The Middle East has its souks. Thailand has its floating markets. Thailand, has been blessed with a bountiful supply of water running through its blood vessels, the rivers and canals, has also used its floating markets as centres of trade and commerce.
For Middle East travellers, it offers wonderful opportunities to experience the local way of life. Explore and shop the vivacity of Thai floating markets or simply stroll through the many orchards and farms where one can spend their leisure time enjoying the rural greenery and canals as well as delicious fresh fruit grown and harvested there.
We visited Samut Songkhram, a province of fertile land, ripe with plants and crops, including numerous vegetables and fruits, as well as a vast variety of seafood products. It is also an interesting historical area, particularly during the early Ratanakosin period, following the fall of Ayutthaya.
Samut Songkhram is located just southwest of Bangkok, along the Gulf of Thailand. Attractions in the province include floating markets, temples, a Siamese cat house, and the Ban Phaya So - the home of a famous alto fiddle maker who combines the art of traditional Thai music with wood carving. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has come out with an innovative marketing strategy, LINK that focuses on the integration among Thai tourism stakeholders. Initiated by TAT, the LINK connects international destinations with emerging Thai travel destinations. The strategy is aimed to attract international visitors and enhance the distribution of tourism income to focal communities. The LINK stands for L - Local Experiences, I -- Innovation, N -- Networking, K - Keeping Character. The similarity in differences highlighted in each link opens a new perspective for visitors. It introduces the new and extraordinary experience that can be discovered in Thailand. Here are some of the highlights of our trip.
Thai Dessert Museum
Thai Dessert Museum was established on the occasion of King Bhumibol Adulyadej's 80th anniversary under the collaboration of The Thai Dairy Industry Co and Office of Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion (OSMEP). The museum reflects Amphawa's story in the old days, where parts of lifestyle of local people were present, as well as creates jobs and generate income for the community. The museum is divided into parts to display models of actual desserts (not models) and different kinds of food. Desserts on display include desserts in the era of Sukhothai, Ayuddhaya and Rattanakosin; for example, red and white dessert balls, the nine auspicious desserts, desserts in glass jar, desserts in clay pot, candied desserts, pickled desserts, desserts preserved in syrup, mixed ice desserts, etc. In depth knowledge on ingredients, preparations and products used is also on display. In addition, a part of the exhibition displays vehicles that were used to sell desserts in the past, such as a trailer tricycle and hawking baskets. Also on display are models of boats with an array of food and desserts where visitors can sit and even act as vendors at a floating market.
Amphawa Floating Market
The Amphawa Floating Market portrays the history of Samut Songkram as a commercial hub when waterways were the main routes for transport. Open Friday to Sunday, from afternoon to evening, the Amphawa Floating Market is becoming better known as a destination where visitors can find authentic local food, desserts, and fresh fruits from local orchards, as well as experience an atmosphere of bygone times. The canal gets busy after around 4pm when vendor boats, loaded with various goods and food products, arrive at the market site. Part of the market's charm lies in the old wooden shop houses built along the banks, creating a backdrop reminiscent of the town's heyday. Besides shopping, visitors can also take boat trips to observe life along the river and watch the sparkling star- like fireflies after dusk descends. Firefly watching tours are conducted year- round, but the best season is from May to October.
Cruise the Mae Klong River
Rent out a boat and cruise along the river banks to get a view of rare traditional houses known as Ruean Panya or hip-roof houses. You can also visit some magnificent riverside temples such as WatAmphawan, Wat Bang Khae Yai, Wat Bang Khae Noi, Wat Phummarin Kudi Thong, etc. Visitors can also take a boat ride into canals through coconut groves and lychee orchards amidst a shady ambience. This canal route is a well-kept secret that might lead you to discover some beautiful sights.
Mangrove Forest Plantation
Located in Tambon Khlong Khon, the plantation offers an interesting ecotourism activity at the mouth of the Mae Klong bay, not far from Bangkok. At present, the mangrove forest area has been increased to cover more than 2,000 rai (approx. 790 acres). Most of the trees are Samae and Larnphu. Visitors can ride a long-tailed boat to explore the mangrove forest area, see birds and crab-eating macaque, as well as witness the fishermen's way of life closely.
Thailand has been one of the world's most popular tourist destinations for a long time. It's no secret that it is home to some truly spectacular sights. Be it white sandy beaches and palm trees or be it the hustle bustle of Bangkok, the country never ceases to amaze. And yet, there is so much more waiting to be explored. Its tropical forests, its markets and ancient monuments are all reflections of its culture and many bounties. Look beyond and get ready to discover a Thailand that you have never seen before!
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