Bangkok Diaries: Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Pratunam, Cabbages and Condoms…

Our second (and last) full day in Thailand brought us all over Bangkok but the day’s highlight would definitely be the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, about 100 kilometers southwest of the capital.  And here’s how our third day went.

Taking some photos of the pool area of our hotel before heading off…

This is part of a series

We didn’t seriously consider going to a floating market as the nearest one from Bangkok is about a hundred kilometers away, but as our luck would have it, we got some last-minute opportunity to do so.  Our hotel lobby has a counter for tourist tours and they arranged for us to have a service to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market.  We arranged for this just a day earlier so it’s not cheap (฿1,500 roundtrip, taxi service only).  Charge it to experience, as they say.  And so, by the mid-morning we were on a long ride out of the city.

On our way to the floating market!

Our long drive to Damnoen Saduak gave us a good opportunity to see so much more of Thailand way outside of our normal range.  This also allowed us to be in actual Bangkok traffic and also appreciate their roads.  As infamous as their traffic is, it is actually much better than what I normally encounter in Metro Manila—at least from what I experienced.  Sure, the volume of traffic is huge but it is constantly flowing at speeds so much faster than Metro Manila’s EDSA.  Our driver easily cruised at 40-60 kph while in traffic and once we got out of the Bangkok area, we were most of the time doing 100 kph.

I’ve seen adjoined towers before, but not like this

I was truly impressed at how fast they drive in Thailand.  I guess I’m just used to the slow gridlocks of Metro Manila.  The speed that they drive reminds me of Los Angeles (California) but without the blowing of the horns.  Looking back, I don’t think I’ve heard any vehicle blow their horn during our entire trip to Thailand!  And even as we near Damnoen Saduak and entered much smaller roads, we can still keep the 100 kph speed!  I didn’t see anyone cutting or any pedestrians crossing everywhere anytime and so I guess it makes them more confident in driving fast!  Either that or our driver just drives really fast!  But one thing’s for sure—their road culture is much more “civilized” than what I’m accustomed to!

Seen some beautiful bridges on our way out of the city while we were on another, arguably more beautiful one

After about an hour or so drive, we arrived at Damnoen Saduak.  Since our booking from the hotel tourist counter only covered transportation service, we had to pay separately for the boat we’d use to the floating market.  This costed us another ฿1,500 per person, but we got the boat all to ourselves at our own pace with no time limit.

Here’s our boat…

I honestly felt like I was going on a ride in a theme park as I boarded our boat.  I didn’t really plan on buying anything from the floating market so this experience is basically just about the ride!

The canals of Damnoen Saduak

I was amazed by how expansive their canals are!  They’re everywhere!  It’s like they decided to build their roads out of water!  They go through the farms, beside the houses, and eventually lead to the market.  And as with any roads, shops pop-up every now and then selling a lot of different items from food to interesting souvenirs.  Prices are, as expected, touristy, but there are some interesting items nonetheless.

Some of the first shops we’ve come across
Here are some other items
Boat parking
We had a pit stop at the coconut farm along the route…
I saw this guy from the corner of my eye and thought it was a snake or an alligator!
More shops!
From another part of the route
One of the houses along the route

Eventually, we arrived at the main market.  There are so many things to see!  Some of the things that got my attention were food as I was feeling a bit hungry, but I didn’t get any because I don’t want to eat in a boat.  The place is a great place for people-watching too!

Arriving at the main market
So many boats…
Food always draw my attention 🙂
More food 😀
Floating market traffic…
Good opportunity to look at other boat’s engines

After a while, we were on our way to see the rest of the tour.

Banana hanging out, looking for someone to pick it 🙂

The last part of our tour brought us to this very nice temple that I did not get the name of.  As we docked, we some people throwing some crumbs on the water and saw a lot of fishes actually thrive here.

Another beautiful temple
Look at those details

We took a few minutes here to walk and have some pictures.  Afterwards, we headed back to where we started.

Time to conclude this trip…

We were hungry when our tour completed so we got us some food from where our service was waiting.  Here, we got some of the best tasting Pad Thai I’ve ever had.

It doesn’t look much but it’s really good and it came with generous servings of shrimp (฿150)

And then we’re off for another hour of commute back to Bangkok… 😴

After getting some rest at our hotel, we had our very late lunch at a place with a very intriguing name…

Cabbages & Condoms

The restaurant got its distinct name to raise awareness on a wide range of social issues like sexual health and family planning and to generate income to support various development activities of the Population and Community Development Association (PDA).

There some quirky items you can purchase here as a souvenir
And they have these mannequins dressed up in condoms

While the outside might be a bit odd, the inside is very much pleasant.

The al fresco area
Always nice to eat surrounded by lush greens

They offer a lot of items here, in fact their menu is probably the thickest I’ve seen anywhere, but in the end, we picked something a little more familiar.

We were served these chips while waiting for our orders
Our very late lunch.  I would not dare explain what we had as I do not remember their names. 😀

We spared some moments after eating to look around before we go to our next adventure…

On our way out, we saw this curiosity.  And yes, there are free condoms here you can take with you (although all in the same size, not as the signs suggested 😁).

And then we’re off for more shopping!  Our destination: Pratunam.

Back at BTS Sukhumvit Line Asok Station

Pratunam is one of the major shopping districts of Bangkok and what’s great about it is that it has everything from the usual market to high-end malls!  The latter is the least of our concern as our intent is to get good deals on pasalubong.

Now I am just impressed at how Bangkok utilized even these small canals for transportation!  Metro Manila can learn a lot from this city.

We again used the BTS to get to Pratunam.  We alighted at Chit Lom Station and walked the rest of the way to the market.  We passed a lot of malls along the way but what caught my attention is the ferry service that passes through the area.  The canal that it uses is quite narrow and the waters are black yet they still were able to utilize it for transport.  If we could just apply this in Metro Manila we could definitely improve the traffic situation.  Anyway, let’s go see Pratunam!

Along one of the streets of Pratunam where sidewalk vendors sell a lot of different items at much cheaper prices
Pratunam reminds me a lot of Manila’s Divisoria

Pratunam looks in every way like Divisoria in Manila, from the vendor-lined streets, to the stalls, everything!  What I find interesting is that despite being a great place for bargain-hunting, high-end malls are just a few hundred meters away!  And would you believe that the landmark of the area is one of Bangkok’s tallest building, the Baiyoke Sky Hotel?  It’s quite an amazing mashup.

This is Platinum mall.  It does look exactly like the malls around Divisoria.

Pratunam is a very good place for shopping.  For once, we saw items with reasonable prices which you can still haggle with.  And with so many options, you could spend hours here!  We stuck to our shopping list to avoid overspending, and once we’re done we headed back to the BTS.

Some of the older malls in the area
Getting back to the BTS Station is much more convenient via this elevated walkway
Before we reached the BTS Station, this caught our attention

On our way to the BTS Station, our attention was caught by something that looked like an altar in the middle of the grounds of a mall.  Our curiosity got the best of us and we took a closer look.

I’m not an expert on religion so I would not assume I know which one they practice here

Upon closer look, I realized that the place really has some religious significance as people were praying in front of what looked like an altar with a deity figure on it.  Some of them were even leaving some offerings!  I’ve seen similar altars like these all throughout the city in front of businesses, hotels, and even some homes.  And on certain occasions, we were able to see some people praying in front of them.  Filipinos are known for being deeply religious but we usually pray indoors inside the church or our homes, not in public, open-air spaces like these!  It’s akin to seeing someone pray in a grotto on a street which I’ve never seen.  Such devotion is remarkable.

CentralWorld and the traffic that’s slowly building up
On the other side is another shopping area, the Big C Supercenter
Looking back at the BTS Sukhumvit Line Asok Station on our way back to our hotel

It was still relatively early for us to have our dinner (and since we also had a very late lunch) so we took some time off to rest.  This downtime gave me some time to search for a decent place nearby to have dinner.

Relaxing my tired feet in our hotel’s pool.  I was thinking of doing some laps but the pool is so short I can reach the other end without even taking a breath!  And so I just tinkered with our GoPro Hero 5 which was used to take this shot.

I think I was searching for authentic Thai food that is just a train ride away and closes late when I found 55 Pochana.  It closes at 3:30AM and is located in an area that we haven’t been to yet so choosing it was easy.  From our place, we simply took another ride on the BTS and alighted at Thong Lo Station.

I do not remember what this is called but it’s good

55 Pochana is the first place that we dined in that offered us water when we took our seats.  I would’ve been impressed had it not been for the fact that the bottled water that they gave us wasn’t free and they charged it to us later on.  I had a hunch it wasn’t free, but we had no way of asking as all their staff hardly understood anything we said.  We got through the ordering process by pointing at the picture of the item on the menu.

This one got lost in translation 🙂

The tricky part of ordering is when an item has a variety of options.  One of our orders can be made with chicken or other meat.  We repeated “chicken” several times but we were given some other item that we were sure we did not order.  Somehow the word “chicken” got through to one of their staff and so we got what we think is the item that we ordered.  Again, it was really good but the spiciness is just next level!

This may look like an ordinary fried rice but this is actually my favorite here and I could just eat it all on its own!

We had one last situation when we were paying our bills.  Apparently, they only accept credit cards for bills of at least ฿500!  Our orders didn’t reach that amount but we don’t have enough Bahts to pay in cash (we spent most of it in Pratunam!).  And so we had to order more to get our bills up to ฿500.  Upon suggestion of one of the staff, we tried their dessert.

This dessert is like our taho with coconut milk.  Thank goodness it’s good otherwise our night may not have turned out so good.

And so with two cups of their dessert, our bill thankfully ended up to exactly ฿500!  What a night!

Rounding up this post are my usual tips derived from our experiences of this day:

  • Joining a group tour would gradually reduce the cost of visiting Damnoen Saduak Floating Market.  An entire tour usually lasts six hours, roundtrip travel time included, and could even include other stops that we have not had.  The latest you can do so is at least two days prior to the tour and you may book it through various sites online or through your hotel.  You could use our total cost (฿1,500 for the roundtrip taxi service + ฿1,500 boat ride per person = ฿4,500 for two) as your benchmark if the package is reasonable.
  • Tourist prices apply at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market so I suggest buying only items here that you think would not be available elsewhere that you’d be visiting.
  • I did not see any money changers around the floating market and I doubt that any of the vendors accept credit cards so bring along enough cash you think is enough for your expenses and purchases.
  • The Pad Thai sold where the taxis await is really good!
  • If you need free condoms, go to Cabbages & Condoms 😀
  • Pratunam is the best place I could think of to shop as they have everything from the high-end malls to the cheap sidewalk stalls.  Very easy to get to as well with the BTS.
  • There are money changers around Pratunam but not all of them accept Philippine Peso (₱) so bring enough ฿ for your shopping.
  • 55 Pochana is a good place for dining in late but note of the minimum ฿500 bill if you’re using credit cards.

To be continued…

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Bangkok Diaries:

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