I’ve been to Bangkok a few times before but haven’t gotten out of the city much, except for one time my sisters and I went on a day trip to Ayutthaya in 2012. September this year, I had the pleasure to be invited by Thai Airways and the Tourism Authority of Thailand to visit 2 of the best destinations just outside of Bangkok: Samut Songkhram, and Hua Hin.
Samut Songkhram is a small province just 72 km from Bangkok. It’s a place to visit if you like cultural tourism and traditional ways of life. It’s easy to reach by car or bus as it takes less than 2 hour ride. The most famous tourist attraction here is the colorful Tha Kha Floating Market during weekends. But there are still plenty of things to do if you come on weekdays like we did. It’s also less chaotic.
We arrived in the evening and were booked at Thanicha Healthy Resort, Amphawa. You would want to stay here not only because it’s really cute and cozy, but it’s the only resort located on the bank of Amphawa canal. It means that you’ll have the best view of the floating market during weekends, or on weekdays, you should wake up very early to see the locals offering alms to the monks coming by boats.
I set my alarm at 5:00, 5:15, 5:30 am to ensure I don’t miss the coming of the monks. It’s wonderful to be able to walk 5 steps and you’re at the canal. The hotel is so homey that I felt like walking out in my pajamas.
I’m glad the weather was nice. There’s a feeling of serenity being up early waiting the first ray of sunlight. I brought my camera up the wooden foot bridge literally just outside Thanicha and waited for the first monk to paddle in.
Before long I was getting super sweaty, and the monks were on their way to the temple for breakfast and prayers. So we followed suit and strode back indoor. The smell of coffee and a spread of breakfast welcomed us at the dining hall with the view of the canal, naturally. We enjoyed our breakfast as we watched the shops open and the life of local begin their day.
Thanicha Healthy Resort
261 Tambon Amphawa, Amphawa
Clam Digging at Don Hoi Lot
Possibly not for everyone, but definitely for me just for the experience. Dot Hoi Lot lies at the mouth of the Mae Klong river is a huge sand bank where it’s the home of razor clam shells. Some locals make their living clam digging and some takes tourists to try their hands at clam digging. If you’re doing this, you have to be wearing shorts. I was wearing Columbia travel pants which you can roll up to my knee, and instantly the clam digger pants is back in fashion.
A guide gave us each a small pail, a barbecue stick, and a bit of lime or the white powder used to lure the razor clams, and we are all set. We had to be dropped off with a small boat to where the water is lowest. The guide showed us how to do it by poking on the mud and sticking the white powder into the holes and finally lure out razor clams. It’s not the easiest thing to do, but the locals fill up a bucket really fast. Honestly, this is probably the last on my list of career path to take, so I gave quickly and just took my camera out and started shooting the beautiful scenery. The scene is absolutely gorgeous with the water mirroring the sky creating and absolutely perfect photos.
If you’re not into this but love seafood, there is a market place where there are stalls of different seafoods both fresh and dried for sale. Locals come here to buy also. This is also a favorite place for them to chill and have picnics on weekend.
Seafood Feast at Krua Kung Pao
As always, every meal in Thailand is a food feast. We came to Krua Kung Pao where it is famous for its steam boat seafood. A bit of trivia of this place is that it has a small exhibit featuring the famous Chang and Eng Bunker brothers who were conjoined twins and lived their whole life literally attached to one another. They were born in Samut Songkhram used to be Kingdom of Siam. This is the basis of the term “Siamese Twins”.
Ban Baang Phlap Community at Bang Khun Thai
Ban Baang Phlap is a community rich in produce because they are lucky to have fresh water from the Mae Klong River run through their orchard. They produce coconuts, pomelo, lychee, papaya and many tropical fruits and vegetable all year round.
What made them special is how the locals came together in support to each other. They strengthen their community by pooling their knowledge together and sharing with fellow farmers. The result is improved quality agricultural produce of the whole community. This earned them many awards as model community and recognized as Green Community.
We went to this village and were shown us their pomelo orchard and tasted them, oh so good! I swear I can eat a dozen in one sitting, maybe more! We were also shown how the famous genuine coconut sugar were made and tasted them, oh so good! If only I don’t worry about being fat with these coco-sugar. And finally we biked around the orchard and see actual pomelo hanging by the tree. We also saw how they made “Reborn fruits and vegetables”. This is their secret process of preservation of vegetables and fruits which were naturally bitter or sour, and made them into sweet delicacies. Example of fruits that are reborn are
Benjarong Samut Songkhram
Bengjarong is a Thai heritage art of painted porcelain. Benjarong literally means 5 colors, but designs can have up to 9 colors.The designs are of very intricate decoration of flowers, usually repeating pattern. Gold (as in 18karat gold) is used as the outline for the patterns. After the colors are applied, it will be put in a kiln and baked in fire.
We went to Bang Chang for a Benjarong workshop and painted our own mug. We only got the standard 5 colors to work with (black, sienna, blue, green, yellow). The golden pattern were already drawn for us and we only have to paint it, like a coloring book. It was cool that we got to bring this mug home too.