The Mys­ti­cal Float­ing Mar­kets of Thai­land

Sun.Star Cebu Weekend - - Travel -

There is some­thing so ro­man­tic about river boat rides. Even amidst the swel­ter­ing heat of trop­i­cal Thai­land, we still found our­selves en­am­ored by the river, by the strange blend of fa­mil­iar­ity and ex­pec­ta­tion.

Maybe it is hu­man na­ture that sub­con­sciously draws us to­wards bod­ies of wa­ter. The hu­man body, af­ter all, is 60 per­cent wa­ter. We sim­ply can­not live with­out wa­ter.

The ear­li­est civ­i­liza­tions were built near bod­ies of wa­ter. The big­gest and most suc­cess­ful civ­i­liza­tions were nearby rivers that provided potable wa­ter: Egyp­tians and the Nile River, Me­sopotami­ans and the Ti­grisEuphrates River, Chi­nese and the Yangtze River, In­di­ans and the In­dus River, etc.

Back then, ar­eas ad­ja­cent to rivers are the first to be pop­u­lated. Wa­ter was also the ma­jor means of trans­porta­tion, hence river­side com­mu­ni­ties were bustling with com­mer­cial ac­tiv­ity, the cen­ter of barter and trade.

Three thou­sand years af­ter, hu­mans have since de­vel­oped such so­phis­ti­cated sys­tems and tech­nol­ogy in ir­ri­ga­tion and wa­ter fil­tra­tion that we have spread through­out all cor­ners of the world.

Dam­noen Sad­uak Float­ing Mar­ket

Dam­noen Sad­uak float­ing mar­ket is the largest and most well known float­ing mar­ket in Thai­land, but there are sev­eral oth­ers all over the coun­try.

Dam­noen Sad­uak was only open from 6:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Our tour guide told us to meet at 7 a.m. in the morn­ing to make it to the Float­ing Mar­ket be­fore clos­ing time. The float­ing mar­ket was two hours away from the cap­i­tal of Bangkok.

When we ar­rived at Dam­noen Sad­uak, we rode a small boat that could carry 6 peo­ple. The boat ride took us on a leisurely ten-minute cruise that took us to the qui­eter ar­eas of the vil­lage be­fore it brought us to the mar­ket.

When we got to the mar­ket cen­ter, it was quite a sight to be­hold: kind of like the South­east Asian ver­sion of Venice, Italy.

When we got to the float­ing mar­ket cen­ter, it was like awak­en­ing the slum­ber­ing river­folk in my blood.ÊMost of hu­man pop­u­la­tion nowa­days do not live near bod­ies of wa­ter anymore, but our con­nec­tion with wa­ter is still un­mis­take­ableÐal­most in­nate.

SHOP­PING AT THE FLOAT­ING MAR­KETS

The sights, sounds, smells and tastes were new, there were hun­dreds of boats with ven­dors sell­ing all kinds of wares that were both new and fa­mil­iar to me.

There are plenty of lo­cal goods you can buy here, but be warned: these float­ing mar­kets op­er­ate mainly as a tourist at­trac­tion, which means they do busi­ness at "tourist prices." You can cer­tainly pur­chase the items for half the cost else­where. If you must, please hag­gle and start with 50 per­cent off their ask­ing price!

I chose to in­vest in the au­then­tic Thai culi­nary ex­pe­ri­ence. There were plenty of Thai dishes and snacks to choose from, such as the co­conut pan­cakes, co­conut rice dumplings, co­conut sugar, co­conut ice cream. Thai food doesn't use cream, dairy or cheese, but in­stead they use co­conut milk, co­conut curry and co­conut sugar in their cook­ing. They use co­conut in ev­ery­thing!

I opted to try their co­conut ice cream, be­cause it was al­most 40-de­grees Cel­sius that day but also mainly be­cause it looked so pho­to­genic, or in to­day's terms, highly "in­sta­grammable."

The lo­cal fruits I saw were pop­u­lar trop­i­cal fruits such as mango, ba­nana, pineap­ple, co­conut (of course!), drag­on­fruit and even durian. They also have their ver­sion of green man­goes and guavas, drenched in salt and chili. Yum!

Aside from food, you can also go shop­ping for sou­venirs, art­works, clothes, ac­ces­sories, bags, hats, post­cards, among other things.

As I looked around, I noticed that even the rivers get river­boat traf­fic jams, espe­cially to­wards clos­ing time when the river be­comes a float­ing cir­cus. More­over, I be­gan to no­tice other types of ven­dors, such as savvy busi­ness­men who let tourists take pho­tos with a tar­sier and al­bino python for a fee. In Bo­hol, we are not even al­lowed to touch our pre­cious tar­siers. I am ad­mit­tedly wary about these kinds of tourist ven­tures. While it is tempt­ing to get pho­tos with these ex­otic an­i­mals, we should do our best to be re­spon­si­ble tourists.

Tar­siers are en­dan­gered an­i­mals and be­ing ex­ploited for tourism and trade. They are noc­tur­nal an­i­mals and are highly sen­si­tive to sun­light, noise and phys­i­cal con­tact. High stress can turn the tar­siers sui­ci­dal, with re­ported in­ci­dents of tar­siers jump­ing to their deaths. So please, take care of these adorable pri­mates!

Thai Float­ing Mar­kets: Bucket List Check!

I highly rec­om­mend for ev­ery­one to come visit and see one of Thai­land's float­ing mar­kets to be trans­ported in time and ex­pe­ri­ence how com­merce was done thou­sands of years ago.

Our Bangkok Pack­age was or­ga­nized by Grand Hol­i­days Trav­els and Tours, our spon­sor for the trip. You can book the tour with them and make it easy and has­sle-free.

Trop­i­cal fruits and treats on a boat

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