Category Archives: Road Trips

Two New Floating Markets in Hua Hin

Hua Hin Floating Market

During 2011, two purpose built floating markets opened in the seaside resort of Hua Hin. Surprisingly, not only did they open during the same year, but they also can both be found down Soi 112 which is about 6 kilometres away from the city center. I visited them over the new year holiday and both of them were very crowded with tourists. I’m not sure at this stage which one will survive.

Hua Hin Floating Market

The first one that you will come across is Hua Hin Floating Market (see map). You can’t miss it. When we arrived the queue for the car park went out onto the main road. My first impressions were good. All of the shops were built in a retro style to remind you of the olden days in Hua Hin. The boardwalk around the lake is wide which allows you plenty of space as you explore the shops. There are no cheap or tacky souvenirs here. Most things are good quality handmade products that you won’t find elsewhere.

Hua Hin Floating Market

Hua Hin Floating Market is open Monday to Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Friday to Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. They have stage shows during the day at 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. You can also join a boat tour which is 200 Baht for four people. It seems to be a good place to do some shopping for a few hours and then sit down for a meal. Most people came here by private car but I heard that there is a public songtaew from the town for 20 Baht.

Hua Hin Samphannam Floating Market

If you drive a short distance away from this market, and then turn left at an intersection, you will see almost immediately Hua Hin Samphannam Floating Market (see map). Like the other market, this one was also very crowded. But as Samphannam covers a much bigger area, I would say that there were far more people here. There are 193 shops and 40 vendor boats. The floating market is built around a lake that was already there. The buildings might not be as stylish as at the other market, but it had its own charm.

Hua Hin Samphannam Floating Market

I like Hua Hin Samphannam Floating Market more than the other one. This is mainly because they have many more activities that you can take part in. It isn’t all about shopping. The boat trip here is only 20 Baht each. You can also join a train trip around the market for the same price. There are also daily shows. At one end there is a replica lighthouse as well as beached fishing boats. Plenty of photo opportunities here which Thai people love. The best thing for me was the wide variety of food available.

Hua Hin Samphannam Floating Market

Hua Hin Samphannam Floating Market is open every day from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Most people come here by private car. There is enough parking for 1,000 cars and it was full when I visited. Like the other market, you can take a public songtaew here from the town for 20 Baht. You probably don’t want to do both of them in one day, but if you are in Hua Hin for a week then it is worth visiting both. But, if you only have time for one, then go to Hua Hin Samphannam Floating Market. It has a much better atmosphere.

Jesada Technik Museum in Nakhon Pathom

Literally in the middle of no-where, in Nakhon Chaisi District of Nakhon Pathom Province, there is a sprawling private transport museum for lovers of any vehicles, both on land and in the air.  This large collection of vehicles can be found at Jesada Technik Museum and is the brainchild of Mr. Jesada Deshsakulrith, a Thai businessman. The museum first opened to the public in 2004 though Jesada bought his first vehicle back in 1997.

I was completely lost when I stumbled upon this red double decker bus from London and the yellow school bus from America. Beyond no doubt, I had arrived. Jesada Technik Museum is ironically not served by any public transport. You will have to find your own way there from Nakhon Chaisi (see map). It is open every day from Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed on Mondays. Surprisingly there is no entrance fee to the well kept museum though donations are welcome.

The inspiration for the museum came after Jesada visited automobile museums in the USA and in Europe. He decided to collect antique and hard-to-find cars for his own collection. He started with a 1958 Bubble Car bought in Switzerland. His collection has now grown to 500 pieces which includes Airplanes, Helicopters, Tanks, Buses, Sedans, Bubble Cars, Motorcycles, Tricycles and Bicycles from around the world. There would have been a Russian made submarine as well but it apparently sunk while on the way to Thailand.

It is a credit to Jesada that all of the vehicles have been kept in excellent condition as you can see from these pictures. Not only on the outside but the inside as well. The upholstery is in very good condition. Also don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a “dead” museum as many of these vehicles are in good working order and have taken part in car rallies. I have also seen one of the red double decker buses out and about too at charity events. They actually have three London buses, one of which is open-topped.

The transport museum is probably not worth visiting on its own. Best to do it in conjunction with something else in the area. Visit our Thailand Photo Map website to see what else there is to see in Nakhon Pathom Province. Nearby is the riverside Thana Market which is a great place to have lunch.

Candle Procession Festival in Ubon Ratchathani

One of the biggest and most beautiful festivals in Thailand is the Candle Procession which marks the start of the Buddhist Lent. In Thai this is called Khao Phansa which is the day after the full moon in July.  Traditionally during this period, Thai Buddhists take part in parades to their local temples where they offer basic essentials and candles to the monks. This year, I attended the Candle Procession in Ubon Ratchathani, which is in the Northeast of Thailand.

For the three months of the Buddhist Lent the monks are not allowed to leave their temples and must spend their time studying the scriptures. This is also the height of the rainy season and so in the past it wasn’t easy for them to travel around anyway. The idea for the large candle is to give light to the monks during this period. Some Thai people believe that by donating candles, they will have wisdom, be resourceful and be bright like the candle.

In the beginning, they probably gave the monks plain candles, but over time, the more devout Buddhists would decorate the candle or carve it into intricate designs. We have now gone from normal candles to these 15 meter long floats that depict scenes from Hindu and Buddhist mythology. The normal Candle Processions still take place all over Thailand at this time, but the big floats first started to appear in Ubon Ratchathani about 34 years ago. Ubon is still the most famous though a few other cities now copy them.

The Candle Festival takes place in Ubon for the entire month of July but the main activities only take place around the full moon. If you are planning on going next year, make sure that you book your accommodation in advance. This year there was an estimated 200,000 domestic and international tourists at the festival. Ubon’s 3,100 hotel rooms were fully booked for these three days. Flights were also fully booked.

This was my first time at the festival and I had a really enjoyable time taking pictures of the dancers and floats. Though it was very exhausting as it went on for about three hours. I am not sure how many floats there were in the end but it was certainly a lot. In the evening, the winning floats were displayed at Thung Si Mueang Park. I already posted pictures over at Thai Travel Blogs of the winners. I’m not sure how long they will stay there as they were suffering a bit in the heat. But the entrants in the International Wax Sculpture competition will be on display in the grounds of the National Museum until 31st July.

I don’t have the dates yet for the Candle Festival Procession in 2012, but it will be around the full moon in July 2012. I will post the dates and schedule as soon as they are confirmed on my Twitter account @RichardBarrow, Facebook Fanpage, Thai Festival Blogs and also Thai Travel Blogs. In addition to the Candle Procession in Ubon Ratchathani, there are also big ones in Nakhon Ratchasima and Suphan Buri at the same time. There are smaller candle processions elsewhere in Thailand including some on a boat. But, Ubon has the biggest.

Bicycle Tour of Chiang Khan

Chiang Khan, in the upper north-east of Thailand, is a quiet town along the banks of the Mekong River. In ancient times it used to be an important town on the trade route between Thailand and Laos.  It never really got that many tourists passing through as it is quite isolated. Which is probably why over the last few years it has become a popular tourist destination. It is the kind of place that you go to get away from it all and to experience rural Thai life. But, don’t tell anyone!

There are basically only two main roads in Chiang Khanwhich run parallel  to each other. Connecting them at regular intervals are smaller lanes. The road of more interest is Chai Khong that runs along the Mekong River. This is where you will find the more photogenic old wooden houses and shops. This is also where you will find many guesthouses. The best way to explore the town is by bicycle. My guesthouse was renting them out for only 50 Baht for the whole day.

We were visiting the town during the week and so it was very quiet. I can imagine that it gets very busy at the weekends and during the high season. The weather was very pleasant and I think that the cool temperatures in the winter will make it popular with Thais. One of the main activities that you can join is the morning alms round. Our guesthouse arranged small baskets of sticky rice to offer to the monks as they passed us early in the morning at about 6 a.m. Giving sticky rice is similar to the tradition at Luang Prabang in Laos but not as many monks here.

The highlights for me were the views along the banks of the Mekong. The river here is not very wide compared to other places so you can easily see across to Laos. The mountains in the distance in this photo are in Laos. There is a path that runs along the river and I had a wonderful time cycling along this and watching the sun gradually go down. East of the town are the Kaeng Khut Khu rapids. The shiny rocks here are supposed to be very beautiful but the water was too high for us to see anything.

The early evening is another great time to explore the quiet lanes as it is a lot cooler. In addition, Chai Khong Road is turned into a walking street after 5 p.m. A number of local people set up stalls outside their houses during the evening selling handicraft and other souvenirs. This picture shows Heon Luang Prabang Restaurant where we ate during the evening. From their garden we got some great views as the sun set in the distance. I had a relaxing time in Chiang Khan and would love to go back and spend more time there.

Map of Chiang Khan in Loei Province, Northeastern Thailand:

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Mae Fah Luang Gardens on Doi Tung

Nestled in the hills of Doi Tung in Chiang Rai Province, is a little slice of Switzerland. It can be found at Doi Tung Royal Villa which was the home of the late HRH Princess Mother whenever she visited Chiang Rai. The King’s mother lived in Switzerland while her children were completing their education. It was said to be a very happy period in her life. When she came to build a home on Doi Tung, she insisted on it being built in a style that combined the things that she liked about mountain homes in both Europe and Northern Thailand.

The Royal Villa was opened officially in November 1988. Today both the grounds and the villa are open to the public. You can join guided tours but make sure that you are not wearing shorts and that your shoulders are covered. You can borrow clothes at the front gate. You are allowed to take pictures in the garden, where there are some spectacular views, but you are not allowed to do so inside the villa. HRH private quarters have been left exactly as it was when she was last here.

HRH The Princess Mother used the villa as a base whenever she came to oversee the work on the Doi Tung Development Project. In the past, hill tribes in this area grew rice and opium here. They used slash and burn cultivation techniques and also cut down the forests. Sixteen years later, following the advice of HRH, poppy has been eradicated and replaced by coffee and macadamia nuts. Reforestation has also been very successful which has greatly improved the environment.

The first place we visited on our arrival on Doi Tung was the Hall of Inspiration. This tells the story of the Mahidol family. The fascinating exhibition covers three generations. On the slopes near here are the Mae Fah Luang Gardens which are very popular with Thai tourists. Numerous flowers and plants grow around the gardens. There is also a Rock Garden, Water Garden, Palm Garden and an Ornamental Plant Garden covering an area of 4 hectares. On another part of the mountain there is also Mae Fah Luang Arboretum which you can visit.

Like other Royal Projects, the price of admission for foreign tourists and Thai people is the same. The Royal Villa is 70 Baht, Mae Fah Luang Garden is 80 Baht, Hall of Inspiration is 50 Baht and the Mae Fah Luang Arboretum is 50 Baht. A combined ticket for the first three places is 160 Baht. For all four places it is 190 Baht. While you are there, it is also worth visiting the nearby Wat Phra That Doi Tung Temple. This is an important Lanna style temple dating back to 911 A.D. It is believed to contain a collarbone of the Buddha.