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|Floating Market in Samut Prakan|
|Written by Richard Barrow|
|Tuesday, 21 June 2005|
In my blog the other day, I was telling you about the new mega bridge which they are building across two sections of the Chao Phraya River. The bridge goes from Samut Prakan to Samut Prakan to Bangkok.
In this map you can see clearer what I meant about the loop in the river. That is a big diversion for ships heading to Bangkok. I told you before that the only way for me to take my car to the other side of the river is to go to the car ferry which I have marked on this map. To cross the river by bridge, I have to follow the bend of the river to the King Rama IX bridge which is just off the map in the top left hand corner. You can see the green road which takes traffic across the river. The yellow line is the boundary for Samut Prakan. North of the river is Bangkok. As they are now building a new canal alongside the bridge the land inside the loop has become a virtual island. This is where I went exploring on Sunday. You won't find this area in the Lonely Planet.
The first place I wanted to find was the Bangnamphung Floating Market (figure 1). I first heard about this floating market back in April when I crossed the river to see the Songkran Parade in Phra Pradaeng. I noticed some billboards advertising this new place. I made a mental note to try and locate it another time. I had forgotten all about it but then on Saturday I bought a new guidebook in Thai which covers the top part of the Gulf of Thailand. The book had a map which gave me a rough idea of where to find the floating market. So, on Sunday I decided to go off exploring.
As it turned out it was quite easy to find the floating market as there were a number of bilingual signs along the way. I parked my car in Bangnamphungnai Temple and followed the crowd to what looked like a newly constructed canal. Or at least one where the banks had been recently reinforced with concrete slabs. I am not sure what I was expecting. I suppose I was thinking it would be a bit like the famous floating market at Damnoen Saduak. I thought there would be dozens of vendors paddling up and down the canal selling their produce to locals and tourists. Well, it wasn't quite like that. Most of the vendors were on the river bank or were selling from boats which were firmly moored. The only people I saw on boats were some tourists who had rented them out.
There were the usual number of food stalls which was to be expected. But, there was also many OTOP stalls. If you don't know, this stands for One Tambon One Product. It is a scheme started by Thaksin to encourage each district in the country to produce and sell at least one unique product. This alone made the trip worthwhile. It was interesting to see and buy some local products. There must have been over 100 stalls which provided quite a nice atmosphere. In addition to hiring boats, it looked like you could also hire bicycles. I walked along the canal for a while until the path stopped alongside a road about a ten minute walk away.
I think this is a place I would certainly come back to. The floating market is open every weekend between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. I came a bit late this time so if I bring some visitors next time I will try to go earlier in the morning. A nice touch for me was that there were no foreigners at all. Obviously it isn't in any English guidebooks yet as it has been open less than a year.
My next task was to find Sri Nakhon Khuankun Park (figure 2 on the map). This was alot harder as the map wasn't very clear and the roads were very narrow and winding. This whole area is hardly built up at all. It is very much like a jungle in places. I eventually found the park which was in the middle of no-where. Literally. At the entrance there were about a dozen cars parked. If you don't have your own transport then I am not sure how yo uwould get to this place. Entrance to the park is free of charge which is nice but not surprising because of its remote location.
On walking inside I was amazed about the size and neatness of the place. Again I wondered about the remoteness and location of the park. How many people would come here? How many people know about it? In the middle of the park there is a large lake. Scattered around were a few salas, open planned buildings, and bridges crossing streams. Some people were lying on the grass eating a picnic and others were feeding the fish in the lake.
I decided to walk north to where I presumed I might find the Chao Phraya River. I actually had no idea where I was on the map but I was hoping I might be able to see a glimpse of the river. After walking for about 15 minutes or so I came across a watch tower which was about seven metres high. What was puzzling was that surrounding the watch tower was a wooden boardwalk which had fallen into disrepair. It was strange because the park looked new. Anyway, the view from the top didn't give me any clues about which direction I should go. I was surrounded by palm trees and nipa palms.
I decided to keep walking north. The path became more overgrown. I then discovered another area which had some buildings and seating areas that had fallen to pieces. This looked like it had been a park in the past with maybe some shops and boardwalks out into the jungle. But now the jungle had taken over. I wasn't sure whether to continue walking or not. I knew it must only be a hop skip and jump to the heart of Bangkok but it was starting to feel like I was in that DiCaprio movie The Beach. You know, that scene where the backpackers stumble across a field with drugs growing and they are gunned down by the farmers. The place was dead quiet and there was not a single person in sight.
I decided to head back but first I needed to relieve myself. As I walked behind a tree, a loud noise startled me. It sounded like an animal moving fast through some water. But this wasn't a small animal. It sounded as big as a human but was moving much quicker. It crossed my mind that it might be a wild crocodile! I then decided I had done enough exploring in the jungle and decided to walk back to the new part of the park. I didn't want to be eaten by crocodiles. If there were crocodiles these wouldn't be doped like the ones that perform in the wrestling matches in Paknam.
Walking back to the lake I spotted some more wildlife. Apart from butterflies and birds, I could see something swimming in the river. It wasn't fish. I went to take a closer look. A few minutes later I spotted a monitor lizard running across the grass and jumping into the water. It must have been about two metres long. It looked like it was quite powerful the way it was swimming. I wonder if this is what startled me earlier. Maybe there was a much larger one out in the bushes.
I decided to cut my walk in the park short when the wind started to pick up and it looked like it was going to rain. I probably would come back here again to do a bit more exploring. There certainly seemed to be plenty of flora and fauna. Again it would be a nice place to bring visitors. The park is open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.