To Amphawa Floating Market with David

Last week I enjoyed a visit from another Xanga friend, David from London.  While he doesn’t post as frequently as he once did, I’ve enjoyed his photos and entries from his travels around the globe and was glad he contacted me in advance of his visit to Thailand – his first return in more than a half-dozen years.

We drove to Samut Songkhram province (the smallest of Thailand’s 76 provinces) to visit the Amphawa nighttime floating market.  I’ve been there and written about my visits many times before.  Each new visit, though, provides some interesting sights I haven’t seen before.  Plus, there’s lots for a photobug like David to shoot.

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Samut Songkhram province is known, among other things, for its sea salt.  Located adjacent to the Gulf of Thailand, the highway through the province is lined with evaporation ponds.  This reminds me a bit of the giant evaporation ponds in the South Bay Area near San Francisco.  While many of those ponds have been returned to marshland as part of environmental protection land-swaps, when I was growing up we would drive past these vast fields of water slowly changing hues as the water evaporated and different algae would flourish.

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While is wasn’t harvest season in most of the ponds, there was one where workers were raking up the salt crystals into small piles and then carting them away.  It is visually interesting to look at.

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Upon arrival to downtown Amphawa, the small town that hosts the successful nighttime Friday-Sunday floating market, we explored one of the nearby temples.  This temple, Wat Amphawan Chetiyaram, was built on the spot where King Rama II was born in 1766.  There is also a nearby park commemorating his birth.

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In and of itself, it is a temple like many others.  But inside the main bot, or chapel, there are some beautifully elaborate (and well-maintained) murals.  These not only depict stories from the Buddha’s life but also feature scenes from the early years of the Chakri Dynasty and life in Krungthep (Bangkok) in the late 1700s.  In fact the mural behind the Buddha statues shows Rattanakosin Island, the “old city” of Krungthep.  Just to the left of the main Buddha image you can see an open field that is still there today, known as Sanam Luang (royal field).  To the right of the Buddha image is the Grand Palace and to the right of that, Wat Pho – the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.

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Outside the bot we watched a monk tend to the grounds.  In my years here I have never seen a monk use a weed whacker.

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Before the crowds grew heavy and the sun set, we hired a boat and went for a 90-minute tour of the Mae Khlong river (not to be confused with the Mae Kong which borders Laos) and the surrounding canals.  Above, a ferry takes a group of secondary school students home.

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We returned to Amphawa just as the action was picking up.  This market is very popular with Thais, although I am noticing an increased presence of foreigners.  Too many people reading this blog and adding Amphawa to their itinerary, I guess.  (Yeah, right!)  The market has a live announcer and DJ who plays traditional Thai music.  There is also karaoke and this man (#66) was really getting into his song, dancing around as he sang.

Ploy David and I settled down along the footpath and started ordering food from the vendors who are on boats in the canal below.  One of the vendors, a woman selling fruit, cried out upon seeing me, “Teacher Chris!  Teacher Chris!”  Startled, I had to take a second look.  “It’s Ploy’s mother,” she said, referencing one of my birghtest and kindest sixth graders (pictured right) when I volunteered as an English teacher in the nearby village of Bangkhonthinai.

We had a nice chat and I was surprised to hear that Ploy’s already in ninth grade.  Has it been so long already?  I was also very happy to hear that she is continuing to study English and that it is one of her favorite subjects.  When Ploy moved to secondary school (after sixth grade) she achieved the third-highest score on the English proficiency exam in the entire province, something I was very proud of.  The fact that she’s still studying and enjoying it is a good thing.

I asked her mother to send my regards and suggested that Ploy should stay in touch.  After I finished teaching, I continue to occassionally send postcards to my former students, hoping that this will inspire them to be curious about the world and, especially, the world outside their province.  After teaching there for more than a year, I and the friends who helped with the teaching always hoped that at least a few of the students would be inspired by the experience and achieve more than their modest beginnings might otherwise inspire them to.

Anyhow, that was the fun trip to Ampahwa.  It was really nice to spend time with David and to hear his stories and experiences.  Hopefully once he returns to bitterly cold London he’ll post some of the pictures from his trip to Thailand.

 

0 thoughts on “To Amphawa Floating Market with David

  1. Nice pictures! It’s good Ploy’s mom did recognize you … that’s one of the intangible rewards of teaching. I guess Ploy will have more opportunities ahead for her than her mom had which is great.

  2. Beautiful photos. It’s great that you still maintain some sort of communication with your former students… I think it will go a big way in inspiring them especially considering their rural background.

  3. Nice photos, especially that black & white photo with the reclining Buddha. It was a nice day trip out to that ‘not-so-touristy’ floating market. I guess this will be on my itinery too!

  4. Great photos. For all the time I spent in Thailand, I never made it to the night market. Tend to avoid places that are a tourist circus, Koa San excepted. That’s why I ended up living in Uttaradit.

  5. Aw it’s always great hearing from past students, and knowing that you’ve had a great part in their intellectual development. Thus, why I love teaching piano ^_^

  6. You must have made an important contribution to Ploy’s education to be so quickly remembered! The photos are good – I’m curious about the B&W – is the statue in the foreground textured or is it peeling?

  7. You know, I don’t think I’ve ever thought about how sea salt is harvested so the first couple pictures are very eye-opening for me. There’s so many products out there that we don’t think about how they are actually gotten or made!

  8. Chris,Thank you so much for sharing your vivid photos once again.  You are always taking me on a new adventure, right from my own office.  I LOVE that you also include photos of food, everyday life and the working class, alongside the photos of historic architecture and sculpture.  This clash of ancient and current seem to penetrate our eyes every day, every where, but often we don’t truly LOOK and see it. These images of people on the street and in the fields are the true reflection of the contemporary culture and recording it all will make your reflection and memories of those moments pure.  Thank you again for giving us a reflection of our time in another part of the world.

  9. When the British in India restricted all produce from reaching the people, Gandhi directed the Indians to harvest salt from the three waters, the Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. I had only heard of the impact it had on the British. I had never seen the harvesting of salt.If I did, I do not remember. So these pictures were reminescent of a time gone by. I am so happy that Ploy’s mother recognized you. It had to make you feel so proud of her accomplishments.

  10. That weed whacker looks like it could propel those boats in the canals and rivers (with the very long shaft). It doesn’t surprise me that you’ve had a positive impact on your students at all. I can only imagine their conversation that evening. I hope David updates his Xanga soon.

  11. @ElusiveWords – Yeah, the weed whacker is probably one of the propellers from a canal boat.  Did you know they use old engines from Toyota pickup trucks to power those boats?  True story.@ZSA_MD – It did make me feel good about the teaching and I’m glad I had a positive impact.@Wangium – When the school director retired from her job (going on to other responsibilities) she wrapped up the program.  Not knowing who her replacement was and since we weren’t official teachers who had undergone background checks, etc. she wanted to avoid any potentially messy situations.  She would stake her personal reputation on us but wasn’t sure anyone else would.@Art4ArtSake – I’m glad you enjoy the entries so much.  A window on the world, as it were.@TheCheshireGrins – One of these days I’ll buy some of the salt form the roadside stands and see what it tastes like.  I don’t know if it undergoes much more processing (if any) before they bag it.@murisopsis – Buddhists place small squares of gold leaf on statues as an act of prayer.  These never adhese very well and flap in the breeze, giving this “peeling” appearance.@Rm2046 – Oh, I didn’t know you were a piano teacher, too.  A man of many talents and, I would imagine, quite a bit of patience!@amygwen – This is one reason I like the Amphawa market.  Unlike the popular one up the road at Damnoen Saduak, Amphawa’s market isn’t overun with foreign tourists.  Plenty of Thai tourists, yes, but what you see there isn’t artifice.  It’s more of an adaptation to current realities.@yang1815 – Yes.@CurryPuffy – Add it to the list.  You’ll have a lot to do on your next visit!@Dezinerdreams – I hope so.@stevew918 – That’s sweet of you to say.  I hope my teaching was good enough although I honestly don’t know as it wasn’t very structured.@TheLatinObserver – She’s a bright girl and I hope she can go on to do great things.  Especially with women in Thai society, so many of them never reach their full potential which is a shame not only for them but also for the society as a whole.  The amount of corruption here would be greatly reduced if more women were in power.

  12. @arenadi – Hmmm… let me think about that.  Maybe ten people in four years?  Well, that’s ten people to whom I’m not related.  There are some family members who blog who have visitied, too.  Of the ten, most of them are no longer blogging frequently, if at all.  So when are you coming?@marc11864 – Yes, all of the girls were much brighter than the boys.

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