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A day trip to tiny Samut Songkhram province offers a glimpse of traditional Thai ways of life. Bucolic farmers bob in boats on quiet canals, coconut groves seem to stretch on forever and the scent of grilled seafood wafts from venerable teak wood homes — and this is before you get off the train.
This tiny province straddles the Mae Khlong river on its way to the Gulf of Thailand some 70 kilometres southwest of central Bangkok. To get the most out of a day, we recommend taking a bus from Bangkok’s Sai Tai Mai (Southern) terminal, minibus from Victory Monument or train on the Mahachai line from Thaksin (aka Wong Wian Yai) station in Thonburi, straight to the provincial centre at Mae Khlong (aka Samut Songkhram town).
If you arrive by rail, you’ll be on the train as it creates the spectacle that makes Mae Khlong Market one of Thailand’s most thrilling. Be sure not to miss this otherwise typical country wet market when vendors frantically move their fresh fish and produce moments before the train lumbers through.
Once you’ve experienced the “train market”, take a stroll around this bustling town before hiring a tuk-tuk to take you to the nearby floating markets. Tha Kha is your best bet to see genuine farmers rowing long wooden sampans that burst with brightly coloured produce. Enjoy Thai-style omellete, fresh pomelo and homemade noodle soup, all served straight from a boat, then drift methodically through canals draped in tropical greenery. A boat trip at Tha Kha is an unforgettable experience.
You then might head to the relaxing Bang Noi or Bang Nok Khwaek floating markets along the wide Mae Khlong river, or to Wat Khai Bang Kung, an ancient temple that’s almost entirely wrapped in the roots of a banyan tree. Bang Kung also happened to be the site of a major battle during the Siamese-Burmese war of 1767, marked today by statues of 18th century Chinese soldiers and vicious-looking Thai kick boxers.
Just south of Bang King, the historic town of Amphawa is beloved by Thais as the birthplace of King Rama II, though the countless Bangkokians who flock here on weekends seem more interested in the fresh mackerel, crab and jumbo river prawns served from barbecue boats in Amphawa Floating Market. Take a stroll amid the photogenic teak wood houses that line the canal, grab some Thai sweets (famous here) and perhaps hire a longtail boat to cruise you up the river.
By this point, you’ll probably be too tired for crab fishing at nearby Don Hoi Lot, but you could always stick around for a low-key weekday at one of Amphawa’s homestays. Otherwise, minibuses return to Victory Monument every hour from 8:00 to 18:00 from the centre of Amphawa town, or you could take a songthaew or tuk-tuk back to Mae Khlong and catch a bus, minibus or train from there.
If the local transport sounds too daunting, there’s no shortage of Bangkok-based tour companies offering day trips to Samut Songkhram. Keep in mind that the floating markets are only open on weekends, and you’ll need to reach Tha Kha before 11:00 as the market wraps up by noon. For more detailed info, check out the main Amphawa page.