Ayothaya Floating Market
For much of the world, Thailand is seen as one of the best holiday destinations. You only have to visit places like Koh Samui, Phuket, Chiang Mai or Bangkok to see the waves of foreign tourists that wash up every day. Northern Europeans with their newly-pinked skin, Australians ordering their bottles of beer for breakfast, Chinese following a flag-waving guide in packs towards their hotel.
But what about the Thai people themselves? Have you ever wondered if they go on holidays in their own country or where they would go for a daytrip?
Not too far north of Bangkok, I found an answer to this question. The ancient city of Ayutthaya is a World Heritage Site, listed for the incredible collection of temples that still stand from when this was the largest city in the world. It is popular with foreign tourists who can easily spend a day or two exploring the different sites spread out through the urban area on either side of the river.
This is not, however, where I found an answer. You need to go slightly out of the city to find the Thai tourists – to the Ayothaya Floating Market.
Foreigners will come here – don’t let me fool you into thinking otherwise – but this is one tourist site that is designed for locals. It didn’t grow organically, it was built for pleasure. However, it has been constructed in the traditional style of a Thai floating market. Walkways lead around the water and some boats ply their trade straight from the deck.
In the centre of the Ayothaya Floating Market is the most traditional section, where small meals are cooked on boats and served to customers sitting on decks next to them. As you move outwards to other parts of the floating market, things become a bit more like a fair. I see Thai women feeding fish from a bottle so they look like suckling calves, a mother paying about 20 baht (60 cents) so her daughter can feed grass to some water buffalo, and a clown making balloon animals for the children. At one point, a mummers show passes through with adults and children, dressed up in garish costumes, throwing jokes and jests in Thai at all in their way.
It’s a Sunday when I visit the Ayothaya Floating Market so it’s not surprising that it is full of locals, making a daytrip up from Bangkok or including it in part of a weekend holiday. There are families with children, grandparents, young lovers. For me, I get more pleasure out of seeing everyone enjoy the markets than from the site itself. Candy canes and face painting are not really my style. But, strangely, I feel less like a tourist here than in other parts of the country I’ve visited. I feel almost invisible, watching life go on around me.
Let me share with you now some photos of what I can see, so you’ll perhaps understand a bit more of what I mean.