Tag Archives: Nonthaburi

Wat Takien Floating Market in Nonthaburi

A good excursion to do at the weekend is to visit one of the many floating markets that are within easy reach of Bangkok. The one that I visited last weekend is called Wat Takien Floating Market which is in Nonthaburi Province, to the Northwest of Central Bangkok. From Samut Prakan it only took us about 40 minutes to drive there along the Kanchanapisek Outer Ring Road. But, if you are coming from Bangkok, you can get there via the Rama V Bridge.

The floating market at Wat Takien is relatively new. There used to be a much older one nearby called Bang Ku Wiang Floating Market. However, that has long since closed due to the modernization of transportation during the last century. Once the roads and highways were built, people went from getting around by boat to travelling by car which is obviously quicker and more convenient. However, there is a growing trend these days to revive some of the old markets. That is why the local community opened this market at Wat Takien.

Many of these markets open early in the morning. However, even though we arrived there after 9 a.m., many of the stalls were still being set up. So we explored the temple first. In front of the chapel there is a giant tiger’s head which has a doorway which takes you underneath the building. Inside there are a number of different shrines. Buddhists here were walking around these shrines in a clockwise direction while chanting. They were doing this to bring themselves good luck. The exit was through the head of a giant dragon.

The market is open every day from about 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. However, it is a lot more active at the weekend. Probably best to aim to be there by about 10 a.m. But don’t have breakfast before you leave home. Like most markets, the highlight for our trip was the food. You could just snack all day long. You can buy food from one of the boat vendors or from one of the stalls set up in the grounds of the temple. I had a very tasty crispy and red pork on rice. For dessert I had deep fried bananas and a coconut pudding. All prices were very good.

For me, a trip to a floating market is not satisfactory unless there is also a chance to go on a boat trip along the canals. Only by exploring this way do you get to see the daily life of local Thai people, which probably hasn’t changed much in a hundred years. Even today, most of the houses that we passed are cut off from the road and people have to use boats to get around. Even the postman and garbage collector has to use boats.Some of the houses we passed were more modern but many, like this one, looked like they have been around for years.

I don’t think that many people go on these boat trips. We saw the boats there but we had a hard time trying to find someone who would take us out. I don’t think Thai people like going out in the heat of the day. We eventually found this guy who took us out for an hour long trip for a low 200 baht. If this was Bangkok we would have probably been charged 800 baht at least. For the whole time that we were at this market, we didn’t see any other foreigners at all. So, the vendors and local people were really friendly and happy to see us there. It is not a major floating market, but it is a good escape from the other tourist traps.

Map for Wat Takien Floating Market:
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Wat Boromracha Kanchanapisek Anusorn

Undoubtedly the most spectacular Chinese temple I have seen in Thailand is Wat Boromracha Kanchanapisek Anusorn in Nonthaburi Province just north-west of Bangkok. I would say it also rivals anything I saw even in China during my three month trip around the country. Parts of the temple reminded me of the Forbidden Palace. This temple, in Bang Bua Thong District, took over ten years to construct and cost hundreds of millions of baht. It was built to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the King’s reign. And it certainly lived up to its promise.

The temple is a photographer’s paradise with so much detail in the engravings on the walls, floors and ceilings. I was there for over two hours and could easily have spent longer. I will be going back for sure and I reckon that I will find things that I didn’t spot during my first visit. You really have to keep looking all around you as there is so much to see. I was there early in the morning when the sun was behind the main building. The entrance faces south-west and I reckon if I go next time at the end of the day, I should have some good colours from the sunset. At the weekend, the temple closes at 6 p.m.

It is quite a large complex with various interconnected buildings with three or four levels. Make sure that you explore everywhere so that you don’t miss any of the highlights. For me I think it was this room which had at least 12,000 little Buddha images covering all of the walls. There could be more but I lost count after a while. The advantage I found in going early (I arrived before 9 a.m.) was that it was easy for me to park and there weren’t people blocking my photographs. By the time I left, shortly before noon, there were literally thousands of people there and no more parking spaces. People had to park on the street outside. However, despite the crowds, I didn’t see any other foreigners there at all.

The main hall contains three very large Buddha statues made of brass and weighing 18 tonnes each. When I was there, there were several dozen novices and monks who were taking part in a ceremony. I should have taken along my sound recorder as the sound was mesmerizing and so different to chanting at Thai Buddhist temples. On each side of this building there were statues of 18 Buddhist saints. On the walls were large wood carvings. On the third floor is the Goddess of Mercy which was carved with Burmese teakwood (see picture above).

The fourth floor is the Meun Buddhasukkhavadi Buddhakset Hall with the thousands of small Buddha images. There was a great breeze from the hallways outside this room. Make sure you take a close look at the roof tiles as you will spot little monk images and mystical animals on the roof ridges. From here I went down several floors where they were doing another ceremony for the Vegetarian Festival. They were also preparing krathongs for the Loy Krathong Jay ceremony which they did later this afternoon. To enter this area you need to wear white clothing which luckily I was. However, you won’t miss much if you don’t want to dress in white. However, if you go there during the “gin jay” festival, then you will be able to have free vegetarian food for lunch.

I drove to Wat Boromracha Kanchanapisek Anusorn this morning. From Samut Prakan it was quite simple. It only took about 40 minutes driving along the Outer Ring-Road. I turned off for Bang Bua Thong and just followed the sign for the temple which was also in English. I understand you can catch bus 177 from Victory Monument which can take up to two hours. When I drove back it only took 30 minutes to reach Sanam Luang via the Phra Pinklao Bridge. So, if you don’t have your own transport then I would suggest you go by taxi.

A Trip to Koh Kret

A long-tailed boat

Just close your eyes and pray!

A few days back I was telling you about my recent trip upriver from Bangkok to Nonthaburi Province by public boat. My intention was not to just view the scenery but also to make my way up to an island called Koh Kret. I had heard about this place for several years now and wanted to go and visit for myself. It sounded mysterious. An island in the middle of the Chao Phraya River? How could that be? I tried to do some research but most of my guidebooks barely gave the place more than a paragraph worth of coverage. As I was in Bangkok I was tempted to join a tour. I don’t normally like doing that kind of thing as I prefer to go my own pace. But, sometimes it is beneficial as they can not only save you time and money but they will also take you directly to the places of interest. However, the two companies that were running tours seemed to run only at the weekend. We were in Bangkok on a week day. So, we decided we would make our own way up there.

The first part of our trip was from Bangkok to Nonthaburi on a public express boat. This lasted about 80 minutes but cost only 13 baht each. The tour companies were charging 250–300 baht per person. So far so good. When we arrived at the end of the line we knew from our map that we still had another 20 minutes to go. The conductor on the boat suggested we should take a mini van to Pakred Market and from there a local ferry boat across the river to Koh Kret. The van was advertised as 10 baht and the ferry probably would have been only a few baht.

Wat Paramaiyikawas

Wat Paramaiyikawas on Koh Kret

While we were deciding we were approached by a long-tailed boat driver. (The boat has a long tail and not the driver!) He showed us a leaflet detailing the places he would take us on a tour of Koh Kret. He pointed out all the stops on the map and said that the trip would last about three hours in total. The price? For a minimum of eight people the leaflet said it would cost 100 baht each. As there were only two of us, he said he would do it for only 600 baht. Basically the same price as the group tour though we would have our own driver. We told him that we felt it was a bit expensive and asked for 500 baht. He said he couldn’t.

After a little contemplation we decided we would hire his boat. Like I said before, I hadn’t been able to do much research so to be honest I didn’t really know what there was to see, let alone how to get to each place! Koh Kret wasn’t supposed to be a big island. In fact you could walk around it in about 2 hours or so. There were no roads on the island, just narrow paths. The only means of transport are the motorcycle taxis. Great if you know where to ask to go on the island.

Actually, Koh Kret isn’t really a proper island. A canal was built back in 1722 in order to bypass a large bend in the river. The king at that time was trying to save on sailing time for ships heading up to the then capital in Ayutthaya. The tide soon changed direction and the little canal became a raging river. The Mon villagers, who live there now, are very isolated, and up to now, their unique lifestyle has remained intact. The Mon people are famous for their potteries and Thai desserts.

Wat Phai Lom

Wat Phai Lom on Koh Kret

Our first stop was at Wat Paramaiyikawas. This could be found at the top right-hand corner of the island. A prominent feature is the stupa that is leaning out towards the river. The temple was built in Mon style about 200 years ago. Inside we found a large Reclining Buddha. In the temple grounds there is also a museum though unfortunately it only opens in the afternoon.  From here we walked along the northern side of the island a short distance to another temple. This one was called Wat Phai Lom and was built in 1770. Like the previous temple, this was also done in Mon style and was stunningly beautiful. After the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767, King Taksin gave permission for the Mon people to live here as a reward for fighting bravely against the Burmese. As you can see from these pictures, the style of temples are very different to the standard Thai temple.

Pottery

Our boat driver told us that we should keep walking along the path to a pottery village. He told us that he would meet us a short way down. Looking around, you could see how commercial this place had become. It was all geared up for the tourists that come at the weekend. On weekdays the place is very quiet and many shops were closed. But, we did manage to see some potters at work. With hardly anyone around it did look authentic but I guess if you came at the weekend you would see that the whole place has been set up for the tourists.

As we walked back to the boat to continue our journey around the island, I couldn’t help but make comparisons between this place and another Mon community in Phra Phradaeng that had also been isolated inside a loop in the river. I have written several times before about Bangkrachao and the other communities in the loop. Despite being so close to Bangkok they still continue to live their very unique lifestyles. However, their “island” is big enough not to be so affected by tourism. You do see Bike tours there but there are many roads and local people cannot really take advantage of these passing tourists. However, on Koh Kret, there is basically only one track and so it was starting to look like that every house had set up some kind of shop.

Edible Flowers

A local speciality – deepfried flowers!

Back on the boat we continued our trip around the island. The driver was actually quite good as every time he saw me raise my camera to my eye he would slow down. He had obviously done this before. A short while later he took us to a shop to watch a demonstration of how to make traditional Thai desserts. This was a bit touristy and reminded me of those tours where they stopped at factories on the way back for you to see “free demonstrations” before being herded through the shop. I didn’t mind so much as we didn’t have to buy anything. After this he took us to another temple where people were feeding hundreds of giant fish in the river.

Just over three hours later we finally made it back to our starting point in Nonthaburi. It had been a good boat trip. I am not sure if we had got our money’s worth but it had indeed been a good and easy introduction to the lifestyle of the Mon people. I am pretty sure I will come here again. Maybe not this year though, as it was quite an effort to get here. But, if I go again, I would take public transport all the way. I would then take the time to walk around the island on foot in order to better appreciate what it has to offer.

If you are planning on going yourself, I would suggest you go by public transport which shouldn’t cost you more than 50 baht there and back. If your time is limited you don’t need to explore the whole island. Just visit some of the places along the northern edge.

Boat Trip to Nonthaburi

Public Express Boat and a Private Long-Tailed Boat

I was in Bangkok last week in order to take some pictures for our web sites. I love doing boat trips and I thought I would explore the river north of the city. I have explored the canals before on the Thonburi side of the river in a long-tailed boat (see picture to the right). You can hire these boats for about an hour or so for about 400 baht from the pier near the Grand Palace. But, this time I wanted to explore on public transport. This is a lot cheaper though you don’t really have much control of where you go! To get to my starting point I took the Sky Train to the end of the route at Saphan Taksin. Here I transferred to a Chao Phraya Express Boat. This is Central Pier for the boats. You can go south a short way towards Rama IX bridge or north for an hour to Nonthaburi. I chose the latter. This one hour trip cost me 13 baht which is less than 50 cents.

Singha Beer Brewery and the Rama VII Suspension Bridge

It is a good idea getting on at Taksin Bridge because you have a better chance to get a seat. Later on you might have to stand up as it gets pretty crowded. These boats are much like buses. You take your seat and later on a conductor will come around to take your money and give you a ticket. They do speak enough English to help you get by. “Where you go?” and “You get off now”. The boats are quite long and as they are usually crowded, it is a good idea to go to the back of the boat as you are approaching your pier. These are all numbered and are written in English and Thai so it is quite easy. A bell tells the driver that someone wants to get off. Everyone is used to foreigners taking these boats so you will have no problems. Get on and off where you like or, like we did, go to the end of the line at Nonthaburi.

Taking a dip in the water and river-side life

In our hour long journey the scenary had plenty of time to change. At the start we passed a number of famous sites like Wat Arun and the Grand Palace. Later on we passed Conception Church which was built in the reign of king Rama III. The orignal church on this site was built several hundred years ago. As we started to leave the city the tall and modern buildings became fewer in numbers and these were replaced by wooden houses which fronted the river. Here people had easy access to the river for both transport and also a means to keep themselves clean. In the old days, Bangkok was regarded as the Venice of the East. In fact, many of the houses back then were built over water and not so many were actually on land. If you want some views of life by the side of the river a generation or so ago then I would suggest taking a river bus north of the city.