The next day we took a more leisurely start to the day: reading a good book and watching our favorite Netflix (excellent wifi for the middle of nowhere) by a canal in the quiet shade of a tropical day after mocha, fried rice and savoury Thai pastry prepared by our host was solid comfort. I’d hooked up this accommodation through Airbnb and found it super tranquil. Bonus: they’re pet friendly!
This was where we stayed:
A place of quiet eternal afternoons and toned down evenings – a long stay here can do a body a lot of good. Not recommended for party animals! Very down to earth – no hot water – but you don’t really care.
The hosts own a little shop where you can avail yourself of cheap beer and a small selection of Thai snacks and ice cream. There are big black bees and voluptuous pink flowers there too.
At 2pm it was time for Uncle – our good natured host – to give us a ride to the Amphawa floating market. Along the sides of a canal, people gathered to set up a shop and give custom to the little boats selling their wares down either shore. The thing to do is order seafood from a little boat – they cook it for you and you sit at a little table by the canal and enjoy the atmosphere to your heart’s content. If you want a brew, find a little shop that sells it out of a fridge alongside pop and such.
This was all that was left of our dinner that day. That is a fermented fish and papaya salad.
The local ecosystem in Amphawa is a tidal mangrove forest and you could see it’s denizens at low tide under the board walk. Mud skippers went about their business in the smooth brackish muck not unlike the locals in the wooden world above them. Mud skippers are little fish that don’t mind crawling around out of the water, pugnacious proprietors of their little holes in the muck – you can maybe pick out a couple in the top right of this photo. Imagine minnows that drag themselves around in the chocolatey mud; their burrows riddled the river bank.
Another denizen of the mangrove was out in the sun that day too: an Asian water monitor was going about the sordid business of wading through detritus, both man made and organic, to snatch and engorge what remained of the corpse of a rat. Beautiful specimen in sordid surroundings.
After exploring the waterfront and asking a few questions, we found a tour of local temples by boat for 50 baht per person. If you want to take a tour by boat in Amphawa you can do it like a rock star and hire a private boat for 500 baht (or whatever you can barter) or find a group and go and see some sights for 50-60 baht, which is what we ended up doing.
And we saw temples! Lots and lots of temples! (there are about a hundred in Samut Songkhram) Here are some of my favorite bits:
Loved this roof, brilliant coloration.
The designs were unfailingly intricate shining and colorful. You’ll lose yourself in this architecture if you’re not careful.
In one temple a small fountain, the wholesome auburn of a robust cup of tea, and permeated by writhing lines of sunlight, was home to this Asian Gar and several barbless catfish – all rather sizeable – the Gar was the most special to me though: they can grow huge; they’re living fossils and that long snout is filled with wickedly sharp teeth. This guy is the T-Rex of fresh water.
That’s a slightly better look at him. Is Garfield a good name?
At one of the last temples I found a shrine to an elephant headed patron of the arts. A monkey told me his name was Pikanet (Ganesha in the Hindu translation). Pikanet is the patron of artists and actors so I decided to offer him some love. I gave him a flower, a coin and a kind old monk helped me light some incense as I performed the customary three bows to ask this hindu god for his blessing. The yellow flowers hanging from the deity’s shoulders glowed in the light of the sun brighter than any gold or jewels.
Buddhism emerges from Hinduism, and a lot of the pantheon sticks around – but there’s a different understanding of the gods here – and real or not, even the unrequited practice of praying to them and meditating on their values has its own value for your psychological well being – that’s what I believe anyway.
After the first boat tour, we managed to jump on another tour boat – just before it left with tourists from different resorts coming out of an army of mini-vans. We chugged upriver in a long wooden boat into the night – we were going to see the fireflies.
Sadly I wasn’t thinking about a camera at that time – but Imagine blinking trees and bushes mixing with the little lights of houses shining out over the dark delta waters: excited tourists babble or speak quietly around you, aiming their smart phones: everyone gets annoyed when someone shines a bright light to get a better picture; your sleepy sweetheart laying their head on your shoulder as the river gently rocks the boat.
Thailand has got a lot of neat stuff to do. Anyway you want to cut it -you can party, and drink, and tool around in Pattaya or on Phuket, but the whole country is its own memorable trip.
Wander into an elephant sanctuary for me.