Over the river and through the woods…Part 1.
Okay, so the title of this blog might be a little bit off, because I didn’t really go through any woods, but how about a train ride through some jungles, rice paddies, and salt fields. I also DID cross a river, and that is where I will begin this story, but first, I’d like to write a little bit more about Maha Chai (renamed Samut Sakhon in 1913, but still known by the local Thai people as Maha Chai or Mahachai).
As I mentioned in my previous post, Maha Chai deserves a much longer look around than I was able to give it. It looks like a really cool place! There are lots of food carts, tons of shops to buy clothes, fruits, vegetables, pottery, pretty much anything you would like, AND it is also one of Thailand’s largest fresh water seafood markets.
Maha Chai’s location is only two kilometers from the Bay of Thailand, nestled adjacent to the banks of the Tha Chin River, which is a distributary of the larger Chao Phraya River that runs through Bangkok. With the city so near these bodies of water, it’s only natural that there would be such a plethora of seafood. I only wish I had done some sampling, but it was just about the time I was salivating over all of that delicious seafood that I met an amazing young man from France, Pierre, and his equally awesome friend from Poland, Bila.
If I remember our chance meeting correctly, it began the same way I have met many of my other friends and acquaintances while traveling…me asking them if they spoke a little English. It really doesn’t matter how we met, the only thing that matters to me now is that we did. I will never forget my extraordinary day with Pierre and Bila! It was, as Bila would say to me later, “one helluva fun day!” I do remember that after we talked a bit, they mentioned they were on their way to catch a train, which led me to believe this was most likely the second train Joy had told me about. This wasn’t just any train, though, Bila would inform me, this was the train that traveled to a place called the “Train Market.” When she told me this, visions of a You Tube video I’d seen in the past started playing in my head. The video I remember watching had a train running right smack in the middle of a market, with the vendors and their stalls of fruits, vegetables, and everything else they were selling, on both sides of the tracks. In addition, for the train to reach the station, the vendors would have to pull up their awnings so the train could pass by. If this was the market they were talking about, I definitely wanted to see it!
The three of us walked together for a bit, talking along the way, and with their help, I learned that I would have to take a ferry across the Tha Chin River if I wanted to continue on to the second train line, and visit the market. Oh those precious little details I’m always forgetting, like Joy probably telling me about the ferry, and me not paying enough attention to her directions! Pierre and Bila were ready to cross the river, but I was still faced with the difficult challenge of making up my mind, did I want to continue with them…or did I want that damn seafood. What a conundrum for me (I am such a seafood lover), seafood, or Train Market, seafood or Train Market. After much debate with myself, I decided I would satiate my desire for seafood now, and try to catch up to them later. I bid them adieu, waved goodbye as they bought their tickets, watched them walk down the ramp, and then board the smallish passenger ferry.
Then, I don’t know why, but I just had this gut feeling…like hey, I AM supposed to go with them! I mean, here are two really cool people I had just met, and I wasn’t ready to take the chance that I might or might not see them again. I really wanted to continue to hang out with them; I wasn’t ready to say goodbye just yet!!! But there was one little problem, I could see the ferry was about ready to depart, so if I was going to go, I better get my butt in gear, get my ticket, and get down that ramp to the ferry! (Here is a link showing both train lines, and the ferry crossing)
I remember hurriedly fumbling around in my pocket for some change, tossing it to the attendant, grabbing my boarding ticket, and running down the ramp with my camera in tow, hoping I could get on before the ferry left the dock. I could see Pierre and Bila smiling when they saw me heading their direction, but my heart sunk as one of the crew members untied the rope and the ferry began to leave. Now, while I contemplated my next move, one of the crew members yelled out to me, “JUMP!”….and I remember thinking to myself, am I nuts, am I really going to jump on to a moving ferry that has already left the dock, with my camera strapped to my neck? The brand new Nikon dSLR I had just bought before I left the states, with the most expensive lens I owned attached to the body, am I really going to do this? What if I don’t make it…oh yeah, sure, the body and lens were insured. Yeah, sure, I could get them replaced, but when would that be, how long would I be without a way to take photographs? I just couldn’t be without a camera for a day, a week, a month, not while touring Thailand and Vietnam. The hell with it, I thought to myself, the ferry isn’t too far away yet…and so I took the plunge (thankfully not into the water!). I clumsily leaped on to the boat, my right hand clenching the shoulder strap of my camera bag with a death grip, as I reached out with my left hand for the brass containment rail near the outer deck of the ship. As my hand made contact with the rail, and my fingers squeezed ever so tightly around it, I cautiously made my way along the outside of the ship to the cheers of all the passengers, and the broad smiles on both Pierre and Bila’s faces. Finally, making my way to the seats inside the ferry, I sat down next to my two new friends, with a grin from ear to ear, while the cheers from the other passengers were still ringing in my ears…what an awesome day, and it was only half over! Stay tuned for Part 2…