Air travel is amazing: one evening you are in the airport in Venice, and the morning after you are 'catapulted' into a completely different country. And yet even here there are some similarities: people living over the water and managing their lives with thin long boats.
This is my third visit to Thailand, but I have never made it to the famous Floating Market that you see in all the postcards and photographic books. This time it was a must, in fact it was the first place that I wanted to visit. Of course in the postcards and books the boats look more 'orderly' and pretty, the reality is that mostly it looks like a traffic jam in water, there are about 5 tourist boats for every market boat, and they don't just sell photogenic and colourful fruit and veggies, but also hats and souvenirs, and most of all cooked food, cooked on the spot, that is!
Gas bottles aliment improvised open kitchens on the slender wooden boats, and you can see big pots of water or even oil boiling, while women (there seem to be only women paddling in the floating market) chop food and make hot dishes on the spot, all sorts of food really, from noodles to meat and fish curries, from 'pancakes' to fried morsels, or more simply some glutinous rice with fresh mango. Seeing those big rusty gas bottles and big hot pots really makes you wonder if they ever tip over into the water! Or if sometime they could collide a bit too roughly, and blow up! But they certainly didn't on the morning that we were there: these ladies must be multi tasking experts!
If you travel through Thailand for weeks or months it probably pays to get used to street food, but as we were there for just a few days we didn't want to risk a belly bug, so we only got fresh coconut to drink, and tropical fruit to peel (like banana, rambutan and mangosteen, in the picture below). It is better to have fruit that can be peeled rather than washed, as even the water can be upsetting at times. And I have to add: being a vegetarian can be an advantage when you travel in many countries as you don't have to worry about bad meat!
The Damnernsaduak Floating market is about two hours drive South of Bangkok, you can take a bus or there are many private tours for all pockets. Tourism is a very important income for this part of the country and I feel that this traditional market (which still is very much a Farmers Market) is thriving also thanks to visitors who come to this very original 'Venice of the East'. For me it was a great experience, and the kids especially enjoyed the ride on the long tail speed boat (we took this one before entering the market, of course), which was a very fast, bumpy and mildly wet experience (yep, keep your mouth shut!) through winding canals, mostly lined on both sides with wooden houses on stilts. Near the village the houses started to be connected to each others by long pedestrian 'bridges' that are only slightly larger that a gymnastic balance beam. We didn't see a single tourist walking on one of them :-).