Simply put, Thailand is exotic.
Nowhere is that more evident than its floating markets where fruits, vegetables and flowers are sold from a traffic jam of boats that makes the congestion of New York and Los Angeles seem like the wide open spaces.
Floating markets are common in Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand, but DamnoenSaduak in Ratchaburi, Thailand, is arguably the best known. Slightly more than 70 miles from Bangkok, Damnoen Saduak is about a two-hour drive.
Though the floating markets were once the traditional way of selling produce, they have recently become popular attractions, but they are not run-of-the-mill tourism sites. Marketing fruits and vegetables from boats is serious business, and has been for nearly 150 years.
The floating markets are a photographers paradise. It is virtual impossibility to take a bad picture.
The setting is awash in a sea of straw hats and a profusion of colorful fruits and vegetables. This is an equal-opportunity society. Women compete against men. Young and old alike maneuver for openings in an endless crunch of canoes. Gnarled, weather-beaten faces reflect a lifetime of vending their wares along the canal.
The air is thick with humidity. Chaos prevails amid a cacophony of clatter and chatter surrounded by an ever-changing array of smells.
To the untrained eye, the watery marketplace is a blur of undefined, disorganized formlessness. The riotous gamut of colors beckons your involvement, but once you surrender, you are mesmerized by the hypnotic anachronism of aquatic commerce.
This is no ordinary phenomenon. These are not simply the canals of Venice with vegetables. The floating market of Damnoen Saduak is sensual. It must be absorbed through the pores.
Become a part of it and you will be profoundly rewarded. The sensations are contagious, and there is no cure.
Arrive early, snap your pictures, then stand back and watch the pageant. Try to ignore the crowds. There is no way to avoid them anyway and besides, they add to atmosphere.
The floating markets of Thailand are a kaleidoscope in high definition.
Details on visiting Thailand: www.tourismthailand.org.
Bob Taylor of Charlotte leads group tours and organized the Magellan Club.
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