Early Morning scene Amphawa in Thailand
Weekends seem to come and go so quickly. Life’s too short to waste them. So what to do to escape the city for a fun weekend, without travelling hours and hours? That was the question we applied ourselves to and came up with the answer of driving to Amphawa district just 80 km south-west of Bangkok.
We were travelling as a small group of eight friends. We left Bangkok by minivan and arrived at The Grace Hotel Amphawa; the journey took just one hour and 20 minutes.
Located on the banks of the Mae Klong River, the hotel surprised me… in a good way. It had Jacuzzi baths; it was modern, clean and uncluttered. We had AC (air conditioning ), Wi-Fi, a mini fridge, TV’s, large balconies, outdoor furniture and big comfortable beds. The hotel is a long riverfront strip, made up of villas that stretch from the entrance to the riverside. Here you find the restaurant and the outdoor swimming pool.
The Grace Hotel
It was late afternoon and we decided that we would shower, change and meet for drinks on the balcony of one of the villas and then have an early dinner at the hotel’s riverside restaurant.
I ordered Nam Prik Ong a famous Thai dish that is made from minced pork tomatoes and chilli. I’ve tried this dish many times before but never had it quite as good as this. The dish resembles warm Bolognese sauce with fresh vegetables to dip. This one was so good I ordered the same dish on two separate occasions.
The following day we rose early for breakfast to participate in a lovely alms ceremony for the local monks. They arrived at the hotel by flat-bottom boat, silently paddled by two oarsmen. It was a spectacular morning, white fluffy clouds on a blue background, with the still waters of the Mae Klong River passing by.
Mae Klong River Amphawa
We made our offering to the monks of food along with incense, candles and flowers.
It was a wonderful photogenic experience, the memories I shall keep for a very long time and a photo opportunity par excellence.
Next stop a short 15-minute drive into Amphawa town itself to visit the Mae Klong Railway Market. We followed the river downstream. You quickly get the sense that the river is as important to the area as the roads we travelled on.
The market is well-known and famous as the market that suddenly has to make way for railway locomotives. They pass right through the market stalls that are pitched on the side of the tracks.
The Railway Market
We were able to witness the arrival of the morning train. A scene repeated eight times daily. In Thai the market is called Talad Rom Hoop – which, roughly translated, means ‘close the umbrella market’. Which is exactly what happens when the train approaches, the umbrellas and tarpaulin awnings that shade the vendors, with one pull of a rope, are whisked away. With another pull, the awnings are returned after the train passes by to carry on as before. The market has been in operation since 1984 and is a popular stop for all visitors to Amphawa.
From there we then moved further downstream by van towards the mouth of the river. We switched our mode of transport to a longtail boat and meandered through a small canal, Khlong Khon, into the main estuary which was lined with mangroves and teaming with birds as we headed off to see a troop of swimming monkeys.
As we drew near a wonderful sight unfolded as we sat in the middle of the river – the monkeys ventured from the forest onto the river banks in anticipation of the fruit we had brought. Clearly a boat of people had a kind of Pavlovian response – feeding time!
They kept coming out of the mangroves, many carry babies. The bolder (AKA hungry) swam right up to the boat and clinging on, with their big brown eyes only inches away from you, that said ‘feed me’. We did.
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Story and pictures by
British born author Andrew Wood shares his Thailand travel secrets after almost a quarter of a century living in “The Land of Smiles”.