Saturday 26 July 2014

Water first and last

Day 6 in Thailand started with a standard and ended with a surprise. Everyone who comes here goes to the markets, and why wouldn't you? Crammed full of cliche, they're colourful, busy, full of new tastes and smells, cheap, cheerful and totally photogenic. This morning it was the new version of the Floating Market. Years ago, this was a floating traffic jam of traders on the river in boats piled high with fruits and vegetables, beloved of tour companies - but then convenience called as more malls and the SkyTrain were built, the actual customers drifted away, and now it doesn't exist in that form any more. There is still a market by the river, though, where the same things are sold from stalls, and a few friendly cooks in boats still cruise the canals, and moor alongside the market where people sit at tables.

It's an authentic place, still mostly frequented by locals, and well worth visiting - as are some of the houses that we were taken to, actual homes of polished teak and airy spaces surrounded by gardens and muddy creeks and canals where turtles, catfish and snakes hang out. There was a lot of snacking along the way, of things like freshly-fried fishcakes, sweet sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves, crunchy guava, pink juice made from flowers. So much food, being prepared and cooked! You wouldn't think there were enough mouths in the country to eat it all - but there's very little waste, at the end of the day.

Speaking of that, after a sadly hurried dinner where we were greeted by traditional dancers, ours finished with a soothingly cooling night cruise along the river to Asiatique. It's a former warehouse converted to shops and stalls, lively and busy, with a theatre where we went to a Muay Thai show. That's kick-boxing to you, not the real thing with blood and bruises, but a slick and stylised version that tells the history of the country and the sport, with a bit of a love story thrown in. Our initial jaded cynicism about cartoon-style sound-effects was soon blown away by the energy and enthusiasm of the young men leaping and tumbling about the stage, and we were all captivated by the performance.

For the 2D version of the market visit, watch Duncan's report.

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