Cute Kung ("shrimp" a nickname given her by her mother) was our guide for the 3rd tour that we took from the Tour with Tong company in Bangkok. Rodger (our driver) & Kung picked us up at 7am and we piled into the van. We drove about an hour or more to the Maeklong Train Market. The market runs right along and on the train tracks. The unique thing about the market is that the train comes through every 2 hours and the vendors whose awnings and stalls are over the tracks have about 2 minutes or less from the time they hear the train whistle to collapse their awnings and move anything that sticks up higher than the tracks so that it isn't destroyed by the train as it rolls through the market.
This market in and of itself is fascinating. Toads on a stick, live fish, octopus and various exotic fruits line the way. Women with big wok-shaped pots are cooking traditional Thai dishes. Little children are in several of the stalls helping their parents put out fruit. It was a little challenging for 6'3" Spencer trying to duck under the awnings that were more suited to people about a foot shorter. He loved when they collapsed all the awnings and he could stand upright by the tracks.
Next we headed to the Floating Market in Damneon. We boarded a boat and made our way through the crowded river. The vendors along the sides would reach out with their hooked poles and try to snag our boat and reel us in so we could peruse their wares up close. We sampled various Thai fruits from the women who were paddling along in their own boats. I was near the back of the boat and after the fact I wished that I had passed the camera up to Spencer in the front of the boat as it was difficult to get a good photo from my location. It's a little chaotic because there is so much to see. We had told Kung that we wanted to sample some of the fruit so she was on the lookout for those vendors and steered us over when we saw them. One of the fruits we tried was Durian. It smells horrible and Thai adult rarely eat it because it has a lot of fat and cholesterol. It's very creamy and sweet.
We only passed through the shopping area once but our helmsman could backpaddle if we passed a shop or boat vendor that we wanted to buy from or see their wares up close. Kung would tell us what price we should pay for the items so that we could bargain with the vendors as they price they give you is usually about 3 or four times what it's worth.
Before stopping at the floating market, we visited a place where they make palm sugar which is their main sweetner. I even got to help stir the cooking mixture and we all got a taste of the palm sugar which is consistency of the sour cream fudge my grandma used to make when I was a child.
Our next stop was the fishing village with a quick stop off to buy bananas to feed the wild monkeys. Kung asked if we would prefer to eat our lunch in a restaurant or have it out in the fishing hut that is on stilts in the middle of the ocean. We, of course, chose the fishing hut. We all climbed into another boat with that had an awning to protect us from the sun and headed out. Not far from the village where the mangrove forests were, wild monkeys lined the shore and were in the trees. We cut the engine off shore about 20 yards and tossed our bananas to the monkeys who would swim into the water and grab them. Our goal was to throw the bananas to the closest monkeys so that they would not try to board the boat. Little did we know that a monkey from the opposite shore which was about 100 yards off was swimming our way. He climbed into the boat and into a very startled Spencer's lap who quickly grabbed him and the bunch of bananas he had snagged and tossed them both into the water. It added to the excitement and since I was videoing the other way, all we have recorded of the incident it Spencer screaming then the sound of the splash as the monkey hits the water. It's pretty funny.
After feeding all our bananas, we continued on our journey downriver towards the ocean. The water is muddy and shallow here as we were nearing low tide and the industry around us is cockle farming. Bamboo poles are stuck into the brackish water and the baby cockles placed on the poles where they grow and can be harvested by workers who spend 8 hours a day partially submerged on surfboards collecting them in baskets. These people make very little money but prefer to live a very humble life so that families can stay together and not have to move to the city. The masks they are wearing protect them from the elements. The Thai people we met do not like to tan like Americans do so they are often dressed in full protective gear. Both Nang and Kung wore long sleeves and long pants when we were in the sun.
Our destination was a hut on stilts made entirely out of bamboo poles and with a thatched roof and no walls. The breeze blew through it and it was peaceful and quiet. Our guide and boatman prepared a huge lunch for us of grilled fish, chicken, pork, soup, salad (American style), watermelon and several Thai dishes and sauces. We sat on the bamboo pole floor (except Spencer who is the least flexible of inflexible family) and ate until we were stuffed. Then we boarded the boat again and on our return trip stopped and visited with several of the fisherman who let us ask questions about their work. At one point, as we were talking to one of the fisherman, he turned and pointed in the direction we were headed and said something in an urgent tone. We all turned out heads and saw a wall of water coming towards us. It was an intense rain storm. I had been caught in one of these before while walking home from my massage in Bangkok and got drenched in under 2 minutes. Our boatsman floored it and we headed straight into the storm. It was sooooo fun! The awning kept some of the water off us so it felt refreshing and washed away a little of the stickiness.