Sun-spangled placid river hemmed in by age-old stilt houses cast a nostalgic spell. Suddenly, a monk draped by tangerine robe in wooden boat emerged, and as he paddled his way to the locals, they bowed down and handed him some offerings. I was in Amphawa District situated in Samut Songkhram, a bucolic province in Thailand, just 1.5 to 2 hours away from Bangkok.
Samut Songkhram is a pretty small province, only 416 square kilometers, it is composed of Amphawa, Bang Khonthi and Muang Districts. For most Filipinos, Thailand is Phuket, Bangkok, Pattaya, Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai. So probably, like me, you haven’t heard of Samut Songkhram before and you’re wondering what to do there. Here’s a list of tourist attractions and things to do in Samut Songkhram for first time visitors.
STAY OVERNIGHT AT AMPHAWA DISTRICT
While most tourists visit Samut Songkhram just to see the Tha Kha Floating Market on weekends and the Amphawa Evening Floating Market which runs on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and official holidays at 12:00 PM to 9:00 PM, consider staying overnight at Amphawa District to soak up traditional Thai culture.
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During our trip to Samut Songkhram, we stayed at the homey Thanica Healthy Resort in Amphawa District. At daybreak, we woke up to witness the sacred Thai tradition – the alms giving ceremony. The Buddhist monks leave their respective temples to gather alms for their daily one meal a day. Locals kneel down and bow their head when giving offerings. Remember to stay at a distance when taking photos of the monks, avoid disrupting this peaceful, sacred rite.
CLAM DIGGING AT DON HOI LOT
Blissfully situated at the mouth of Mae Klong River in Samut Songkhram, Don Hoi Lot is a sandbar that is home to a wealth of shellfish particularly hoi lot (razor clam), a straw-shaped shellfish thriving in mud, prized for its white meat.
Tourists who don’t mind walking in mud can visit Don Hoi Lot and experience local activities such as clam digging during low tide. During our visit, we were provided one pail each containing a barbecue stick and lime. Our guide instructed us how to catch a hoi lot. Basically, you have to dip the stick in lime and poke it into the hole. The lime makes the razor clams tipsy and thus they can be caught easily. Just avoid spreading the lime in the hole as other species of shellfish will die. Sounds easy, but I never caught anything!
After experiencing clam-digging, we hopped back to our long-tail boat and the skipper toured us around the mangrove forest on the river where fishes thriving in mud swarm. The six-seated boat fee is TBH 500, good for 6 people for the clam digging and mangrove tour.
SAVOR THE SEAFOOD
Many tourists visiting Samut Songkhram come here for Don Hoi Lot seaside market. So if you happen to visit here, you can buy inexpensive dried seafood, seafood chips, packaged fruits, Thai sweets, salt and shrimp paste as souvenirs.
The Rom Hup Market popularly known as Mae Klong Railway Market is a unique market divided by train railway (Mae Klong Railway Station). It’s a busy market in Samut Songkhram open at 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM daily. When the train arrives, the vendors starts pulling their products and baskets off the track. Once the train is gone, it is back to business.
Restaurants serving fresh seafood also abound. If you are in Don Hoi Lot, it’s a sin not to indulge on seafood. We had lunch at Krua Kung Pao restaurant, famous for its seafood steamboat and we got to try the hoi lot dish here. Interestingly, our guide pointed out a display of the legendary Siamese Twins from Samut Songkhram, Chang and Eng Bunker, conjoined twins who lived their life attached to each other.
VISIT THE BAN BAANG PHLAP COMMUNITY
Aside from seafood, fruits and vegetables also abound in Samut Songkhram, thanks to the abundance of orchards in this sleepy province. If you are looking to visit one (and I suggest you do), head to Ban Baang Phlap Community where you can rent a bike for TBH 30 to explore the thriving community.
We visited a pomelo plantation where they sell these really delicious and sweet pomelo. And since coconut sugar making is one of the livelihoods of the locals, you can also learn how to cook and produce one.
This process of revitalizing fruits and vegetables takes about a month, starting from peeling, slicing and soaking the sliced fruits and vegetables on saltwater for about 15 days to remove the bitterness or sourness. Then they are soaked in brine and lime water until they turn crispy before boiling and soaking the sliced pieces into syrup for about one week. To help the local community, I recommend buying sweet delicacies and other products here, they’re really good and inexpensive.
Ban Baang Phlap Community
Khrongkan Nai Mu Ban Daowaduengsin-wat Kaen Chan Road,
Tambon Bang Phrom, Chang Wat Samut Songkhram
Benjarong is the type of painted porcelain in Thailand heritage which literally means “5 colors”. The painted decoration typically has 3 to 9 colors though. It is a long process as after the colors are applied on the pattern, the ware is kiln-fired. Interestingly, gold (real gold) is also used in painting the patterns.
The art of Benjarong ware is believed to be 300 years old, a combination of Thai and Chinese artistry. These porcelains are really precious as exemplified by their elaborate antique designs.
We visited Bang Chang to try the Banjarong ware workshop. The shop was clad with different porcelain wares with intricate hand-painted designs. Each of us were given a mug that we can paint (and they have gold patterns) and we even took home our work of art after.
SEE THE CHURCH OF VIRGIN MARY
A Gothic-inspired Catholic church crowns Bang Nok Khwaek in Bang Konti District. During our trip to Samut Songkhram, we got to visit this gorgeous church which was built in 1890 and finished in 1896, 6 years after.
WHERE TO STAY IN SAMUT SONGKRAM
Thanica Healthy Resort
261 Tambon Amphawa, Amphawa, Amphawa (Samut Songkhram)
Disclosure: My trip to Samut Songkhram was made possible by Tourism Authority of Thailand in partnership with Thai Airways. Thai Airways has daily flights between Bangkok (Thailand) and Manila (Philippines).
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