Thursday, February 21, 2008

Commerce on the Water: Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Day: 148

Today we ventured out for the first time beyond Bangkok. Our friend, an enterprising fellow named Bird, drove us to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. We arrived after an hour and a half drive and were waved in by the eager people giving boat tours of the market.
Initially when Chris booked the trip, he thought that the price included the boat tour. We soon came to find that the cost was just for our private taxi. Live and learn and welcome to a new country with a different language.
Anyway, we settled the bill on stepped onto our own private longboat. The vessel was approximately 20 feet long by 3 feet wide. The motor was a straight V8 with an eight foot shafted propeller. The captain steered with one hand and worked the throttle with the other. I’m pretty sure the engine was a bit big for the boat.
Off we went down the canal system. Without knowing what lay ahead, we had no expectations. Not surprisingly we stopped at a few souvenir stands and were implored to buy some goods. I bought a package of postcards and we continued on. Soon we began to see other boats; some similar to ours and others with no engine that were being paddled. The water was definitely getting more crowded. As we turned the next corner our eyes got big like saucers. This was it – the floating market. In the water and on the docks, goods were being sold. From soup to nuts you could watch your food being prepared and buy the bowl you were eating from. At first glance it was total chaos – too many boats and not enough room. Upon further review, you could see that the boat captains did have some organized system. Once you settled into the madness you were captivated by all of the activity. It’s was definitely a tourist oriented market, but you did get some sense of what life was like here years ago.
In actuality, the canal system was very important to central Thais in the days before automobiles. The only transport a family owned was the dugout boat that transported goods and people from point to point. The market we visited today is the most famous survivor of days past. And, if you looked closely, you could catch a glimpse of present day Thai life - a house on stilts and laundry hanging from the line.

No comments: