Bangkok & the floating markets

One of the biggest things we all wanted to do while in Bangkok was to visit some of the famous floating markets. The problem was that we had all heard how touristy they could be, so we wanted to try to see them somewhat authentically. This proved quite difficult! Firstly, the truly non-touristy one is only open Sat/Sun, and we only had a weekday. So, fine - Domnoen Saduak & the touristy trinkets it was to be. For the three of us, we figured out that chartering a taxi was actually about the same price as one of the tours offered at our hotel. This way, also, we could have a bit more control & such. Our driver really was sweet, and his cab was nicer than average, so all good there. He was waiting out front of our guesthouse bright & early, excited for his day's fare (we paid him ~$50 for the day). The ride out was fine, no real traffic, and of course interesting to see BKK's suburbs & such. As we got to the town near the market, I started noticing guys on the screen trying to wave cars/busses into their particular lots (a la on the way to a big event). Our driver tells us he knows a better place, so fine. We pull into a lot just as three our four giant tour busses are pulling out - more good news! The crowds would be gone! However, as soon a we get out, there's someone directing us to bathrooms, and then explaining the prices for hour & 2 hour boat rides through the markets. It's not cheap. At all. $30 per person, on top of our transportation costs. Well, for whatever reason, we didn't negotiate or demand to be taken elsewhere or anything, just sort of swallowed, and forked over the cash.

After that, we were led to a little longboat & immediately set off through a teeny canal, and all bitter thoughts went away. We eventually got to bigger canals & markets, after our guide tried to make us go see some Wat, mostly I think so he could grab his bag o' noodles for lunch from one of the ladies. He seemed to know everyone, and also really wanted his lunch goodies! At maybe 10:45am, though maybe he'd been doing this since 6am or something ... Anyway, it was fun, quite neat to see life on the river, and we got the hang of saying no to stopping a crap stalls & flagging down boats with tasty treats for ourselves (another fresh coconut for Val, some roasted bananas, and of course mango sticky rice!). It really is crazy to see these little old ladies rowing around boats about 2 inches above water, with giant pots of boiling stuff, woks frying who-know-what, and even grills. They were far more entertaining than the vendors along the banks with the standard trinkets. We could've ,ads our guide stop at a few different points to actually get out onto platforms to walk around, but we were happily perusing from inside our boat. All too soon,we were through & were deposited back at the parking lot, where at least we were given little bottles of water.
Gregg had remembered some cool woodworking stuff nearby, so we stopped in to see a little center that had all sorts of handicrafts, and some folks carefully chipping out designs on slabs of wood. Pretty cool, but we were pretty done, and wouldn't let our driver convince us to stop at the coconut & tiger farm. Instead, we decided to have a blowout last meal in Bangkok I'd eaten at previously, over in the Sukhumvit neighborhood. (Also, we discovered that, for the most part, the restaurants near our guesthouse all use the same menu. Exactly. So, we'd already had those options about three times!). Unfortunately, we really didn't take I to consideration the Bangkok traffic, and we basically had to go across the whole city. Bay bridge traffic has nothing on the bridge traffic we sat through, and honestly, BKK needs some cross-town freeways. By the ti e we got even close to the restaurant, all we all wanted to was get OUT. I think it was about 2 &1/2 hours or something. Anyway, we made it to Cabbages & Condoms, created as part of an org the promotes family planning & AIDS prevention. Lovely courtyard & good food, plus a condom as a souvenir, and condom-covered decor: what more could you ask for???

Then we had our train debacle, & hopped in another cab to the airport, where, as the sign helpfully pointed out, sex &/or fighting was NOT allowed!

I'll get to Chiang Mai & our fabulous cooking course when I next have a siesta.