Bangkok: City of Markets


Vendor at floating market

It’s Tuesday, April 9th, and my iPad clock has finally caught up with the current time zone; so, I know that it is 6:46 a.m. local time. The sun is already peeking over one of the many clouds in the sky and is illuminating a cityscape of wonderful upward thrusting sky scrapers.  All in muted tones of blues, grays and the occasional terra-cotta.  Our room provides a view of what we have come to call the LEGO building because it looks like a child began to build a tower but left a number of pieces out on some of the corners. Or maybe it’s more like that game, Jenga, where you pull pieces out of a tall tower hoping that your turn won’t make it fall. For a small town girl, this is big city life.

However, our first day and a half in Bangkok have been spent plunging into some of the markets that this city has to offer.  On Sunday afternoon, after arrival at our luxe accommodations at the Eastin Grand Hotel Sathorn Road, we hopped on the Sky Train at the stop that is connected to the hotel and went to the weekend market, successfully navigating one transfer on the way.

The weekend market was just what I expected: Acres of stalls lining lanes and under cover all forming a rabbit warren of shops selling everything from used shoes to the famously stinky durian fruit to electronics to Tom Yum flavored cashews to coconuts to whatever you could imagine or want.  It was HOT, it was frenzied, it was steamy, it was exhausting mentally and physically, it was insane and it was not to be missed.  Not to be repeated, either, understand; but I’m glad we made the trek over cuz now I know I don’t need to do it again.

Because we sprang for “executive class” rooms at the Eastin, upon our return from the weekend market, we were, after freshening showers, able to avail ourselves of the executive lounge on our executive class 32nd floor and enjoy some complimentary executive class cocktails (litchi mojitos and passion fruit margaritas) and the executive class complimentary hors d’oeuvres, which turned into our executive class dinner.  I guess we aren’t quite done with buffet dining yet; I have to say, though, that the Eastin executive class hors d’oeuvres buffo-rama is on an entirely different scale of delectability than that on the Viking Orion, which was nothing to sneeze at (or on since that would be ever so disgusting at an buffet).

Yesterday, Monday, we took a private, half-day tour of the train and the floating Markets.  Being Southeast Asia, nothing is easily attained and these two markets were no exception.  We drove for almost an hour and a half to get to them.  I don’t even know if we were still in Bangkok but I am pretty certain that we were still in Thailand.

The train market is not quite what is sounds like; it is neither a market on a train nor is it a market where one buys trains, rather it is a market that is set up immediately adjacent to a rail line.  And, when I say “immediately adjacent to” I mean that the toes of the flip flops on display are touching the rails and that the awnings providing a modicum of shade hang over the rails.  Everything has to be pulled back or rolled up the eight times a day that a train runs through.

No big surprise, this has become a popular tourist attraction; however, lest one think that the entire market is just one big tourist trap, one need look no further than the displays of squid, smoked toads-on-a-stick, and tubs of slithering eels to know that the market caters to a local trade.

The floating market was reached via a short drive in the van and then a nice tour of canals via a long-tail boat. I was a lot of fun but not quite what I expected.  A lot of the shops were not “floating” but were in permanent structures that lined the canals.  There were quite a few boat/shops but just not quite what I had envisioned.  Nonetheless, we had a nice local lunch at a little place above the waters and we had a dessert of sticky rice and mango from one of the boats.  It was exquisite.  The mango was so sweet and juicy it would have made styrofoam pellets taste good but it didn’t have to work too hard with the sticky rice.

One long drive back to the hotel, a refreshing dip in the 14th floor infinity pool and we were ready for an easy evening of cocktails and dinner along with a lively game of Phase Ten back at the executive lounge to finish off a very nice day.


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