I’ve already been in Bangkok for the entire month of June, yet I have only spent one full weekend in the city so far! I’ve done some exploring after work and honestly every commute is an adventure, but I have also budgeted plenty of time to explore the city extensively in weekends to come. This being said, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time discovering what Thailand has to offer outside of the capital city. I spent my third weekend in country exploring places just outside of Bangkok that I could access by public transport!
My first adventure outside of the city limits of Bangkok was north to Ayutthaya, the old capital of Thailand. This capital was prosperous for about 400 years, falling in 1767, and the center of the city is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The entire city is filled with awe-inspiring ruins of temples that surely used to be as amazing as the current Grand Palace in Bangkok. In fact, the Grand Palace layout was copied from Ayutthaya, the most notable similarity being that they both sit along a river.
To get there, a few other USC interns and I took the train from Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok. It only cost 20 baht (65 cents!) for a one way third class ticket! We probably should have upgraded since we didn’t realize that third class meant no AC, but it was a scenic ride nonetheless. Once we arrived, we took a short ferry across the Pa Sak River, then from there hired a tuk tuk driver to transport us to the most notable temples and find us a good place to eat. Once we had seen as much as we could in four hours, we bought our tickets back to the city.
The very next day, I woke up at sunrise for my solo adventure to visit two of the most unique markets near Bangkok. My first stop was the Maeklong Railway Market. Here, you find all of the normal things you’d expect from a market such as fruits, veggies, meats, clothing, trinkets, and jewelry, but the catch is that there is an active railway running through the center of it all! The vendors have their goods up to the edge of the tracks and awnings set up to protect from the sun. Then, moments before the train comes, a little warning bell rings and they efficiently move everything just far enough back from the tracks and quickly close the awnings in order to let the train pass though. For this reason, the market is locally known as “Talat Rom Hoop” or “Market Umbrella Close.” Once the train passes, the vendors nonchalantly return everything back to their original places and carry on with the day. It was unlike anything I had ever seen!
Now that I’d seen the most famous market centered around a train, it was time to see the most famous market centered around boats! Floating markets are relatively common in Thailand, but Damnoen Saduak is the largest and one of the oldest of its kind. Here, you can explore and bargain on shore or you can be paddled around the extensive canals to purchase any kind of Thai food, drink, or product you could imagine from a passing boat. The vendor boats are very picturesque due to their plentiful fresh fruits and veggies. Although this market is considered the ultimate tourist trap, I had a fun time bargaining for a couple items to bring home to my family. After a couple of hours, I had taken enough photos and was too tired to bargain anymore, so I took a long-tail boat ride through the surrounding neighborhood of the market then made my way back to Bangkok.
I returned to my room at about 4pm and I spent the rest of the evening rehydrating, doing laundry, and resting up for the work week. One of my favorite parts about this weekend was successfully getting to my destinations pretty much on my own. Slowly but surely, I’m figuring Thailand out, one experience at a time!