Daily Archives: February 8, 2006

Amphawa Floating Market

Amphawan Floating Market

At the weekend, I drove down to Samut Songkhram to visit the King Rama II Memorial Park Fair. But, I also wanted to take this opportunity to visit the nearby Amphawa Floating Market. Unlike the famous one at Damnoen Saduak, this one doesn’t start to get going until the late afternoon. Very good news for late risers. It also means you can visit the nearby park first before finishing your day with a meal at the floating market. I am not going to pretend that Amphawan Floating Market is more photogenic than Damnoen Saduak. That isn’t true. You won’t see as many boat vendors here which means you will get a different kind of photograph. So, by all means, still go to Damnoen Saduak for your photo opportunity. But, if you have the time, also come to this floating market for the atmosphere which is so much better. It is also more authentic as you won’t find the rows and rows of stalls selling the same tacky souvenirs. The best thing about Amphawa Floating Market is that it is still relatively unknown among Western tourists as it isn’t featured in Lonely Planet yet. There must have been a thousand people there, but I didn’t spot one European face. This is where the Thai tourists come to experience a floating market.

Amphawa Floating Market

We arrived at the canal at about 3.30 p.m. We weren’t really expecting to see much as we had heard that the market wouldn’t start until late afternoon. However, as we walked towards the canal, we could see that a number of vendors had already set up their foodstalls along the Soi and more were wheeling their carts into position. There weren’t that many tourists yet so we decided to wander up the canal in a northerly direction. (This is beyond the pedestrian bridge you can see in the above photograph.) Although many of the houses lining the canal in this area were doubling as shops and restaurants it wasn’t long before we started walking by private residences. The front was open for most of these houses,  and we could see people inside lying down watching tv or sleeping. A bit voyeuristic so we tried not to stare. We carried on walking for a while until we reached another pedestrian bridge where we crossed and started walking back.

It was actually quite quiet and peaceful. I was starting to think we should have come earlier. Though of course it would have been much hotter. We then came across a couple of houses that were advertising homestay. This sounded like a great idea. We made a mental note to come back here again to do that. It would certainly be interesting to explore the area more while there were no tourists around. I had earlier seen pictures of monks rowing up and down this canal collecting food during their alms round. To see this you would have to be here early in the morning.

A bit further up we spotted a lady in a small boat paddling along the canal. Judging by the ingredients laid out in front of her it looked like she could cook pad thai for us. I was feeling a bit hungry so I called out to her and she came paddling over. I was right. We sat on the side of the canal bank while she cooked us some very delicious pad thai. I actually shot a video of her doing this and you can download it by clicking here. In the picture above, the bank is much further up, so the people cooking in the boats had a pully system hooked up. They put the meal in a basket and you then pulled it up! Very ingenious.

Amphawa Floating Market

I will tell you about our boat ride to see some “Unseen Thailand” attractions tomorrow.

This was fast turning in to be my favourite floating market destination. So much to see and do.

More pictures at AmphwaFloatingMarket.com

Old Patong:Crazy Dave

Crazy Dave is one of the most unique individuals I’ve ever met!

We first saw him on our 2nd trip to Old Patong.

He’d built a little restaurant right next to Mr Singhs wonderful Valentine Bungalows!

We were surprised to see new buildings going up in 1980, there were still plenty of shacks on the beach, both sides, and the beautiful coconut groves of Patong were being clear-cut little by little.

7 Seas was up and running with additional bungalows to add to their shady bar, Scandia improved their little piece of paradise slightly by adding an “eating room” infront of the bungalows where they offered Nordic foods as well as good Thai offerings.

Dave was fresh from Iran, a rigrat that became a refugee as the Shahs rule came to a violent end.

He told us many tales of oil jobs around the globe and just happened on Phuket island as a lark after meeting a fellow rigrat in Bangkok on a flight back to the States.

One thing about Phuket, especially Patong, once you saw it in those days, it etched DEEP into your mind, into your soul. A dream-like south pacific looking perfect horseshoe bay with wide & sandy beaches lined with coconut groves surrounded by steep hill/mountains on 3 sides, a santuary from the madness of the world, a delight for the senses!

Dave had gone into biz with Dutch Jeff, the big expat/underground freedom fighter/hero of WWII, from Holland.

Jeff went off to renew his visa, you HAD to leave the country in those days, every 90 days, most went the cheap charlie bahtbus to Butterworth in Malaysia and quickly came back, Jeff stayed a week and by the time he returned, his wife Dao was off with Dave to Songkla, NakonSiTammarat and HatJai!

Jeff knew the score, Dao always had a wandering eye, she’d run off with an SAS pilot years before, so it was nothing knew, Dutch Jeff soon had a new lady and a little daughter soon to be!

Dao named their dog after Jeffs new child, such was the way things work in the crazy world of the green eyed monster.

Dutch Jeff and Dave still ran Thai Gardens, but you knew it was really Dao that did all the work anyway with both guys acting the part of general mgrs.

Crazy Dave had some innovative ideas: he was the first person on Phuket island, let alone Patong beach to have a vcr/tv running betamax movies! That little gadget FILLED his place nightly with expats, little Thai children would always set timidly on the outside of the place, peering in at the movies, Big Dave would saunter over to them, he could be menacing looking, but he really had a good nature, once you got to know him, and glare at the little children, freezing them in their tracts, only to offer them ALL free Greenspots and Colas, letting them continue setting on the outside and watching the movies as long as they wanted too!

Naturally the various noodle carts and satay vendors would park out front, I was addicted to the plamook cart, that dried squid-like jerkey was SO GOOD with a nice cool Singha[the beer ONLY came in LARGE bottles in those days]! Dave never ran the carts off, he knew there was plenty to share and he became a quick favorite with locals as well as tourists, travelers, and expats!

Once in a while, Guitar Noi would come down after he finished his shift at the big Patong Beach Hotel,where he played organ for the mostly Nicorman type tour-bus groups that filled the place and played some hot guitar and he’d teach us the words for a few Thai songs as well as Western rock n roll, which he EXCELLED at!

Guitar Noi IS the best guitars/piano/organ player I EVER met! Still is! He was a tall Thai man, long hair like Bob Marley and the singing appeal of Dylan! Everyone loved Guitar Noi and we became close friends!

The early years saw Crazy Dave’s Thai Garden Restaurant filled morning, noon and night. Dave stayed busy going back and forth to town, ordering from the big open market there, a marvel in itself! You could hear Daves Honda 125cc twin with its “007” exhaust pipes a mile away!

Dave once said about the new market that was going up in nearby Baan Nam Sai Yen, just behind the rice paddy east of the bay ” a western market opens up at 8AM and closes at 5pm, an Asian market opens up at 6Am and NEVER closes”!

It was true, Dave would run off to the nearby new market and knock on the door all hrs, day & night and the nice guy running it, Mr Boonrawd, would open it up immediately and serve as needed!

Although most think the Banana Disco was the first disco on Patong, it wasn’t, there was a large round thatched hut on the beach across from Ladas Bar, but below the Banana Disco was the first movie rental place on the island! Dave would go down there daily and come back with mostly adventure and comedy flicks for his guests!

The big generator he had behind his cafe was difficult to modulate, but somehow, it powered his BetaMax, TV and large freezers[which he got for a BIG discount after Lada broke ALL the glass doors in one of her fits of rage vs her new hubby…:-)….!

Old Patong, where the fun and the drama just seemed to go on and on and on…

Stories from the Thai Press – 04

Pratunam’s Biggest Mafia Man Surrenders

After police busted a huge illegal casino in Bangkok’s Makkasan (Pratunam) area in which more than 250 gamblers were caught and 15 million baht was seized, police ‘point the finger’ at reknowned and previously self-confessed gangster /mafia boss Mr Phichit Thammarotphinit (Alias: Por Pratunam).


Mr Phichit surrended to Pol Gen Seriphisut but said that he had nothing whatsoever to with the illegal activity in what has been rated, by intelligence reports, as “Bangkok’s Biggest Underground Casino”. Mr Phichit or ‘Por Pratunam’ himself claims that he had just ‘rented his house out’ and had failed to notice any suspicious going-ons!! It is reported that a fierce argument of words erupted between the Pol Gen and the supposed – mafia boss.

Displeased at the lack of respect shown by ‘Por Pratunam’ the Pol Gen ordered police to raid his permanent residence on Rachaprarop Road, Makkasan. The police were amazed to find a massive collection of 50 auto-mobiles belonging to Mr Phichit.

PM Thaksin who was at Chiang Mai’s Night Safari at the time was angered by the action of the Pol Gen and said that the powerful police officer had no right to trespass upon Mr Phichit’s private property. Investigation is under way into why the Pol Gen thought he could just take the law into his own hands without gaining a ‘court order’ first.

Anyway, under a go ahead issued by The Minister of Justice all of Mr Phichit’s assets which have been acquired since 2004, have been seized temporarily. Mr Phichit will have to prove in court that all the assets seized were begot, by him, legitimately.

Investigation is also under way into whether influential police officers were involved in the illegal casino!

The Pol Gen has admitted that the process of compiling evidence against ‘Por Pratunam’ has been a very time consuming one. Actual prosecution of such influential figures involved in illgal activities such as ‘casinos’ is not an easy task!

‘Por Pratunam’ once (and may be still is) one of the capital’s most influential mafia bosses. ‘Por Pratunam’ admits to his once ‘legendary status’ as an untouchable gangster/mafia figure above all law and order. It was only after the shooting and killing of one of the century’s most dangerous and influential mafia bosses…… Mr Klaew Thanikun – a couple of decades ago that ‘Por Pratunam’ decided to disengage from publicizing the extent of his activities.

Not surprisingly, ‘Por Pratunam’ has been released pending further investigation!

Arriving in Thailand

On a hot April afternoon in 1994, an EVA air plane landed. Having come from Los Angeles Airport through Tai Pei, my family and I were pretty exhausted. My husband and I, our two children (then 2 and 3) had no idea what to expect from the Land of Smiles.

I laughed to myself when we got in line at immigration, because there in bold letters was a sign “ILLEGAL ALIENS”. I am, by the way Mexican American. Our two children were not too much to handle, still working off the doses of Cough Medicine that helped them sleep the long flight. The biggest relief was seeing our Rubbermaid tote lockers which made it in pristine condition. Friends from our Mission had come to pick us up. We walked down this long tunnel, to an area where you walk to many anxious faces. It was very interesting actually seeing signs in English and Thai. We got to a guest house and despite our best efforts to stay awake, passed out.

It’s a bit bizzare when you wake up in the middle of the night in a foreign country. I slid open the door, and stepped out onto the tiled balcony. I could hear people and cars buzzing by, because Bangkok afterall does not sleep. Of course there was the smell and music that had a pop beat and someone crooning away. I remember thinking that Thai had a bird sound element to it, highs and lows. Later in Thai study, when I was fluent, my teacher Lek told me that she thought English sounded long and stretched out.

It took a couple of days of rest before they felt we’d recovered enough to travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by bus. I don’t think anyone is ever ready for that ride! It’s scary. They do give you snacks and sandwiches filled with sweet dried pork. Our kids, being American cutiepies were definitely an attraction. “Farang”, which means foreigner is probably the first word that any newcomer to Thailand learns. It means foreigner. Very strange for me as an American to be considered a foreigner. Funny thing too was when I could finally speak Thai, I would get, “So what kind of foreigner are you?” Because with Black hair and brown eyes,and olive-colored skin I could pass as half Thai. If I had a baht for every time I was asked…

When we finally arrived in Chiang Mai, we were taken directly to the house that had been rented for us. I thought, “How do they know what I like?” My husband honestly thought it was the shack on stilts next to the beautiful two story house we ended up occupying for over two years. We left America, land of comfort to serve the Lord and ended up living in a house better than we ever imagined. It was in a small moo baan behind the train station, near the soldiers apartments. We loved it.