This afternoon I decided to do a bit of exploring in my own area. The purpose was to discover new tourist attractions that I could include for a guidebook on Samut Prakan. I was a bit disappointed that the latest edition of Lonely Planet has now reduced our province down to less than one page. Not only that but they have only detailed two tourist attractions. We have far more to offer than that. So, that is why this afternoon I set off in search of something new.
My destination was the 34 KM marker which is just after the entrance to Ancient City. There is supposed to be a soi here leading down towards the Gulf of Thailand. I was told by a local historian recently that I could find a radio mast here dating back a hundred years. The first telegraph and telephone in Thailand was introduced here. Alexander Bell invented the telephone in 1876 and five years later it was already in operation in Samut Prakan. As ships came up the Gulf of Thailand and entered the Chao Phraya River, lookouts reported this news to people in Bangkok. I didn’t find the tower but I did have an interesting walk.
My journey started at the end of Soi 80, Sukhumwit Road. (For people living in Bangkok I should point out that Soi numbers on Sukhumwit Road are restarted once it crosses the border into Samut Prakan.) By the Gulf of Thailand I found a quiet restaurant with a grand view of the sea. It is actually an interesting area. On one side there are some docks where people were repairing a ship. There was also a small wooden pier where I saw two boys fishing. Out in the Gulf I could see several large ships coming my way. They were following the shipping lanes which were bringing them straight towards me and then a sharp turn to take them to the Chao Phraya River.
A breakwater had been built along the coastline here with an asphalt covering. I had the choice of turning right which went towards Wat Asokaram and Paknam or left which is towards Bang Poo Seaside Resort. I wasn’t sure how far the path would take me but I decided to turn left. It would have been nice if I could report it was a lovely stroll along the coastline. But, it was ruined a little by the pollution from the nearby factories and communities. In a few places I had to hold my breath. But, it didn’t really spoil the fun of a Sunday afternoon stroll.
There was plenty of wildlife to see. I spotted plenty of white egrets and other colourful birds which I would need to buy a bird book in order to identify. I did glimpse a monitor lizard which was about one metre long. It was too quick for me and I was unable to take a photograph. However, I did manage to get some pictures of the mud skippers. This is a strange breed of fish which is equally happy living under the water as it is skipping along on top of the mud. You often find them around here in the mangrove forests. They come out for several minutes at a time before jumping back into the water or down the burrows which they have dug. Their powerful muscles help them hop, skip and jump across the mud.
Around one corner I came across a strange white building with a deep blue roof. It was shaped like a boat. It was deserted except for a lone security guard. I went up to him to ask what the building was for. He replied that it was a shrine for Prince Chumphon. He said that I could go in but I couldn’t take any pictures. This prince was one of the many sons of King Rama V. He is officially known as the “Father of the Thai Navy” and his statue can be seen in many places along the coastline of Thailand.
While I was standing at the top of the shrine I spotted out to sea a big passenger boat. I could see what looked like a lot of people standing on the aft deck. I wanted to get my camera out with the zoom lens but the security guard had clearly told me that no photographs were allowed. On the side of the boat were the words “Pattaya Cruises”. To me it looked like this was a boat service from Pattaya to Bangkok. I had never heard of one before. This was an interesting piece of information worth pursuing at a later date. I would love to take a boat from Pattaya to Bangkok. Especially the last part as it enters the Chao Phraya River and passes by Samut Prakan city center.
I continued on my walk until I came across a second lock gate. As I approached, a fishing boat came in from the Gulf of Thailand and headed up a small estuary. When I got closer I could see a fleet of fishing boats and people repairing nets and doing other odd jobs. I don’t think they get many foreigners walking by here as everyone turned to stare. Then they started shouting “you, you”. I smiled and waved back. Then I carried on walking.
In the distance I could just make out the pier at the Bang Poo Seaside Resort. I had been there many times before. This is a recreational area for the army though it is open to the general public. They have a number of rest houses here which you can rent out for less than 500 baht. There are good sea breezes here and between October and March there are thousands of migrating seagulls which you can feed. The restaurant at the end of the pier is a very popular place to eat.
By this time I had been walking for about an hour and a half. I was getting pretty tired and dehydrated. I hadn’t intended to walk quite so far. I stopped to take a rest and to order a meal of fried rice. After I had rested I contemplated whether to continue my walk beyond the pier. I had done this before. If I remember right, you could walk for nearly another hour to a big estuary where there was a fishing village. From here you would have to walk back to the road as there were no bridges. I was going to do this part of the walk too, but then I spotted a taxi which had just dropped some people off. I was still feeling tired and a bit lazy so, I hopped in and got the driver to take me back to my car. The length of the journey back was about 5 kilometres. The taxi driver told me that I was so clever to have walked so far. I just smiled. I am used to people saying that to me now even though I feel like I am just walking around the corner. Thai people just don’t understand recreational walking.
I did have a good afternoon. I reckon I will be back here to try the path the other direction. And of course, to find the radio mast which was my original intention of this afternoon walk.