaron.
After a day of relaxing, we were ready for some sightseeing again. Today we signed up for a half day tour to the Damoen Saduak Floating Market. We knew this would be the most touristy and crowded one but it was one of the only ones to be open during the week. It was a 1.5 hour drive from the city centre and I’ve read many scams involving taxi drivers charging a low price to get to the market but would actually drive you to the private pier, where they would charge a ridiculously high price to take the boat to the market. And if you disagreed, they would just refuse to drive you back to the city centre. I did not want to deal with that so we hired a private driver, who had good reviews online. Her name was Rat and she also runs a B&B as well. She was right on time and pick us up from our hotel at 6:30 AM. She immediately asked if I spoke Cantonese and that was when I realized she is a Chinese-Thai, who has lived in Thailand all her life. I was telling her how I was surprised she spoke Cantonese because all I’ve heard was Mandarin so far, spoken by some of the locals. She said there are people speaking all sorts of dialects here. Before, each dialect-speaking group would have their specialization, whether it’s selling certain foods or working in certain industries. Nowadays, the new generation just did whatever they wanted.
It didn’t seem too long before we reached our first stop: the Maeklong train market. I didn’t know anything about it before but apparently, the vendors would set up beside the railway and when the train would come they would just push their merchandise aside. We got there pretty early so there weren’t that many tourists around. There were just a few locals, getting some of their early morning shopping done. She then asked if we had breakfast yet and when we said no, she brought us to a restaurant specializing in rolled noodles and pork leg rice. Because we just had the rolled noodles yesterday morning, we opted for the pork leg rice, whereas she got herself a bowl of rolled noodles. It was nice, just sitting with a bunch of locals, eating breakfast. I have learned it the hard way through traveling that when there is a washroom, just use it. So I did. And there it was – my first squattie of the trip. I’m surprised it took me this long to encounter one. It was actually a pretty clean one but it was a bit cramped so I was glad they had a bar for me to hold onto to balance. Enough about the washroom, it was time to see some train action. We only had 15 minutes before the train was due to arrive so our tour guide lead the way and found us a good spot to watch the action. While we waited, she bought some butterfly pea flowers for her granddaughter to eat to help her hair grow. She even let us try some. It tasted like flower. She was such a feisty old lady as she asked people who came after us to step back 1. For safety 2. To make sure we got a good view. But I think she truly cared because she told us of the times she saw people got hurt from being careless, during her 18 years of leading tours here. She even ran across the tracks to tell the people on the other side to step back. So the train came, more slowly than I expected, and hundreds of tourists snapped pictures, took selfies and shot videos. I saw one stall did not move all their vegetables back and was really worried for them but the train actually was tall enough off the ground that it went over their produce. Then Rat asked if we wanted to see the train from another angle when it leaves the station, and we said sure. So we walked around some more and took some more pictures with the now stationary train. She again found us a good spot and became the traffic police and crowd control person. She also made sure we followed the train once the last car passes, then leads us down a shortcut to get back to her car. It was so efficient and we got really good views of the action too!
Next, we were off to the main attraction of today’s tour: The Damoen Saduak Floating Market. It was only a 30 minute drive away. Now is the moment of truth. Will there be a long tail boat scam? She originally told us it was included in our tour price, but we shall see. She talked to the boat person, who was surprising a Caucasian man who spoke what appeared to be fluent Thai. After some talking, we boarded our boat! Yes, no scam! I also read that there is a long tail boat to get you to the market, then you have to hire another paddle boat to go through the market. Well to my surprise, we did not need to do that. Our motorized long tail boat just drove us right to the market and through it as well! I also read there would be a traffic jam since this is the most popular floating market amongst tourists and indeed there was. It was ok because we got to see what was being sold around us. Our first purchase was a mango sticky rice and it was as good as the first one we had the other day at the JJ Market. Next we wanted something hot and soupy. We found one that was piping hot and decided it would be a good one to try. Our guide, who was sitting behind us, warned us to ask for the price first before ordering so he doesn’t overcharge us. He said 50 baht (~$2) for a bowl of seafood noodles and we agreed. When we paid him 60 baht, he never gave us our change, then he pretended not to understand as we drifted away. We told Rat and she made him give us our change back. It was really not much money but honesty is important! We also floated by a BBQ chicken boat, which Rat said was good but it was too late. Right before we left the market, which really wasn’t too long, Aaron wanted to get some beer. The man gave a ridiculously high price, which we bargained down but still was double what the price should be according to Rat.
It was another nice boat ride back to our car. Rat asked us where we wanted to be dropped off as she said she can drop us off anywhere in the city. We were both pretty tired so we just wanted to go back to the hotel. She had previously mentioned there was burnt coconut by the side of the road so we asked her to stop by one if possible. She had to stop by a few before we found one serving the burnt coconut. We bought one and she also bought one and it was the most delicious, refreshing coconut I’ve had in a while. It made us wonder if that coconut juice we had at the Chatuchak Market the other day was indeed just pure juice with no added sugar since it is possible to have real coconut juice that is so sweet. Rat was so kind she even brought us to a place with good exchange rates since we needed to exchange some money. Overall, I was very happy with our half day tour and it was worth it hiring a honest and experienced private driver.
We ended up napping for a couple of hours, before deciding to check out CentralWorld, the largest shopping centre in Bangkok. It was easily accessible by MRT and skytrain and it reminded me of malls in Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong. As soon as we walked in there was a security screening. After that, there were fancy restaurants, serving food which was double what we paid at The Never Ending Summer last night. We were on a mission to find the food court and apparently it was located on the 7th floor. So we went up and up and up. It was a bit strange that we had to walk through a grocery store before entering this food court. It has a food card system where you would order the food and load the cards, then pay at the end. It was quite convenient if you wanted to order from different vendors. The selection was huge, with a variety of curries, soups, noodles, rice and salad dishes. There was a central section for drinks and desserts as well. After walking all around to see all our options, we decided to get some Tom Yum soup with wonton and fish balls and some Pad Thai (Aaron’s favourite). The soup was pretty good, not as spicy as I expected. The wonton was nicely sweet and the fish balls were alright. The Pad Thai was not good, in my opinion. It tasted kind of burnt. Overall, not too impressed by the taste of the food although the the selection is there.
We then walked around a bit. We saw some pretty nice furniture stores and some nice Korean and Japanese restaurants as well. Aaron needed a compressible winter jacket for Korea so we went to Uniqlo (which is also Aaron’s favourite). This is a popular store throughout Asia, so it’s good to know that it will be there if we ever needed to replace or add any basic layering pieces during this trip. Aaron did not find the colour of the jacket he wanted so we shall wait until we go to another city to look for it again. We still have some time before we are in Korea.
It was around 6pm at this time, so we headed over to Lumphini Park. Apparently, after 5pm, the park gets really busy with locals working out. We wanted to join in on the fun! The park looks so different than when we were here the other day with stalls and displays set up everywhere. This time, we just saw the park full of locals. Most were just running around the trails. There was even a check bag service where you can leave you bags with them while you worked out. There were shower facilities in the washroom if you needed that. I was impressed. Not only was there an area with light weight equipment seen in other parks in Asia, they also had a legit outdoor gym in addition to a nice indoor gym with pool. Aaron saw that the price was only 40 baht (~$1.50)/year! I actually came here for the fitness/Zumba class I read about, so Aaron went off on his jog, while I brisk-walked to find where the class might be. It wasn’t a simple task since the park is pretty big. I had to walk through at least 1/3 of the park before I found the class. It was nice thought because I got to warm up and also stretched in the “stretching section” of the park with bars set up. I was definitely missing Zumba and dancing in general so I was super excited about this opportunity, even though I’m still feeling under the weather. I was already tempted to join in when we were at Hoan Kiem Lake and people were dancing rumba. I did try to find Zumba classes throughout Bangkok but they were all kind of out of the way and targeted towards expats and tourists. I figured this would be a much better experience. The class has already started so I just jumped right in. To be honest, I was expecting a low intensity class for older ladies but I was so wrong. This was a high intensity class with a park full of people of various age groups as well as some men too! The choreography was actually really difficult to follow at first but they eventually moved on to simpler moves. It was really nice to see how many people attended, not only this class but just everyone at the indoor and outdoor gyms and on the trails. It felt amazing and motivating to be there exercising with them. All good things do come to an end and it was cool down time. We were both very happy with our workout session and rode the subway home. The cost of this gym trip = 19 baht subway X 2 people ($1.46 CAD) + bag check 5 baht ($0.19) + cold water 8 baht ($0.31) = $1.96 and probably a much more authentic experience than going to a fancy, new gym for foreigners.
On our way home, I looked at the live status of the seafood restaurant we wanted to go to and it didn’t look to busy so we went straight there! There was still a line but we did not wait too long before getting a table. It was slightly chaotic though as they give you a menu while you’re in line in hopes that you would order before seated; however, we ordered a few items then got a table so we had to order some more, but they already took our menu. But it all worked out in the end. Our choices for the night, deep-fried squid, stir-fried prawns in chilly sauce, and a steamed white snapper, with a side of snow pea tips and rice. Aaron had their beer and ordered a coconut since I was sad we did not get enough this afternoon. It wasn’t a good choice here though; it was not as sweet and not as cold either. It also did not go well with the food. I would choose to get a beer if I were to come again. Now on to the food! The squid was actually really good. The batter was delicious and the squid was nicely done. The dipping sauce also paired quite well. Aaron later found that if you mix the chilli sauce it in, it becomes even more amazing. The white snapper was presented on a fish-shaped metal plate with a base which can be lit up to keep the fish warm! The fish was perfectly done, the sauce was nicely flavoured and there generously sized as well. We were very happy with our choice of this fish. I was underwhelmed by the prawns, though. The head was big but the body was small, the sauce was not the tastiest and it took away from the fresh taste of shrimp. I still prefer to eat my shrimp boiled to really appreciate its taste. The vegetables was very flavourful and really needed some rice to balance its taste. Again, we did not get our rice and had to ask for it. It’s like a trend here during this trip. Anyway, it eventually came and brought our meal together.
We originally planned to check out Khao San Road but we did a lot today and were exhausted. Since we’ve already lived on Bui Vein in HCMC and experienced the Bia Hoi Corner in Hanoi, I think we are ok to not check out another backpacker’s street. Maybe next time we are here in Bangkok, we will go see it.