SUNDAY TIMES - 5 quirky and unusual things to do near Bangkok
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Sunday Times Travel By Thanduxolo Jika, 2017-03-19 00:00:00.0

5 quirky and unusual things to do near Bangkok

Vendors sit in boats loaded with goods for sale in Amphawa Floating Market.
Image: iSTOCK

From fireflies to floating markets, it's worth exploring just outside of the Thai capital for some truly interesting times, writes Thanduxolo Jika

1) Shop at amphawa floating market

This market is found on a small canal of the Mae Khlong River, one of the most interesting and picturesque spots in Samut Songkrum Province.

Driving there from Bangkok can be exhausting because of the traffic. Once at Amphawa, though, one finds a hive of activity as tourists and locals wander the banks, buying food from the sellers in their wooden boats.

Unfortunately, you won't be served the tasty steamed crabs, fried mackerel (very famous there) and som tam (green papaya salad) from sellers floating in their sampans (flat-bottomed boats). You sit on benches on the banks to enjoy the tasty food.

From a distance, the market seems extremely congested but people make it work somehow and negotiate their way around.

There weren't that many tourists there but a lot of locals from Bangkok buying souvenirs, spices and clothes. This is one of Thailand's areas which is proud of its traditional local food which has been preserved for decades in this Monarch State.

2) Stroll through King Rama II Memorial Park

Near to the market is the beautiful site of King Rama II Memorial Park.

King Rama II is one of Thailand's most celebrated kings, credited for his contribution to the development of arts and culture in the country during his reign from 1809 until 1824.

At the museum there are sculptures he did himself, which include facial masks of ogres, monkeys and other characters. Clearly he was a fan of the theatre.

It is an impressive park with botanical gardens offering tranquility and a feeling of inner peace, befitting the Buddhist king.

3) See the fireflies

Amphawa's best attraction in these villages is actually right in the canal at sunset - on a boat ride. Once you take off from the floating market in the afternoon, it's best to catch one of the wooden boats decorated with disco lights and big bus engines.

They are as speedy as a rubber duck and will take you to see the most amazing sight at night: fireflies. The trees glitter like Christmas trees and it is so beautifully quiet to watch the trees glow as the fireflies do their thing. This is definitely the most impressive of village life there, seeing what nature can do without any artificial intervention.

4) Pick fruit at Nakhon

Just over an hour away from Amphawa is Nakhon Pathom Province, which also offers some insight into Thai village life. If you want something different from the busy, concrete life in Bangkok or those sometimes overcrowded beaches, this is a good diversion.

This area is well known for its orchards, which the farmers happily take you through sightseeing with a boat. People in this area live off the land and rely on the popularity of the pomelo, similar to a grapefruit. Some people call Nakhon Pathom the "sweet pomelo town".

A statue of Mahatma Gandhi can be seen in the Thai Human Imagery Wax Museum. Image: Bangkokmuseums.com

5) Wax lyrical

The highlight of my trip was a visit to the Thai Human Imagery Wax Museum. About 50km from Bangkok, it is basically the Thai version of Madame Tussauds, full of surprisingly realistic statues of eminent figures in Thai history.

Although it is a bit freaky at first glance, seeing what appear to be real humans, the museum reveals much about Thai culture and how the country has developed over the years.

At the museum, you get to see the reigning Chakri Dynasty Kings of Thailand, whose changing attire shows how Western influence came in through time.

• Jika was a guest of the Royal Embassy of Thailand, South Africa