We were enjoying our vacation from our honeymoon, which is what our stay in Bangkok felt like, but it was time to be tourists again for a couple of days. Jaa had kindly arranged a home-stay in an area of Thailand that still maintains the old ways of life on the rivers and canals. Karel had stayed at the very same house when he visited Kelvin and Jaa in 2007, and I could tell he was eager for me to see a way of life in rural Thailand that he knew I’d appreciate.
On our way, we stopped at a famous floating market a short distance out of Bangkok. This lively and colorful market was crammed with boats and commerce and tourists. We hired an oar boat and viewed the spectacle from water level, then ordered lunch off the kitchen boats.
Later, at our guest house, we dropped off our overnight bags and hopped aboard a longtail (motorized) boat for a tour of the canals and temples. The smaller canals were relatively peaceful and beautiful, meandering through coconut sugar plantations and residential areas with ancient houses built of teak. As we worked our way through the network to larger canals and the river we started seeing bridges, hotels, and temples. Karel commented that it seemed a bit more civilized and developed than he remembered, and Jaa agreed, saying that the homestay program was just getting going back then, and new accommodations had been opened as it became a success.
We stopped at a couple of Buddhist temples, including one that was especially famous as a place to pray for things you have lost. I tossed off a quick appeal for all our missing iPhones, but I’ve been told that if your prayer is answered you must return to the temple to make an offering of gratitude and acknowledgement. It will be cheaper to just buy new phones.
There were two or three more temple stops on the itinerary, but it was just so awfully hot, Karel and I pleaded for mercy. We switched to plan B: go a little early to the Amphawa floating market and get a massage. Good idea! I finally got a taste of Thai massage, although I’m pretty sure I got the tourist version, which was less excruciating than the famous torture sessions you get at Wat Po. Fine with me. For our next diversion, we wandered through the crowded market and found an artist who would sketch our portrait in charcoal in less than 20 minutes for about $6. I look like a movie star! And Karel has more hair than I thought!
Then we had another fine meal off the kitchen boats, met our longtail boat, and headed back toward our guesthouse. It was dark by then, so we cozied up to the shore here and there to watch the fireflies. It wasn’t prime season for them, but still there were plenty to be seen blinking in the trees.
Our hostess met us at the old house. She was 82 and had lived in the teakwood homestead for 60 years. Her husband had died of cancer; she lost a son to the same disease. Her remaining son had a family and was living in Bangkok. Her daughter had divorced long ago and never remarried. The daughter sometimes stayed at the old house, but was currently away, serving at a monastery. It made me sad to think that this lovely woman was all alone and that this beautiful house and peaceful surroundings could not compete with the attractions found elsewhere in the world. Had I finally glimpsed the Thailand I’d always heard about, only to discover that it was just a disappearing ghost?
On the other hand, she had hosted a wedding there for her niece one week ago, attended by a thousand people. What a fantastic location for an event steeped in tradition!
In the morning we walked to the reception area, which served a number of guest houses in the vicinity, for our breakfast. As it happened, there was some kind of meeting in progress at a nearby table. Jaa eavesdropped a little, and told us the attendees were mayors and planners and other officials from other towns in Thailand, doing a workshop on developing successful homestay programs in their own communities. The place where we were staying had pioneered homestay tourism in Thailand, and was now a model for the country. At this meeting, they were discussing the environmental benefits, and the importance of preserving not only the buildings, but the infrastructure and way of life.
Everything changes. Even things we wish to remain the same, must evolve or disappear. I’m happy to have seen this part of Thailand, and glad to know that it will be preserved in some form, although it can never be exactly as it was.This entry was posted in Honeymoon 2013