Early morning, my heart full of energy, I anticipated the magic of the journey in my dreams. My destination was a Klong and its thriving life blood, the popular Ta-Ling-Chan floating market.
I arrived there on a late morning when the market was already crowded. Sellers displayed their goods on both canal’s sideways. Ta-Ling-Chan mixes traditional lifestyle along the canals with a lush surrounding nature. Half of its traders are local farmers who come to sell their seasonal produce.
Ta-Ling-Chan is different from other floating markets. Here tourists can buy food from the boats and sit and eat it on rafts conveniently floating in the canal. From there, on Sunday mornings, they can watch students from local schools perform traditional Thai music. These students also perform in the nearby gardens on Saturdays at noon and on Sunday afternoons, for the delight of visitors.
Not far away, near a fountain, guides invited tourists to buy a ticket for a trip along the canal. An officer informed us that they have special tour services on Saturdays and Sundays.
Ta-Ling-Chan floating market originated in 1987 from an idea by Khun Prachum Jareanlap – the then Mayor of Ta-Ling-Chan district. Initially the market was set up to be a trading centre for products and agricultural goods. Afterwards, the Ta-Ling-Chan traders proposed to integrate the selling of handicrafts and goods and created the Ta-Ling-Chan union. This is the way Ta-Ling-Chan floating market has been operating for the past 20 years.
Back to the trip. At first the boat navigated along the riverbanks of Klong Bang Khun Sri canal, today known as Klong Chak Phra, where rows of old Thai-style houses with the odd modern one in between alternated with plots of several uncommon plants. Unlike in the city, there is a feeling of harmony in the collective way people live in the Klong area.
The name of Klong Chak Phra comes from a tradition called Chakphra, held in the past on the 2nd day of the 12th lunar month. Boats carrying Buddha relics travelled along canals from Wat Nang Chi temple to the mouth of the Klong Bangkok Noi, then turned right to follow Chao Phraya River, entered Klong Bangkok Yai and returned to Wat Nang Chi temple.
The boat then sailed along the main canal passing Wat Koh temple. There, the junction where Klong Mol splits into two canals, Klong Bang Chueak Nang to the south and Klong Bang Noi to the west, creates a river island, hence the name of the temple, Wat Koh (koh in Thai means island). The inside of the temple can feel so quiet thanks to the fact that no vehicle can approach it.
Next destination was Wat Kam Peng, a temple erected during the Ayutthaya period; it boasts stucco stripes in the arches, marvelous windows which were restored during the reign of King Rama III, and magnificent murals still intact.
When the boat turned into a small canal, houses became less frequent and planted gardens predominated. A few moments later, we arrived at an orchid garden where we were given 20 minutes to rest, get refreshed, and of course, to buy orchids. The boat then headed back to the first junction, stopping for a visit to Wat Pak Nam, a place where every living being is considered sacred. We bought some bread and fed the fish, giving alms to living creatures, something usually city people don’t have much chance to do.
The late morning sunlight made the air rise sultrily. We saw children jumping into the water, having fun and waving to greet tourists on boats. Some performed acrobatic jumps. The laughs and smiles from those innocent kids gave us a sort of relief from the hot climate. The boat returned to the original route for a visit to Mae Sam-ang shop, where tourists can buy Khao Laam snacks (glutinous rice roasted in bamboo). We finally got back to Ta-Ling-Chan market, right where my stomach started to growl for hungriness.
A moist wind caressed my face; I closed my eyes to take in the nature around me – people, streams, life… I was simply infatuated by the experience, something that would surely stick to my memory for a long time to come.
There are several routes to get to this destination. The one I chose starts from Krung Thon Bridge and passes the Southern Bus Terminal, then keeps left into the parallel way and turns left at the first alley; it turns right at the first junction, then goes straight and turns left to a junction where, at the end of the road, you will see the Ta-Ling-Chan floating market – nearby Ta-Ling-Chan District Office.