Monday, February 25, 2013

Amphawa, the Venice of Thailand

After Kanchanaburi we still had a few more days before we had to head back to Bangkok, so we looked up some other nearby destinations. Amphawa, known for its floating market sounded intriguing, and was accessible by local (read: cheap) transit. We had rented a moto to make it easier getting back and forth from town to our guesthouse, and on the morning we left for Amphawa, Mark drove us and our backpacks on the bike. We spent several minutes strategizing how to arrange the packs on, around, and/or between us, and settled on Mark wearing my backpack backwards and leaning it forward over the console, and me wearing Mark’s pack—the “waist” straps buckled around my legs—doing my best not to tip backwards.

We had to change buses in Ratchaburi, and had the typical transport connection confusion, solved through intricate hand gestures and pointing and much bowing and thank-you’s. Before we boarded our next local bus, I had need to use the facilities, and experienced my most intriguing bathroom situation to date. After more intricate hand gestures and pointing and much bowing and thank-you’s, a kind young girl helped me find a bathroom—she pointed me into a half-open, apparently abandoned store, where I found an elderly woman sitting behind a counter piled with debris and dirty dishes, beside a blaring TV, who did not notice my hello or wave. The young girl, seeing my futile attempts, came in and tried to get the woman’s attention, and finally managed to get a loud and disgruntled response, and after some discussion, looked me over and waved me back. It was then that I turned and looked back to where I was gestured, and saw a dark abyss, lit only by a caved in skylight, revealing thick cobwebs on every crooked surface, tire, sleeping dog, and pitchfork. It was strange, coming from a busy store-fronted street into what seemed like an endless cave of horrors. Near the back, along a sidewall were four dark door-less stalls. I passed on the first one which was piled out the front with old, dirt and dust encrusted dishes, but after seeing much the same in the other stalls, just decided to choose one at random, step over the various piles of feces (some glistening with freshness), and just pee through the cobwebs in what must have been a squat toilet that was used at one time or another many years ago. And no, I didn’t close the door, because that would have blocked out the very little light I had. And no, there was no toilet paper, but I had my own (I’ve learned from past experience it’s best to always have some on your person). But when you gotta go, you gotta go.

Business completed, we boarded our bus. As with our previous bus, we were the only non-Thais on board. Along the way, a young, uniformed school girl handed Mark this folded up note as she got off the bus:

Amphawa is a town where people from Bangkok come on weekends, and we arrived on a Saturday, so it was busy! Imagine a good chunk of Montreal all crammed in to an area the size of Ottawa's Byward Market. Or, crowds like Toronto’s Taste of the Danforth, but all in all with less shoving. We shuffled along the sidewalks flanking the canals which were lined with vendors selling hand-made crafts, souvenirs and food. And because this town caters to Thais rather than foreigners, the prices of things are not inflated as they are elsewhere. So we ate. A lot. Some of the foods we had, in no particular order: grilled scallops, deep-fried spinach patties, tiny coconut pancakes, spicy fish mousse, salted broad beans, pad thai, carrot-watermelon-tomato-lime shake, pork noodle soup, pomello, “blue pea” drink (tasted like grape juice), skewers of enoki mushrooms and broccoli wrapped in ham, crispy wontons, rice porridge (for breakfast), sugar candies (kind of like those maple syrup candies that give you an immediate headache because they’re so sweet), aaaand mango sticky rice.

Let the chowing down begin!

Some of these things we bought from boats hawking from the river. Sometimes you go to them, other times they come to you. For instance, we were sitting on the deck area of our guesthouse and a boat rowed up selling coconut ice cream. Normally ice-cream selling boats are only in my dreams!

I’m really glad our plans ended up having to be rearranged and we found ourselves in Amphawa. It’s a charming, bustling place, well worth a detour from Bangkok.


  1. Wow! What a beautiful place to eat. Such a variety and an ICE CREAM BOAT comng up to your own deck outside. Was it real or just a wonderful dream? I'll bet the coconut ice cream was just delicious too. Love your stories. Mum & Dad

  2. Wow, what a cool place! All of the boats with open BBQ's and grills and pans for deep frying are amazing! So neat!

  3. Look at Mark and his manly beard!!

    k xo