9 PICTURE ALBUM
Tuesday, March 9
Paula: The weather forecast in this morning's newspaper
this stated, "cool temperatures." After reading that the high temperature
would be 32 degrees Celsius (this is about 90 degrees Fahrenheit), we decided
that many things are relative! Annie told us last year the low temperature
of the entire year here was 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite the heat, our days
here have been bearable. A nice breeze has definitely helped, as have our
hats and umbrellas - yes, we finally broke down and used our umbrellas
like most of the Asians as a shield from the sun.
Our destination this morning was a town about 80 kilometers southwest of
Bangkok. Samutsongksam has about 30,000 residents and a lively market. The
first thing that we noticed was that there were more motorbikes than cars
here. Annie said many people don't even own a motorbike but hire a "motorcycle
taxi" to take them to the market. The market was crowded with people
of all ages shopping for everything
from toys, clothing and house wares, and all varieties of food.
There are no malls or grocery stores outside of Bangkok, so in the countryside
everyone shops at the open air markets. Interestingly, part of the market
was set up along the sides of a railroad track with customers walking down
the middle of the tracks.
We assumed that the railroad was no longer used, but Annie told us in fact
the train still comes twice a day and everyone quickly mores the goods out
of the way allowing the train
Annie pointed out that the prices in the market here were much better than
in Bangkok, often half the cost. In addition to a large variety of seafood,
fish, meats, fruits and vegetables; there were hundreds of vendors cooking
and selling fresh food. We had fun trying several treats including coconut
custard, coconut pancakes and fresh pineapple that Thais dip in a combination
of salt, sugar and chili peppers! We also saw
sticky rice cooked in coconut milk and steamed in bamboo, baked and grilled
bananas and a variety of Thai deserts made with egg yolk, syrup and rice.
As we walked though the crowded market, a small group of teenagers pointed
and giggled at us. We noticed that two of the girls were following us and
we finally stopped to see if they wanted to talk. In fact, they wanted to
practice their English and had never had an opportunity to speak to natives.
The girls, both 17 years old, were
actually quite shy but we enjoyed chatting and having a picture taken with
them. We learned that as in Laos, people here call Westerners "white
people with long noses" - pretty funny!
As we walked through the market, many people asked Annie why we had visited
this town instead of the "Floating Market." The Floating Market
had originally been on our itinerary, but we changed plans after learning
that this is primarily a tourist destination. We instead wanted to see an
authentic local town market and community, and we thought it was funny how
surprised the people here were to see us.
Most of the people in the town are fruit farmers and their coconut and banana
groves surrounded both sides of the road as we left the market. Annie suggested
that we stop and visit one of the farms where they make coconut candy. This
turned out to be fun and interesting. Once on
the farm we learned how this extended family raises their coconut trees, using
all parts of the trees. From the flowers of the tree they collect nectar which
they then boil and cool into sugar and candies. They were in the process of
doing this when we arrived so we watched them make the sugar cubes and Katie
even helped with the final steps!
In addition to using the fruit for both coconut meat and milk, the farmers
use the leaves for
fuel and the wood to make chop sticks and other wooden utensils. The trees
produce fruit just three years after planting and are productive for about
eight years. Canals cut across the farmland allow them to easily water their
trees and other crops.
This family then offered to take us out on the canals on their own long-tail
boat so that we could see their farm and the surrounding community. This was
a treat and gave us another opportunity to view
life on the canals. Again we saw people washing clothing, food and dishes
in the canals. Porches and small docks off the stilted homes appeared to have
small kitchens. We passed several temples and again enjoyed feeding the fish
in this area. There were so many fish that they splashed us as we tossed them
As we passed a primary school, the children who were outside playing waved
to us. We decided to stop and visit the school and had fun walking through
their classrooms. The classrooms all opened out onto large porches and there
were racks for the children to take off their shoes before entering the classroom.
We were invited into a kindergarten where we exchanged pictures and simple
greetings of "hello" and "goodbye." The teacher wanted
to take all kinds of pictures
of us - they had never had Westerners visit the school before. We were celebrities
We noticed that the classrooms beginning in grade 1 had English words posted
around the room. The children were finishing their last week of classes and
exams before beginning their three month long summer break.
The children all waved and giggled as we left on the boat.
After lunch at a local restaurant, we made our way back to Bangkok. This
was our first opportunity to experience Bangkok's terrible traffic first-hand.
The drive took 1 ½ hours, and the "expressway" became a parking
lot as we neared the city.
Once in Bangkok, we visited the "fresh market" where local growers
sell their produce in bulk to restaurants. The smell of all kinds of greens
and vegetables filled the air, and we enjoyed seeing the huge bags and bundles
Our final stop was in Bangkok's flower market, only a short walk away. Flowers
are an integral part of Asian culture, and it was wonderful
to see such a large and beautiful market. The market is open 24 hours a day,
and huge numbers fresh flowers are brought in daily. One of the busiest times
is 4:00 AM when local hotels and restaurants come to buy flowers.
We were amazed at the wide variety of very fresh flowers, and the unbelievably
low prices. A bunch of 50 roses cost a total of 50 cents!
We also saw all kinds of orchids, marigolds, lotus flowers, carnations, daisies,
and lilies. Many of the flowers were arranged into all kinds of centerpieces,
decorations for spirit houses,
arrangements for weddings, etc. It was quite a sight to see!
Finally, we headed back to the hotel for dinner and rest before tomorrow's
early-morning flight to Siem Reap in Cambodia.