In the olden days in Thailand, most people lived along canals and the only way they could travel around was by boat. At major intersections farmers would come together to create floating markets. With the building of roads and modern houses, many of these markets and riverside villages fell into a state of disrepair. People would drive their cars to supermarkets and monks would walk along roads on their alms round.
I took these pictures recently at the Old Bang Phli Market in Samut Prakan. They have special activities going on every weekend from now until early October. The idea is to both recreate and preserve the practices and culture of days gone by. Although it is still sometimes possible to see monks going on alms round by boat, it is a rarity. I am glad I was able to witness this at the weekend.
I have also shot a video which you can see in our Paknam Video Blogs. For more information about this market festival, please visit www.paknam.com.
Everybody knows Muay Thai which is the popular Thai boxing sport known around the world. This version that I went to watch at the weekend at the Bang Phli Riverside Market in Samut Prakan is called Muay Talay. This translates as “sea boxing”. The rules are simple. Two people sit astride a pole which is fixed over a stretch of water. They have three rounds with each round lasting only three minutes. Punches and kicks are allowed but you have to do your best to keep your balance. The loser of each round is the first person to hit the water. It is great fun watching. Some rounds were over very quickly while others went on for the full three minutes. I have uploaded a video of this event which you can watch by clicking here. The Market festival goes on until the end of the month. You can find more information in our www.paknam.com website.
Another chapter in the life of Panrit “Gor” Daoruang” has come to an end with his release from prison after serving his full three years for dug possession. Gor shot to international fame during his teenage years for his stories about life growing up in Thailand. He is regarded as Thailand first blogger as he started writing about his life when he was only 12 years old. This was back in 1997 and he is now 24 years old. His website www.ThailandLife.com still remains popular with people from around the world as a way to understand the culture of Thailand. People respected the way that Gor was honest about the ups and downs of his life including his fall into drug addiction when he was only 15 years old. He had just graduated from Junior High and it was the summer holidays. High School didn’t last long for him and he was soon kicked out and ended up living on the street for a while. Things picked up later that year when he became the youngest columnist at the Bangkok Post at the age of 16. However, although he was still working hard on his websites, including the popular www.learningthai.com website helping foreigners learn Thai for free, he struggled with staying clean from drugs. He ordained as a monk for a while but a month after leaving the temple he was arrested by police for drug possession. Gor was originally sentenced to six years in prison but the judge halved this sentence after he changed his plea to guilty.
Gor is now enjoying his new found freedom with his daughter Nong Grace and the rest of his family. He said it will take him time to adjust to life on the outside and also to catch up on things. He plans to go back to writing and making websites next month. He wishes to thank everyone that has shown him support over the last three years and he promises that he won’t let them down. I have posted some pictures of Gor taken during his first day of freedom over at the “Gor’s World Forums”. You can read more background information about his drug addiction and subsequent conviction and life in prison over at www.ThaiPrisonLife.com. Gor kept a diary while in prison so look out for some more updates in the coming months. These will be the only stories about life in a Thai prison written by a Thai person in English. If you didn’t know already, Gor’s autobiography, “Gor’s Thailand Life” was published while he was in prison and is available in all good book stores in Thailand and on the Internet at BuyThaiBooks.com.
One of the oldest markets in Thailand that is still operating is the Bang Phli Riverside Market in Samut Prakan. It was first started by Chinese traders back in the 1850′s. This now makes it older than 150 years. The original name for the market is “Talad Siri Sopon”. It is situated along the Samrong Canal which used to be a major trading route between the Chao Phraya River and Chachoengsao. I visited Bang Phli this morning for the launch of their Old Market Fair which will run every weekend between now and 27th September 2009.
The market consists of wooden two storey shop houses along the northern bank of the canal. The market stretches for about 500 meters along two sections which is broken up by a bridge. You can gain access to the market from Wat Bang Phli Yai Klang. There are shops along the entire length which are selling a diversity of old and new products. When I first visited this riverside market they were mainly selling items for local people. These were practical things like household items and school clothes. However, there is now more of a variety and shops selling items that are of interest to tourists. However, it still maintains its unique charm and beauty.
If you come and visit this market now, you will have a good opportunity to see the traditional way of life of the Bang Phli people living along the canal. Every weekend there will be special activities that include folk plays, sea boxing, boat tours, traditional sword fighting and of course local food. In fact, I think the variety of food on offer is one of the highlights of the market. The market runs throughout the year but they always have special activities during September in the run up to the Rub Bua Festival. The boat tours exploring the local canals also also run for the whole year.
I am very impressed in how the local people have gone about conserving the local market and also restoring the local traditions and customs to their former glory. They have certainly gone to a lot of effort. If you are in the area now then I do strongly urge you to go and visit Bang Phli and this market fair. Also make sure that you pay a visit to their local museum which is situated in the market. Although most of the displays are in Thai, there are plenty of pictures to view as well as scale models. At present the market doesn’t get many foreign tourists so this is the best time to come.
Visit www.paknam.com for more pictures and videos of this event as well as a map. I am also posting more pictures over at the Samut Prakan Forums.
This is a nice simple dish called Fried Pomfret, or “pla jalamet khao tod” in Thai. In the picture below, you can see the pomfret fish and the tapioca flour.
Wash and clean the fish and then scour it on both sides. Next rub in the tapioca flour. Heat up some deep oil in the pan and when hot enough, fry the fish on both sides until golden brown. Serve with fresh vegetables and a dip made from hot chillies, shallots and an equal amount of lime juice and fish sauce. Come back to www.Thai-Blogs.com next week for another Thai Food Blog.