Damnoen Saduak Floating Market – Bangkok or Disney’s Epcot Center?

January 2017 – On our first days in Bangkok, Thailand, we got a huge kick out of everything we saw around us, because it was so familiar yet so different. We went to the 7/11 store (yup, 7/11 is huge in Thailand and can be found on every street corner) and we picked up one of every kind of beer they had in the cooler.

Beer in Thailand

A selection of Asian beers!

The beers are decidedly a lot lighter than we’re used to consuming at home, but what fun it was to sample such a wide variety. Three of them were named for large cats, from Leo beer to Singha (which refers to a mythical lion in Thai folklore) to Tiger beer (originally from Singapore)!

Lay potato chips are also easy to find everywhere, and what an interesting way Pepsico has modified the familiar red and white label on the bag to give it a Thai twist.

Lay Potato Chips Thailand

Same same, but different!
(the chips themselves are identical)

Mass market food products are a part of most cultures nowadays, but we wanted to try to get a little deeper than that in our introduction to Thailand. However, uncovering the “real” Thailand proved a little elusive at first.

In the olden days of a hundred years and more ago, Bangkok was a city of canals. “Floating markets” held aboard open boats were commonplace. However, since then, most of Bangkok’s canals have been filled in to make way for traditional roads and wheeled vehicles.

There are still many floating markets to be found, but they are a bit contrived as they are intended more for tourists to experience a touch of the bygone Thai culture than for Thai people to peddle their wares to each other.

Longtail boat floating market Bangkok Thailand

Mark gets in a longtail boat for a tour of a floating market

I searched high and low for an “authentic” floating market, and found one called the Tha Kha Market just outside of Bangkok that seemed like it would fit the bill.

Longtail boat damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

All smiles as we started down the canal.

We hopped in a cab to make our way out to this unusual sounding market, but were alarmed when we drove right by the signs for “Tha Kha Market” and arrived at the parking area for the known-to-be-touristy Damnoen Saduak Floating Market instead.

I chastised the driver for taking us to the wrong place, but he kept insisting this market was better, especially for photography. In the end we relented and hopped in a longtail boat and were piloted along a canal system.

The jungle was thick, and the ride was actually very cool.

Longtail boat canal damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

We cruised down the canal through dense jungle vegetation.

We passed the homes of people who live on these canals.

House Damnoen Saduak Floating market Bangkok Thailand

A different kind of waterfront life.

Then we arrived at our first “store.” A series of shops stood right on the water’s edge, tucked under a wide corrugated metal roof overhang, and vendors sat in each stall.

Shopping Damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

The first of many canal-side shops.

Damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

Get your “spicies” here!!

Negotiating is a natural part of shopping in Thailand, and we’d heard that the standard patter is to ask the price, counter what the vendor says with something outrageously low, and then accept his counter if you want to buy the item.

Shops damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

Negotiating is part of the fun and part of the deal!

We had come to this market with photography in mind, however, and we weren’t looking to make any purchases.

Our pilot slowed down a little as we passed each shop, and we admired the many items but simply shook our heads “no.” After all, we wanted our luggage to be able to meet the extremely stringent international weight guidelines on our flight home!

Damnoen Saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

Trinkets, souvenirs and keepsakes of all kinds were for sale.

But in the days that followed, as we talked with other tourists around town, we realized that lots of people come to Bangkok specifically to shop, and many go to these floating markets hoping to score a deal.

Ironically, we found that the asking prices on many items at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market were ten times higher than in other places!

Sandals for sale Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok Thailand

Need some sandals??

We were surprised to see a monk out shopping too!

Buddhist monk shopping Damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

Shopping in Thailand might be a religious experience for some!

We had arrived at the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market very early, but soon we began seeing boats filled with other tourists.

Tourist shoppers Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok Thailand

A boat full of happy shoppers passed us.

We joked with each other that we were a long ways from home and never would have seen something like this if we’d gone to Quartzsite for the RV show as we have so many times in Januaries past! Even with inadvertently getting caught in a tourist trap, we were having a blast!

Woman vendor damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

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Besides trinkets sold in the shops along the sides of the canals, many vendors were cooking things in their boats and selling various edible goodies to passersby.

Woman cooking in boat damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

Some vendors cooked delicacies right on their boats.

Boat selling produce Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok Thailand

Food of all kinds was for sale.

Beautiful tropical fruits and veggies were on full display.

Fruit for sale damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

Fruit for sale!

Women at damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

Veggies too!

As the morning wore on, the canals became busier and busier as vendors and tourist boats passed each other continuously.

Lady Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok Thailand

Coconut drinks.

Veggies for sale Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok Thailand

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It was a little early for a beer, but some tourists imbibed as they floated along.

Beer for sale Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok Thailand

A Singha beer for you??

Of course, the display of traditions from long ago was just a show, and modern life lurked just out of sight.

On the cell phone damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

Sometimes even the best displays of tradition include a fast-forward to the modern era.

Vendor on cell phone damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

A quick Facebook check between sales.

The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market could easily be a showpiece at Disney’s Epcot Center, but experiencing it on the outskirts of Bangkok gave it a certain kind of realism.

And what fun it was to immerse ourselves in an event that hints at a lifestyle lived long ago.

Tourists damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

Slipping through the jungle on the canals was truly wonderful.

Little boy Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok Thailand

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As we putted back to the parking area in our longtail boat, we passed some men holding jungle critters for us to see up close.

Furry animal Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok Thailand

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Snake charmer Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok Thailand

Snake charmer.

As our taxi driver took us back to Bangkok, we passed signs for the Tha Kha market, the slightly more authentic floating market that I had originally wanted to go to. I tried to find out from the cabbie exactly why he hadn’t taken us there but couldn’t really understand his response.

Damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand longtail boat

The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market was a very fun excursion even if it wasn’t particularly authentic!

When we returned to our hotel, I asked the concierge about the Tha Kha market. I pointed out its location on the map and he called over some colleagues to discuss it with them. In the end, they all agreed that the Tha Kha market had been closed and there was nothing there to see any more.

Whether the Tha Kha Market is truly closed — or whether we were taken to a more touristy market in hopes we’d buy a few things — the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market was a great spot for photography and made for a memorable morning.

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An Amish Farmer’s Auction in the NY Finger Lakes

August 2015 – During our stay in the Finger Lakes of New York we were fascinated by the comings and goings of the Amish. We saw them all over the place and were fortunate enough to meet a few Amish people and even see some Amish farms at work.

Amish open horse and carriage Ovid New York

A stylish Amish buggy rolls by in the FInger Lakes of NY

Their horse buggies are intriguing. They have enclosed family-style buggies and open air two-seaters that look like a lot of fun.

Horse and buggy Amish New York

These fun buggies were everpresent.

One young man showed us his two-seater open-air buggy up close. Rubber does not meet the road on these vehicles. They have steel tires! They also have well crafted drum brakes. Mark joked that soon he’d be upgrading to disc brakes like we did on our trailer!!

I asked him what a buggy like his cost, and he said around $3,000. As for a horse, he said it depends on whether you want a fast one or a slow one. Sound familiar?! The fast ones are more expensive, on the order ot $3,000 or more. A slow one can be found for around $2,000 or maybe less.

As he described what it takes for a young adult to buy a horse and buggy, his sparkling eyes and fresh faced good looks were no different than those of any other kid dreaming of a set of wheels. That youthful longing for the freedom that comes with keys (or reins) to your own personal ride is a truly universal teenage quest!

Amish open buggy and closed carriage

An open air two-seater and an enclosed family buggy side by side
The two seater, favored by young men for courting, costs around $3,000.

The Amish are hard workers, and we caught glimpses of them working in their yards and fields. Everything is done without the aid of gasoline powered engines and electricity, but their houses were big and tidy, and their lawns were neatly mowed.

Mowing the lawn in Amish country

A young Amish woman mows the grass with little kids in tow

Out in the farm fields they use teams of horses for plowing. Our friend Ralph, who is neighbors and friends with several Amish families that live nearby, and who grew up on a farm himself, commented that the Amish are always careful not to overwork their horses. “They use twice as many horses as we would have for the same job!” he said at one point.

Amish Farming Lodi New York

The land is tilled by a team of horses

What a contrast it was to attend the Empire Farm Days trade show and festival in Seneca Falls. Human sized farm equipment went out in the 1950’s, and the machinery that is used today is truly gargantuan.

Massive Farm Equipment at Empire Farm Days Seneca Falls New York

Modern farm equipment dwarfs the driver inside

Empire Farm Days Seneca Falls New York

Empire Farm Days in Seneca Falls. This machinery cultivates plants!

Empire Farm Days tractors Seneca Falls New York

A little different than the small Amish family farms scattered around the trade show.

We walked around the fair grounds wide eyed with wonder at the size and scale of the machinery. We noticed a few future farmers playing with some tractors in a sandbox. Those little kids probably can’t wait to drive a combine for real.

Future farmers Finger Lakes New York

Future farmers dream of driving big tractors

Meanwhile, back in the world of the Amish, a different kind of farm gathering was taking place. We attended the Seneca Produce Auction in Romulus and were blown away by this event that is at the heart of Amish farming culture in the area.

Outside, the horses and buggies were all lined up while the farmers took their wares inside to auction them off.

Amish horses and buggies tied up_

Amish horses and buggies line up at the Seneca Produce Auction.

Amish horses and carriages lined up

A one horse power engine — parked and resting.

Inside, huge boxes of beautiful, ripe melons and corn and cucumbers and peaches and tomatoes were all lined up.

Produce at Seneca Produce Auction Finger Lakes New York

Huge cardboard boxes of produce filled the auction hall.

Amish men and women were dressed in black and royal blue. The men wore straw hats with a ribbon and the women wore white bonnets. It was summer, and the kids were barefoot. They all milled around, watching the proceedings.

Amish man at farm auction Finger Lakes New York

Bearded Amish men and women in white bonnets, all wearing black and royal blue, went about their tasks at the auction.

An auctioneer moved from one box of produce to the next, singing in a totally unintelligible patter, selling off this wonderful produce to buyers from the nearby markets. Next to him, an assistant scribbled furiously on a clipboard.

The auctioneer’s fabulous song rang out off the walls of this building, but we could not make heads or tails of his words. Try as we might, it was impossible to know what he was selling or to whom or for how much!

Amish at the Seneca Produce Auction

Surrounded by a crowd, the auctioneer sang out the ads and closed the sales in a lightning speed patter
that we couldn’t understand at all!

He moved quickly, and the crowd shuffled along with him, inching from one box to the next. Obviously the folks right around him knew exactly what was going on, and a raised eyebrow or wave of a finger probably bought them a crate of cantaloupes. So there wasn’t a lot of random arm waving going on!

Both Amish and non-Amish men moved the boxes from the auction hall out onto waiting horse drawn carts with forklifts. It wasn’t clear to me how the forklifts were propelled, but the Amish were careful not to drive or operate any machinery that wasn’t within their code. Non-Amish mingled with the Amish freely throughout the auction hall, some buying produce that got loaded into their trucks and some just watching the fantastic goings-on.

Tomatoes at Seneca Farm Auction Finger Lakes New York

The produce was beautifully ripe and ready.

It was a wonderful scene, and probably not too far different than one that would have been typical at the turn of the last century in farm towns across the country.

Amish at the Seneca Produce Auction

Simple white caps and black aprons over long dresses.

I had been amazed to discover earlier on that the Amish speak German at home first and then learn English in school (which they attend through the eighth grade). They call their everyday German dialect “Pennsylvania Dutch,” but they conduct their church services in High German. I asked one woman if she could converse easily with Germans travelers who visited the area, and she said they could, even though many words are different.

How intriguing it is that they are all essentially bilingual. Besides first generation immigrants, there aren’t too many communities in America that deliberately raise their children to speak two languages fluently, especially that choose to teach English as a second language.

I was charmed by their accent when they speak English. It is essentially a standard American accent, but a few words here and their caught my ear as sounding a little different.

Amish farmers Finger Lakes produce auction

Working on the crates of melons up front, the row of peaches will be next.

As the produce auction progressed, the row of horses and buggies outside the auction hall grew smaller as people left with their boxes of watermelons and tomatoes in tow.

Amish horse and wagon with plastic chairs

Hauling produce away in an Amish flatbed trailer, complete with plastic chairs for driving.

The horses pulled flatbed wagons, quite different than the buggies we had been seeing around town until now. A few horses were even set up for a triple tow, pulling the family buggy with a flatbed trailer hitched up behind.

Triple tow Amish horse and buggy and wagon

Some Amish even triple tow with a horse, family buggy, and flatbed full of fruits and veggies hitched behind!

What a heartwarming delight it was to be able to brush shoulders with the Amish a little bit during our travels and to learn about their way of life and see them in their daily tasks. We really cherished our time spent in their company and left wanting more. The Amish community is growing rapidly, benefiting hugely from the decrease in infant and childhood mortality nowadays, and their numbers are increasing at around 5% a year. Much to our surprise, we learned that their population doubled between 1991 and 2010.

The New York Finger Lakes are a wonderful area for an RV road trip. From quiet country roads, to encounters with the Amish, to the absolutely breathtaking beauty of Watkins Glen, is it a place well worth making a detour to go see!

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Finding Treasure at a San Diego Farmer’s Market

The Bahati Mamas are reaping a bountiful harvest in California

The Bahati Mamas are reaping a bountiful harvest from all that they’ve sown.

We love going to farmer’s markets, and we’ve made a point to go to the one held each Sunday on Shelter Island while we’ve been staying here in San Diego.

It’s a small market, taking up just a short side street, and they have the usual assortment of home-made honeys, jams, beautiful veggies and fruit juices with a good mix of made-to-order Mexican tacos thrown in for good measure.

But what caught our attention the first week we went was the bright red dress and matching head kerchief worn by a an African woman.

She was sitting behind a table that was piled high with bright green leafy veggies, and the colors lured us over.  We smiled at her and came a little closer.  She was busy tying the leaves into little bundles, but she looked up and smiled back.

These were the most lush and crisp looking greens in the whole market, and I said so to her.  “Yes.”  She replied softly.

I noticed a large sign nearby and began to read it, and quickly became absorbed.  It turned out she was one of a group of 11 women farmers called the “Bahati Mamas.”  Bantu refugees from the war in Somalia, these women had been gifted with a second chance at a new life here in America where they had been taught sustainable farming techniques and farm business management.

I looked back at her — a big, jovial and very dark woman dressed in vividly joyous red.  I asked her about the farm and the produce, but when she quietly answered “Yes” a few times in a row, I realized she was probably struggling with learning English the same way I have been with Spanish these past three years in Mexico.

The sign said that “Bahati” means “Lucky” in her native language of Kizigua, and that this group of women had been fortunate enough to come into this farming opportunity after nearly 17 years of living in refugee camps.  Many of them were single moms, as their husbands had died in the conflict.

Their produce is all sown and grown by hand organically, but because of the high cost of obtaining a USDA Organic Certification, it doesn’t carry that official stamp of approval.  They lease their land from the farm where they were taught, in the Pauma Valley at the foot of Mt. Palomar outside Escondido.

I found all this very moving.  The other California farmers at the market all had lovely things to sell too, but this woman had an amazing history.  I just wished that she and I shared the same words so I could hear the rest of her story, as she would tell it.

The following week we returned to the farmer’s market, and this time a different vendor caught our eye.  We had hustled through the market fairly late in the day, and many booths were shutting down.  But at the far end there was a booth with what looked like a painting of a bird on a stand out front.

Butterfly artist Martin Highton shows us his work

Butterfly artist Martin Highton shows us his work

We drew in a little closer and saw that this beautiful “painting” of an owl was actually made of something very feathery.

I looked up and saw another “painting.”  It was labeled “The Miracle of Morpho” and was an abstract series of circles of the most brilliant, iridescent blue.

An old man approached us and said, “Those are all butterfly wings.  They come from Morpho butterflies in Brazil.”

We did a double-take and stared at the painting closer. Each wing was easily discernible, but the patterns had been so meticulously matched that they seemed to melt together.

“The butterflies are raised in a sanctuary and the wings are discarded when they die.” He continued. “So I collect them.  I’ve been doing it for 40 years.  I thought that by creating artwork from the wings I might help the local people and perhaps help stop the deforestation there.”

We stared at this small man in astonishment.  Butterflies? Brazil? Deforestation? Art?  It was an impossible mix.  He pointed to a photo of an enlarged newspaper clipping on his wall.  “Johnny Cash was a big collector of my art.”  Sure enough, there were Johnny Cash and June Carter standing with a much younger version of this man, holding an artwork similar to the pieces in this booth.  “Brenda Lee was another collector.”  We moved closer to read the various newspaper clippings that hung on the wall.

The only blue butterflies I’ve ever heard of are from Australia, and I mentioned something about that.  “Oh yes, I’m from Australia, but these are Brazilian Morphos”  He said.  We hadn’t detected that he had an accent, but as he continued we found out he was raised in England and served as an engineering officer in the British Navy, sailing up and down the east coast of the Americas many times.

He had had a fascination with butterflies from an early age, and when he saw an opportunity to make use of the wings that were otherwise discarded, and possibly help the local people at the same time, he leaped on it.

We studied his other pieces.  Each was so delicately rendered, with the wings placed perfectly to form a mosaic of intricate colors and patterns that melded into abstract images, and owls and macaws.  It was beautiful.

“I’m retiring now.”  He said simply.  “Everything you see here is the last of my work.  Once it’s sold, I’m done.”  I asked what would happen to the wings now and if anyone was following in his footsteps.  “I don’t know.  I was the only butterfly artist that I know of.”

We studied each of his beautiful pieces, caught up in many many thoughts.  As we moved to leave, he had become busy with another customer, and I realized I had forgotten to ask his name.  But I did notice a sign on his wall saying, “M. Highton.”

We left with our hearts elevated and soaring. When we got home I hopped on the internet and found only a tiny bit of information on this very unusual artist.  How amazing it was to see that in April 2000 the PBS TV show Antiques Road Show valued one of his pieces at $10,000.  He was selling identical looking work at this farmer’s market for $998, the same price the person on the TV show had paid for his piece.

How fun to find such jewels on the back streets of San Diego.  In a scant two weeks, this little farmer’s market has given us two very uplifting and unique experiences that went far beyond mere vegetables. We will definitely be back!  I wonder what kinds of special people we will meet selling their wares next time?

 

PV: La Cruz – A Fun Artisan Market & Cruiser Hangout in Mexico

La Cruz Marina Riviera Nayarit

La Cruz has an active fishing jetty and docks for mega yachts too!

Early April, 2013 – After rounding Cabo Corrientes and sailing up from the pretty but lightly populated anchorages of the Costalegre, our arrival in La Cruz felt like coming into the big city. The Banderas Bay Regatta was in full-swing, and the Puerto Vallarta marinas were packed to the gills.

The La Cruz anchorage was also full to overflowing, and we suddenly felt the exhilarating rush of being part of a busy port.

La Cruz Mexico Artist's gallery

An art gallery in La Cruz.

 

 

La Cruz Mexico horse in yard

Despite being next to urban Puerto Vallarta,
La Cruz has a rural, small town feeling to it.

La Cruz is an interesting mix of high end yachts, fishing boats, and cruising boats.

It is one of the most popular hangouts for cruisers in Pacific Mexico, and is home to some wonderful characters too.

Cruiser at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

La Cruz has some great characters, many of whom happily traded in their suits and ties to go cruising.

The quiet town itself has an artsy side and a rustic side, and we saw a little of both as we strolled the familiar cobblestone streets, passing an art gallery, roosters in the streets and a horse tied to a tree.

New to us, however, was the fabulous La Cruz market that takes place every Sunday. Somehow we had missed this vibrant event in years past, and it was a real treat to take part in it now.

La Cruz Market and beach

The farmer’s market is spread out under umbrellas along the shore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Cruz Mexico Marina Nayarit Farmer's Market

Wonderful things for sale on the water’s edge.

The little jetty and walking path near the fish market transform completely every Sunday morning as food and art vendors set up shop under colorful umbrellas.

Kids play on the beach while parents buy and sell goodies just steps away.

Anything and everything is for sale in this market, but unlike some flea markets, this is all Really Good Stuff.

La Cruz market band

These guys kept the tempo of the market upbeat…

Bird of Paradise flowers

Exotic flowers for sale.

There was a band playing in the midst of it all, putting us in a festive mood as we shuffled from table to table, marveling at the crafts and sampling delicious things.

Huichol bead art La Cruz

A Huichol man makes ancestral bead art.

 

 

Beautiful flowers were brought in from the fertile valley nearby. Artisans made Huichol bead art and glass blown figures as we watched.

Glass blower

A glass blower shows how it’s done.

Coffee table with Wendy

Ahh… my favorite coffee!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We found our favorite coffee vendor, a Frenchman name Wendy, and replenished our stash of his tasty roasted beans.

Out on the jetty, we found a vendor selling unusual, tiny, paper dolls. I’m not sure if they were papier-mâché or some other technique, but the wizened faces of the little old ladies and men carrying baskets of hot peppers were unique.

Papier mache doll heads

Dolls made of paper.

Papier mache doll head

Lots of detail on the wrinkled faces.

La Cruz Mexico Water Bottle Lady

This lady was selling butterflies made from used
water bottles.

Another lady was selling colorful “stained glass” style butterfly decorations made of discarded water bottles. Now that’s clever!!

Water bottle butterflies

What a creative idea!

We came across a vendor selling lovely carved picture frames. One in particular made a neat frame for the boats in the marina behind the market!

La Cruz Marina - Framing the boats in the marina

A pretty frame for the boats.

 

But I think the reason this market is so vastly popular is because of the awesome food for sale. Every delicacy you can imagine was on offer.

Juice Vendor

Orange-tangerine juice – yum!

stacked french bread

A mountain of baguettes.

Mark started with a glass of fresh squeezed orange and tangerine juice — what a great combo!

Other vendors were cooking things to order. Oh my. No wonder cruisers love La Cruz so much!

La Cruz Mexico Farmer's Market

Not sure what it was, but it was delicious!

 

One table had French bread loaves stacked high in the air. They looked intriguing, but the baker who made them looked even more-so!

mexican baker

The baker.

We enjoyed every minute of this market and took our time savoring all the yummy food and talking with the vendors.

Paradise Village Marina sunrise

Sunrise at Paradise Village Marina

Back on the boat, it was time to move down the bay to Paradise Village Marina. We had been living at anchor for five months now, and had promised ourselves a final month of sweet shore-based living in that deluxe marina. On our first morning, Paradise Village welcomed us with a lovely sunrise over the bow…

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