Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Take 3: Shop 'Til Ya Drop

People had absolutely raved about how cheap everything was in Thailand. I don't know exactly how the products are made/acquired/ distributed, but I am a sucker for a deal. Plus, the markets are a huge part of Thailand's culture and financial stability. Tourism and all us money frivalous foreigners can drop 10 times as much as the locals on a t-shirt or a meal without blinking twice. I know it helps out the economy in the end, but it's not really my cup of tea. I definitely got sick of all the shopping by the end of the trip, but it was definitely a cool experience. The plan was to have a Shop Til We Drop Day; and we did just that (some earlier than others).

First, we booked an early mornin' transfer out of Bangkok to the famous Damnoen Saduak floating market southwest of Bangkok. That included a van and "James Bond boat" ride to the actual market. You can see how James Bond-esque the boat was below. He's apparently got a monopoly over the boats on the canals, as they were everywhere.
Unfortunately, the floating market today is a total tourist dominated destination and thus lacks the 'authentic' vibe with the Thai women wearing indigo-hued clothes and wide-brimmed straw hats that it emobied over 20 years ago. That's not to say it wasn't fun, though!
With the tour package we booked, we only got about 20 min actually on the longboat and spent the rest of the time perusing the market stands and trying out some new foods.

Spicy Thai soup, anyone?
Definitely the best mango of the trip, with a side of starfruit.
A longboat 'o interesting fruits and a woman making spring rolls. The view from above.

Oh yeah... one of my ex-roomies from Madison and good friend, Katie Frank, also flew in the night before. We got a few hour nap in before heading out for this in the morning. It was fannnntastic to catch up with her and get some Wisconsin lovin'!
After the floating market, we headed to the most famous weekend market, Chatuchak. In addition to shopping, we were all about hitting up every form of transportation in Thailand possible. So, we'd already done cab, tuk-tuk, walking, longboat, and James Bond boat - so it was time for a public bus and the Skytrain. There are tons of public buses all the time that are cheap and relatively clean. The Skytrain's pretty awesome too - clean, quick and covers a wide area, but not many stops in between the destinations and kind of pricy. Anyway, that's the Skytrain to the left in the pic below.
We got to walk through this big nice park to get there. Tons of cute families and people out and about.
This market was MASSIVE! I'd say the size ofall the WI State Fair market areas put together, x 4. We didn't notice the giant maps that were posted in maybe 4 places in the entire place until the very end... so we spent most of the time checking out clothes, make-up, jewelry, and bags. Ummm, I didn't find much. I was totally gonna buy this sweet big traveler's Pantagonia backpack for $40, but then I tried out the zipper, and it broke. That's when I pretty much gave up on shopping. Back to the food stalls for me!
I love the aesthetics in the food displays. These were fruit shake cups. You pick the one you want, and they add ice and creamy milk and blend it up. Delicious in the 90 degree wheather!
I didn't actually trie these, but they looked cool. They're dried lotus root and okra (veggies) and then some mini sunny side eggs on the left there.
After 6 hours to and from the floating market and another 4 to Chatuchak, Katie and Deana were beat and hit the hay. Gopika and I still wanted to get our shop on (and finished) before heading out of Bangkok not to return again until our flight out. SO, we went to the Lumphini night market. We got to walk through another gorgeous park to get there. I was really impressed actually, that in the middle of so much clutter, traffic conjestion, smog, and litter, there were two fabulous public parks in Bangkok. Nice work.
This night maket was huge as well, but much more ogranized. But, the salespeoples were not having our bartering. Some were pretty angry about it, but it's apparently to be expected and most Thai treat bartering as an art form. Anyway, the material and products at this place was more legit, so I didn't really mind. The food stands were actually permanent too. It was cool to see this woman cook up my tasty, but SPICY, Thai salad. She's picking out the seafood below: crab, shrimp, and fishcakes. Those white things in front are mushrooms. Prettier looking than tasting.

This would've been the BEST purchase of the trip, hands down. I still regret not buying it for Gopika:(
We took some time to take in the night views too. There were lots of "We Love The King" signs in neon bright lights everywhere. Thais LOVE their King (from what I understand), and it's illegal to show any disrespect twoard him.
SO - after 12+ hours of shopping, spending lots of money and having a full tummy of market foods, we finally headed back. I was so done... little did I know there would be similar makets in every other city I went to as well. Bangkok's were definitely the most impressive, on a size scale. Jenny - you'd be in heaven, here:) There was even a giant indoor market with the same stuff, but air conditioned. Had your name all over it!

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