A Year in Bangkok – Taling Chan

8 01 2011

One of the schools we  work with is in an area called Taling Chan. Despite not being too far from the city centre, it is delightfully rural. We get a two hour lunch break at this school and, so long as it isn’t raining, I have been able to take some lovely walks whenever I have been there. Everybody is friendly and I have some charming, if a little stilted, conversations. I wonder if I will ever master this language. One day, I discovered a Muay Thai (Thai kick boxing) school and was told that it is one of the best in the country and attracts a lot of foreign boxers who wish to learn the art of Thai kick boxing. I have watched this on TV a few times but have not seen a live match yet. The real gem of Taling Chan though is a floating market on the local canal.

Typical housing here.

In my view, the famous floating market at Damnoen Saduak is full of tacky souvenirs at rip off prices and exists only for tourists these days. However, I am very pleased that tourism has not had a negative effect on Taling Chan market, which is small but vibrant and a real local treasure, open only at weekends and holidays. The floating bit is quite small and consists of about twenty stalls offering a variety of ready prepared foods. These stalls are small boats which cluster around a floating pier, rather like a giant wooden raft and on that there are low tables for eating the food. Customers sit at these tables on the floor in the traditional Thai way, something I find distinctly uncomfortable and, both times I tried, within a few minutes, I found myself needing to move my lanky limbs before they went to sleep. As well as the food stalls, there are other stalls on the road selling all sorts of different things. Some of these stalls offer a stunning variety of orchids at what seem to me to be give away prices, I will soon find out why they are so cheap.

One of the temples we pass.

For some time now, I have wanted to tour the Thonburi canals but the only trips I have discovered go from Thaksin bridge over on the Chao Praya river and cost a fair bit so I haven’t done it yet. Here though, we are at the edge of Thonburi and they are advertising what seem to be the same tours at ninety baht so I buy myself a ticket. Everybody else on the tour is obviously Thai and there is a commentary, also in Thai. It is very loud and the commentator seems to be telling a lot of jokes – either that or they are all laughing at the lanky farang! Our first stop is at a temple. At first, I wasn’t aware of anything special about it but happily followed the others from my boat and we entered what were clearly building works. We all filed through a tunnel which went under one of the temple buildings where everybody stopped to kiss what looked like a piece of concrete. I don’t know why they did this and wondered if it could be the Thai version of the Blarney Stone. I chose not to kiss it myself as I’m still paranoid about all the local germs I might collect.

Local youngsters enjoy the facilities.

The building works were fascinating though. The temple is regularly flooded, possibly due to the land sinking, so the whole building was being lifted up and new foundations put in place thus significantly raising it. The ashes of King Thaksin the Great (who was tied in a velvet sack and beaten to death with a sandal wood club in the presence of King Rama I who deposed him) are in one of the temples here in Thonburi called Wat Intharam. The boat does not seem to stop there although we must pass by it at some point. That is a pity as I would like to see it but rather doubt that it is worth a special trip.

Something fishy here!

Back now to our long tail boat to go a bit further along the canals. Long tail boats are wonderful beasts which you see all over Thailand. They tend to be fairly small and narrow with massive engines, probably purloined from jumbo jets or something equally large. A long shaft comes from the engine with a small propeller on the end – the long tail! This bulky and doubtless heavy assemblage of engine and propeller is, in its entirety, hauled around by the boatman. How he negotiates some of the tight canal corners is beyond me but negotiate them he does. Despite also being on a road, all the houses face the canal as traditionally, this was the front side of the house. The shops also face the canal. I am told that there are still parts of Thonburi which have no roads or other services and are still totally reliant on the canals, even for their drinking water. And some of these houses are gorgeous. There are quite a lot of traditional wooden ones, including one surrounded by water which is for rent. I briefly fantasise about living here but, of course, there is the question of how I would get to work.

One of the orchid farms.

The other notable stop on the tour was at an orchid farm. I love orchids and it was great just wandering around the orchid farm taking in the huge variety of orchids bred and sold here. I cannot resist buying several plants despite the fact that I always kill house plants by refusing to water them. I now realize that we have passed several orchid farms and will pass many more before returning to the pier at Taling Chan, hence the orchid stalls at the market. I have really enjoyed touring these canals and seeing Bangkok from this angle, much as it must have been in the not too distant past. On our way back, we stop at a canal side stall to buy black sweet sticky rice cooked in bamboo. Lovely!

I won’t be writing any more posts for a short time now so apologies in advance, will be back as soon as I can!

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2 responses

22 01 2012
Traveling in Thailand

You’re right Taling Chan has almost no tourists and is still authentic. The Tha Kha floating a market ( between Amphawa and Damnoen Saduak ) is interesting too.

22 01 2012
Ben Salmons

Yeah, I like that one as there are other things to do there……for just a market I like Bang Phli old market, often called a floating market as its a ‘talaad nam’ but there are no floating stalls – it just runs alongside the khlong there. Lovely old teak buildings though.

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