Our third day in Thailand was a Monday. The real enjoyment of a vacation doesn’t seem to hit until you find yourself vacationing on a weekday. I was enjoying my time on Saturday and Sunday, but, once Monday rolled around, it really sunk in that I was on vacation. Just knowing that normally I would have to be at work, teaching, grading, and making assignments, but instead, I was visiting an exotic country, was thrilling. It wasn’t all relaxation though.
This morning Nicole and I got up early (7:30am) and packed a bag for our first tour of the trip. Nicole had booked a tour on Travel Zoo for the Railroad market and the Floating market. We met downstairs at 8am and took a van with some very quiet, I’m guessing Chinese, tourists. The trip was about 2 hours to get to the railroad market.
The Railroad Market
The van dropped us off at the end of a very rustic rail depot in a small town. Our guide said “the market is over there”. He pointed to the other end of the rail depot. Then he instructed us to meet back at the van in an hour and promptly disappeared. Left to our own devices, Nicole and I walked to the end of the rail depot and into the market.
The railroad market is called the railroad market because its literally built on top of a set of railroad tracks. Everyday, several times a day, a train comes through and all of the vendors and patrons must promptly move out of the way. All of the stalls, if you can call them that, are on wheels and they quickly roll out of the way to make room for the train. After the train comes through, the stalls roll right back out and carry on with their business.
The railroad market was very different from the weekend market we visited yesterday. The weekend market had a bit of everything and I got the impression that if you were a local you went to one part and if you were a tourist you visited a different part. This market was very much locals-only. There were all manner of spices, fruits, vegetables, and meats. I don’t use the term ‘all manner’ lightly. There were both fruits and meats at this market that I had never even heard of, let alone seen.
After we walked around a bit, Nicole and I stepped into a little cafe and had a bite of that delicious soup we seem to find everywhere. As usual, it was amazing and less than three dollars. After soup, we found some little coconut balls that looked and tasted amazing. They weren’t sweet like you would expect, they just tasted like actual coconut meat with a dash of salt.
After about 30 minutes, I noticed that the market started to clear out. People were moving out of the market and lining up along the side of the road between the depot and the market. Nicole and I joined the crowd to watch the stalls move out of the way and the train come through. I was grateful for being so tall. I got a great photo of everyone else taking photos of the train coming through.
After the train passed, Nicole and I met up with our guide and hopped back in the van to head to our next stop
The Floating Market
If the railroad market was locals-only, the floating market was tourists-only. It was a neat experience and I’m sure at one point it was made for locals, but the uniqueness of the experience, buying things from a boat, eventually became saturated with tourists.
We hopped out of the van about an hour later at what looked very similar to the rail road depot, minus the railroad tracks. We walked through the depot and down some steps into a waiting boat. The market, or should I say canal, was packed. It was like rush hour traffic but with boats instead of cars. People were cruising up and down the canals taking pictures and buying wares.
On each side of the canal were stalls right out in the water with enthusiastic vendors pulling your boats over with long hooks. It kind of reminded me of the Mexico ride at Epcot. Fortunately, the vendors were content to let you keep floating by if you said ‘no’. Nicole and I bought a scrapbook for our trip, but that was it for our boat ride.
At the end of our 30 minute ride, we hopped out and walked around the land-based stalls. Nicole bought some more souvenirs and I bought some more postcards. (Sophie, get ready for a ton of post cards!) We also had a small lunch, more Pad Thai and some more Coconut ice cream…so delicious.
Back to Bangkok
The bus ride back was uneventful (naps, etc.). However, back in Bangkok, we left our souvenirs at the apartment and went to see the Jim Thompson House…
The Jim Thompson House…and Protesters
We took the sky-train to the right stop for the Jim Thompson House (JTH), and promptly took the wrong exit and got lost for 5 minutes. Several overzealous Tuk Tuk drivers directed us in the right direction and we found the JTH in a few minutes. The drivers tried to convince us that the JTH was closed, a common scam, and that we should instead go on a trip with him to some jewelry stores. We declined his offer and walked to the JTH.
The area surrounding the JTH and the sky-train stop was surrounded by protesters just sort of…hanging out. Many of them were in tents or sitting on the sidewalk. They didn’t pay too much interest in us and we just walked on by. Many of the hotels in the area were closed because of the protests but the JTH, despite what the Tuk Tuk drivers said, was open.
Who is this Jim Thompson?
Jim Thompson was a CIA agent who got really into the silk trade after he left the CIA. He built a beautiful house out of 6 smaller Thai houses and completely changed them around to make them very western. About 8 years after Jim Thompson built this house, he was hiking in the jungle and disappeared, never to be seen again. No one knows exactly where he went.
It was a great tour and the home was beautiful. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed inside the actual house, but, I took a few outside the house of silk looms, the gardens, and wood carvings.
After the tour, Nicole and I had a mango smoothie and some curry at the Jim Thompson House cafe before taking a boat up the Chao Phraya river.
We took the Skytrain to the boat and headed up river. There are a number of boats that drive up and down the Chao Phraya river and they are packed. When we got on, the boat was relatively empty but, by the time we got off, there was standing room only and, I’m guessing, not nearly enough life vests.
Nicole and I missed our stop by one and ended up getting off at a park adjacent to the Wat Arun temple, but we managed to get some great photos right before and right after the sunset.
After the sunset, Nicole and I went to visit Chinatown and grab a bite to eat. Because Lunar New Year was right around the corner, Chinatown was decorated for the holiday. There were paper lanterns hanging on almost every street and banners everywhere. We stopped at another small outdoor cafe that appeared to be run out of a small food cart. Where they got all the food, I have no idea.
We ordered fish…and received a fish, all of it. It was a massive fish of indeterminate species, but I can confirm it tasted incredible.
After our very busy and eventful day of markets, the Jim Thompson house, Wat Arun Temple at sunset, and Chinatown, we were beat. The two of us took a Tuk Tuk across town and back to our apartment for the low price of $3 and we didn’t even have to stop at sketchy jewelry stores along the way.
Our third day in Bangkok was our busiest day yet. Despite being so busy, it was a relaxing day and a relief not to be at work. Stay tuned for Thailand Day Four: Palaces, Tapas, and Temples.