Samut Songkhram – A River’s Tempo
Samut Songkhram province is one of the hidden gems of Thailand that is ideal for tourist who doesn’t want to go too far from Bangkok. Just an hour or so you will come across and most bizarre market in Thailand. Maeklong Railway Market is viral in famous due to the unusual setup of the shops that is located right at the tracks of Southern Rail Transit. Vendors pull back over hanging shades and let their vegetables centimetres away from passing trains every day.
Samut Songkhram, known as Mae Klong to the locals, is the smallest of Thailand’s 76 provinces with an area of just 417 sq km. But what the province lacks in size it makes up for in its rich cultural diversity and traditional riverine ways of life. Located at the mouth of the Mae Klong River on the Gulf of Thailand and crisscrossed by a network of klongs, Samut Songkhram has maintained farming-based lifestyles unchanged down the generations. The province is particularly noted for its fruits and vegetables – particularly lychees, palm sugar production and salt farming. Situated just an hour west of Bangkok, the province offers much for weekend visitors or day trippers from the city Homestays provide a back-to-nature getaway for those looking for a longer trip .
Every visit to Samut Songkhram should start with the province’s best-known attract ion – Don Hoi Lot. This sandbar at the mouth of the Mae Klong provides a home to various species of shellfish, including razor clams (hoi lot) – a popular local product, undulated surf clams (hoi lat), cockles (hoi khraeng) , tongue shells (hoi pak pet) and more. The outer sandbar, Don Nok, is only accessible by boat from a pier on the Mae Klong River, while Don Nai, the inner sandbar, can be reached from the beaches of Chuchi village in Tambon Bang Chakreng and Bang Bo village in Tambon Bang Kaeo, which are both accessible by car. The best time to visit Don Hoi Lot is during March-May when the low tides last longer. Check the tide tables before you go to ensure your visit coincides with the low tide. Several restaurants and souvenir shops offer fresh and dried local produce. A bus service is available all day from the market in Samut Songkhram to Chuchi village.
Talat Nam Tha Kha in Tha Kha sub-district is one of the province’s “must-see” attractions. Fruit and vegetables from the surrounding farms and orchards are sold from boats in the traditional way. Popular produce includes chili, shallot, garlic, coconut sugar, guava, coconut, rose apple, pomelo , and more. The market is held every five days on the second, seventh, and twelfth days of the waning or waxing moon from around 8.00 – 11.00 a.m. A boat service is available for visitors to paddle around the village and fruit orchards. For more information, contact the Tha Kha Sub-district Administration Organization (+66 3476 6208). To get there take Highway 325 (Samut Songkhram-Bang Phae), turning right at Km 32 for a further 5 km.
Another floating market worthy of a visit is Talat Nam Yam Yen Amphawa located on the canal near Wat Amphawan Chetiyaram. Unusually, this market operates in the afternoons, from 12 am to 8 pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Amphawa Canalis occupied by vendors selling food and drinks, such as fried sea mussels, noodles, coffee, sweets, etc. Visitors can take in the humming atmosphere with music broadcast by the community members, explore the market, enjoy some local food, and hire a boat to see the fireflies at night. Amphawa floating market is near the King Rama II Memorial Park on Highway 325 (Samut Songkhram Bang Phae).
Wat Khao Yi San in Ban Khao Yi San, Khao Yi San sub district is renowned for its Ayutthaya period craftsmanship and art. The temple’s renovated chapel or Ubosot houses original paintings and figures from Chinese chronicles while the outside is decorated in stucco produced by master craftsmen from Phetchaburi. The Phra Non Cave accommodates a reclining Buddha image with nine toes while the hilltop vihan enshrines four Buddha footprints. A good time to visit is during the temple fair, held annually in the first lunar month. Visit the nearby Ban Khao Yi San Museum (+66 2433 1547, +668 1859 3195) for more insights into the ancient Yi San Community. The temple and museum are just off Rama II Road at Km 72 near the PTT station.
Get muddy for a worthy cause
Why not lend a hand for Thailand’s coastal forests and have some great fun at the same time at the Mangrove Forest Plantation in Tambon Khlong Khan? Here visitors can take a long-tailed boat to explore the mangrove forest, see birds and crab-eating macaques, as well as witness the way of life of local fishermen, then get down and dirty planting mangrove saplings provided by the Khlong Khan Sub-district Administration Organization Office (+66 3473 1329). The office will prepare a long-tailed boat, a sliding board, saplings and planting tools. All you need are some old clothes and plenty of enthusiasm. Tree planting at this award-winning attraction has increased the forest area to more than 2,000 rai. To get there, drive along Rama II Road until the PTT station at Km 72, then turn left at the lane to the Khao Yi San local museum for around 500 m, and then left again for around 4 km.
To drive, take Highway 35 (Thon Buri-Pak Tho or Rama II Road), past the Na Kluea-Maha Chai Intersection. At around Km 63, take the elevated road into Samut Songkhram. Bus services leave throughout the day from the Southern Bus Terminal (www.transport.co.th) while vans make the journey from several points in the city including Victory Monument and Morchit. It’s also possible to get a daily train to Samut Songkhram from Wongwian Yai Railway Station via Mahachai (www.railway.co.th) .
For more information, contact the TAT, Samut Songkhram office on +66 3475 2846-8.