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    « A Beach Week-End: Hua Hin, Thailand | Main | USA Road Trip: Grand Canyon (North Rim) »

    Samut Songkhran & Amphawa Village - A Good Day Out and About in Thailand

    Up and out the door at 4:30am to catch the sun rise over the salt pans of Samut Songkhran with a couple of buddies . . . and for a day of photography.
    Roadside salt sales before sunset.

    A workman is a blur in first light.


    At 5:45am the ambient temperature was already 89f . .  with a heat index of 105f!

    Early morning salt pan.  The salt is raked up into cones by one crew, and picked up and hauled by wheelbarrow to a large pile near the highway for transportation.

    The salt workers were working hard at first light to get as much done before the blistering heat to come.

    Scooping heavy, damp salt.

    Loading the wheelbarrow for another trip to the highway.

    Another load full to wheel out . . .

     . . . and then back again in an endless loop of scoop, haul, return, scoop . . .

    Marvelous patterns of salt cones in the morning magic hour light.

    A kindly looking salt worker on a hammock.

    Obey. Indeed.
    Meanwhile, in another salt pan down the road . . .

    After an hour at the sunrise pans, we drove a kilometer up the road and found a big crew out in a damp pan raking the salt into the cones.  Hard work in the morning sun.

    Hard at work while standing in supersaturated salt water.

    Such a photogenic scene . . . especially when the salt workers pose for you!!!

    Windmills, salt, humanity, reflections . . .

    Having a chat while working . . . 

    The salt workers seemed to know each other well . . . it's more enjoyable to work while sharing a joke with your friends.

    Home made crude scrapers for piling the salt into cones.

    Moving  and placing heavy planks for the wheelbarrows that will come to remove the salt from the pans.

    Protection from the sun . . . .

    Extreme sun protection . . . it must be very hot under that hood in this oppressive heat and humidity.

    The is much to see in the area, so we moved on . . .

    Rural roads are few and far between - valuable land is not used up for roads.  As such, the roads that do exist serve for arterials for power, phone, and water.  This is Thai local highway 2001.

    In the next salt pan, baskets were used to collect a special salt from the surface.

    Ongoing salt harvesting.

    I love these amazing contraptions . . . used to flatten the pans after the salt has been removed.

    This is a rare (and valuable) form of flake salt favored by chefs . . . it floats on top of the supersaturated pans and is harvested in baskets (above).

    A beautiful Chinese-style Buddhist temple reflected in the salt pans.

    Light and flakey salt -- very valuable and sought after.

    Directly across from the flake salt gathering was the Buddhist Wat I came to see after 5 years . . . . Wat Lat Yai with the Buddha colossus. 

    I had such wonderful memories of the spirituality of this Wat when I last visited.  There are always interesting and unexpected things to see in a Wat.  Some of what you see are what the monks themselves have arranged (like this small altar), but most of what is seen in a Wat are the results of what the big, rich donors want there to be.
    The surviving old monk quarters.  I am always amazed to see a satellite dish in a Buddhist temple . . . 

    Always beautiful flowers to be seen in a Wat.

    Wat Lat Yai has some of the strangest 'grottos' I have ever seen.  From the outside they are just plain weird . . .

    What exactly is going on here?  Remember, these things are placed in temples by the doners, not by the monks, who renounce material things.  But still . . . .

    Although the outside of this man-made grotto was a little strange, the inside was magic.

    The banana leaf origami on this altar piece was stunningly beautiful.  I felt a little like Indiana Jones discovering a lost tomb or ancient temple never seen before.  These are Hindu religious items revered in Thailand along side The Buddha.

    Remarkable fine detailing.

    Even the cobwebs seem to belong; adding to the spiritual power of this votive object.

    Bikkus, listeners of the Buddha teaching the dharma.

    Another Hindu reference . . . a four face sadhu.

    Sadhu and Buddha images in the grotto.  I loved being in that space . . .

    There were also a series of enclave altars around the outside and back of the grotto structure.

    These are living altars.  As can be seen, people bring offerings, usually wishing or hoping for good luck.  Notice that someone has left the address plate from their house on the altar . . .

    Slung here and there, votive charms festoon the temple trees.

    The reason I wanted to return to this Wat and bring friends, was because there used to be a tropical pine grove with old Buddha images in it . . . covered in pine needles.  The pine forest is gone: slashed because they did not fit the plan of a doner with a new vision for this temple.  The old Buddhas were still there, but looking like they have been 'mothballed' . . .

    These old, and seemingly discarded, Buddha images seemed to me to be highly spiritual reminders of the project that the Buddha called us to try.

    It seems like someone has taken a scraper to clean some of the moss of of this Buddha image.

    Still bright and shiny . . . an overgrown mirror chedi.

    By this time of the morning (9:00am) it was already devilishly hot: well over 40c.  We went inside to the shaded hall where two nice old ladies (helpers) brought us bottled water.  The hall seemed temporary, perhaps being used until some other structure was being built.

    The altar was crowded with Buddha images.  Fascinating.

    There seemed to be many more Hindu symbols in this Wat than others I have visited. I want a hat like this!

    "What, me worry?"  Supreme detachment.  We left the Wat and headed back to the highway where we saw a sign pointing to small road and the name of another Wat . . .

    A short drive up a small rural road in search of another Buddhist temple to explore.  We didn't find the temple, but we did find this wonderful village built on a canal not far from where it emptied into the Gulf of Thailand.

    I love these canal side fishing villages . . . they are so picturesque . . . and visually complex.

    Too hot to do anything other than to sit around with your friends and family and mend nets . . . unless you are a falang photographer, that is!

    I'm not sure what the make of this V-2 long-tail boat engine is, but it was a beautiful scene.

    There was a lovely roadside fish market just outside the hamlet.

    Many different kinds, sizes, and colors of fish . . . all inviting visual exploration.

    These small 'smelt' are very tasty when deep fat fried.  One of my favorites.

    Delicious-looking baby squid.  My favorite.

    Good looking fish.

    The drying fish are meant to be used in soups and curries.

    But, of course, the most visually interesting fish were the baskets with their intricately patterned fish on display.
    While I was photographing these fish baskets, I was thinking that these would print and frame very beautifully as a set.

    Perhaps I should come back here with a big tripod and reflectors for more professional, and better framed, shots . . .

    I took many, many photos of these beautiful fish baskets, but only post a few here.

    We asked one of the fish hawkers how to get to the seashore and they pointed to a small road.  We passed this woman busily building a boat on the roadside in tremendous heat and humidity.

    The small dirt road dumped us out at the foot of these mud flats . . . crawling with small crabs.  These are the mud flats famous for a particular type of small clam that the Thais absolutely love to eat.  

    The elaborate bamboo barrier works extended for miles and miles along these mud flats . . . and off into the horizon of the Gulf of Thailand.

    At a point of a small canal entering the mud flats there were many kinds of barrier works.

    A workman out doing maintenance on the bamboo works.

    Fresh cut bamboo was being unloaded and made into rafts to bring out into the sea.  This was a huge project . . .

    A Samut bamboo wrangler.

    AMPHAWA FLOATING VILLAGE
    Our next stop was at the village of Amphawa, a floating market.  Too much tourism has changed the feeling of this place since I last visited it nearly 20 years ago.  It is still very charming . . . and visually interesting.

    There are many very nice, upscale coffee shops and nice restaurants . . . a big change from an authentic fishing and market village.
     
    With the ambient temperature above 105(f) with high humidity, it was little wonder there were few people out and about.

    The repeating patterns of the klong access steps made for a fascinating study.

    Life along the canal (klong)  . . .

    Swimming to beat the heat?  No . . . fishing for bottom feeders with a long-handled net.

    With few tourists around, and crushing heat, the boat vendors sat in quiet repose . . . waiting for a sale.

    When the  canal is full of tourists in their small boats, these floating restaurants serve the water traffic.

    This was the only tourist boat we say all afternoon . . . and they looked HOT!

    In some respects, this might be the best time of year to visit Amphawa . . . the rest of the year it is overcrowded with tourists.  They had the place to themselves.

    Standing on a bridge over the canal . .  and a view one way . . . and . . .

     . . . the view in the other direction toward a Buddhist temple (wat).

    A tourist boat cruising for a fare . . . unsuccessfully.

    That looks inviting.  We went over to this marvelous Old Thai style coffee house for some ice coffee and cold water.

    Such a beautiful place to rest, replenish, hydrate, and sit in front of some fans.

    Old Thai style wood panels are so beautiful.

    After a break we walked along he wooden boardwalks and secretly peaked into the houses.  Such serene stillness in the oppressive heat and humidity.

    We took our time meandering along the shops . . . and this nice museum of the history of canal life.

    A spinning windmill behind the museum.

    Antique canoes stacked along side the museum.

    Even as hot as it was, the propeller still needed repairing.

    The tourist boas were beautifully decorated . . . in hopes of attracting business . . . which never came on this scorching day.

    The ladies in their food stall boats congregated to swat flies and swap lies, as they say.  Not much else to do.

    Back over the bridge toward the car.  The hot day nearly over . . . the car air-conditioner is calling.

    My friend John always on the look out for an amazing image.

    We descended down into the sea of sun parasols and the tourist curios.

    Our last act was to buy a 'croc-on-a-stick' brochet . . . Yes, it did taste like chicken, which makes a kind of sense since crocodiles are actually surviving dinosaurs . . . and birds are dinosaur descendants.  We worried all the way back home that we could have eaten 'bad crocodile' . . . . but we were fine . . . no intestinal turmoil after all.  

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