Spending Time With the Locals at Bang Phli Market in Bangkok
The floating markets in Bangkok are something tourists are supposed to see. Fabio and I had yet to go to one because they run on a limited schedule except for the main floating market, Damnoen Saduak, which I've read is completely over run with tourists. Definitely not the kind of thing we enjoy. After some research I came across Bang Phli Old Riverside Market in Samut Prakan. It is one of the longest running markets in Thailand as it was established just over a hundred and fifty years ago in 1857 by Chinese traders. I had read one blogger say he was the only westerner in the market when he went. That's more like it. We took the skytrain to BTS Bearing and hailed a cab to take us the rest of the way. The communication was not easy. In fact, I don't think the cab driver understood where we wanted to go until I mentioned Wat Bang Phli Yai Nai which is at one end of the market. Finally, he understood. The cab driver dropped us off at the market and we set off hesitantly as we were the only westerners/tourists around.
We began to relax as intrigue took over. One of the first things we noticed were people throwing bread and fish food into the canal. We realized there a ton of enormous cat fish in the water clamoring for the food. They had to be 4 feet long! It's hard to see them in the second picture below but I guarantee they were huge!
Fabio was trying to ask the ladies below about the vegetables they were selling which resulted in a few laughs but we still didn't figure out what they were selling.
Then we came across a number of buckets holding turtles, snakes and frogs. We couldn't fathom what they were for except for eating until the end of the day when we saw another woman selling the same variety of critters by a small lake outside the Wat. Two women were at the water's edge reciting what sounded like prayers and then releasing the animals into the water. After a bit of reading I learned that "Life release is a Buddhist tradition of saving lives of animals that are destined to be killed. Although every life is precious, the fact of being alive inevitably causes taking lives of other beings. We cannot completely prevent this situation because as long as we walk, breath, eat, and so forth, we cause deaths of many creatures. However we can cultivate mindfulness, and try to reduce taking lives to the best of our ability. We can also offer a gift of life and protection through the practice of Life Release."
Fabio was mesmerized with the display of tools and knives.
The market offered a glimpse into the food, tools, clothes and many other items that embody everyday Thai life.
Below is a smorgasbord of pickled vegetables and olives. I think there were mainly different varieties of peppers.
The man pictured below was collecting money to cross to the other side of the market via a line of boats. The other option was the more stable bridge.
The Thai people and Burmese as we found out can't seem to get enough dried fish. I still have no idea exactly what it's used for.
Off to one side of the market we came across Wat Bang Phli Yai Nai. I always feel a sense of wonder inside a Wat. I have an idea of what is going on but don't understand all of the little shrines and statues. I suppose that's what a tour guide is for.