Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Row Row Row a Boat: Floating Market, October 2005
I grew up helping my mom shop in Calcutta by going to the fish market and the chicken guy and to the local grocer where I would wait patiently as the shop keeper would make small talk with all the shoppers till he looked at the patiently waiting, pimpled, school boy. Mumbai introduced me to the joy of self service malls and departmental stores.
The floating market near Bangkok was a completely different experience. It is based on Thailand's river civilisation where myriad houses are on the river on stilts and where you have a whole water world thingie going on. People live their lives there, shop there, fish there, grow up, get married...and are probably closer to the river than the fish that live in it.
The floating market was about a couple of hour's drive from Bangkok. I had first heard of it from my ex boss. He is an avid photographer. He told me that he had gone all the way there just to take photos.
I could understand why when we reached there. The place was a riot of colours. A photographer's delight. You had people in narrow canoe like boats selling fruits, vegetables, handicrafts in a fairly narrow canal. The tourists and shoppers move around in similar boats to look around. You hollered out if something caught your eye, both boats stopped as the transaction was made. Strangely enough, there was more order in the chaos than in a typical Indian road as everyone would peacefully and patient manoeuvre around each other in the market. There was a busy buzz which really energised one. At the same time one felt light years way from the daily grind. It was as if one was in a world where life was simple and uncomplicated, a world where there were no bar codes or offers of the day.
It was one of the most vivid experiences of my life which I will never forget.
We reached the market in James Bond boats. These are narrow jet propelled wooden boats which were used in a Bond film. Just the thing to excite a Bond fan like me. I could hear the Bond track play in my mind as we sped down to the market.
Kainaz had her moments of thrill too as we stopped at a snake farm on the way. She took a picture with the snakes while I stood a few kilometers away. She is apparently fascinated by snakes. I don't know what it says about her choosing me then.
The photo below is of two boys in the farm who took the venom out of a cobra in front of us.
Another quaint travelling memory from that day was that of an elderly Pakistani Hindu couple who we met during the trip. They had left their children at home and were having a ball at Thailand. I think all of us enjoyed some company of people from the sub continent after our days in the Far East. I remembered that the gentleman was particularly friendly and boisterous in contrast to his wife who would keep smiling sweetly. Kainaz and I really enjoyed the Indian snack, chiwda/ dalmoth, which they offered us and which was a pleasant break from our favourite Thai curries.
I hope Kainaz and I keep travelling the world without a care when we are their age.