Air quality index in the unhealthy range? Fresh air seekers rejoice!
There is a small province just over an hour away from Bangkok where you can forget all about the merciless smoggy air, and see nothing but green orchards and blue skies.
If you like hotels with lots of services and accommodations and English-speaking folks, this isn’t the province for you, but if you’re into home-stays and in the mood to practice your Thai, then you’ve got your pick of all different kinds of them, running around 1000 baht a night. In addition, if you stay the night on one of the area’s many fruit farms like we did, you will hear no traffic or urban noises, just nature sounds. And you will likely be afforded an incredible night sky view full of stars since you’re far away from Bangkok’s light pollution.
Most people drive right through this province on their way to Hua Hin, or just bring the train for the day to see the famous Maeklong railway market and the Amphawa Floating Market. While those are great to see, if escaping Bagnkok’s urban jungle for a bit is what you’re after, I highly recommend a rural homestay like Baan Suan Krua.
In need of a quick and easy getaway, we booked Baan Suan Krua easily via their FB page, and arrived in early afternoon on a Friday (which was a school & work holiday for us – Coronation Day.) It is hot season, but the property felt a little less miserable heat-wise as it is riverside and shady, and the guest rooms have air con. The owners were super sweet and got us settled in right away, offering us cold juice and water right away.
We lazed away the afternoon there and then went exploring at the Amphawa Floating Market. We ate Thai style – wandering around and grabbing whatever looked good from various stalls and totally enjoying the ambience of the market as the sun went down and it really came to life. Some of the goodies we enjoyed were grilled chicken with pepper and pineapple, fried quail eggs, jack fruit, glass noodle soup with ground pork, chrysanthemum tea served in bamboo cups, and fried rice with shrimp and little fish.
At 6:00 sharp, as is Thai custom in most places, everyone respectfully stopped what they were doing while the Thai anthem was played, then the liveliness resumed. You can take boat tours from this floating market, but we opted not to do that this time. Many of the tours are so that you can go see fire flies, but we were pretty sure we’d see them back at Baan Suan Krua, and we did!
The fireflies live in the mangrove trees, and amazingly they blink in unison. There weren’t hundreds there or anything, but there were enough sparkles in and around the trees to look amazing, especially to this California girl who has only seen fireflies a couple other times (when visiting dear hubby’s family on the east coast of America).
It was lovely to wake up at sunrise to a riverside spread of coffee, juice, and toast – to hold us over until the 8:00 breakfast. We enjoyed our slow start to the day, savoring the not-yet-too-hot weather (in hot season like this, the weather is unbearably hot once the sun is very high) and when we took off we were in no hurry, so we just cruised around the fruit farms. We saw orchards of durian, pomelo, lychee, mango, coconut, banana, and more. It is so green and pretty, and many of the houses in this area are lovely teak wood traditional Thai homes like the one where we stayed. We saw some great bike lanes, and some riders, so we know what we’ll bring with us next time!
Before heading back to the urban jungle of Bangkok that is our home, we explored the Don Hoi Lot area – the mudflats where they gather razor clams, mussels, mackerel, and lots more seafood goodies (too bad I am allergic to shell-fish!) There is a market there, too – yet another opportunity to graze on delicious fresh food – calamari, sticky rice, and pomelo were our foods of choice here. We drove back to the main highway passing salt flats along the way, so we stopped to purchase a 2 kilo bag of sea salt for 20 baht (about 75 cents) – we won’t run out of salt for a long time now! Great for exfoliating the skin, as well as flavoring food.
Let’s face it: we could all use a 24 hour break from Bangkok in order to refresh ourselves and our lungs. Our family decided we will try to do just that by zipping over to this area every 6-8 weeks this next school year, so here’s a list of other places we plan to explore in this often-overlooked province. Maybe we’ll see you there!
Bang Plub Organic Fruit Farm and Homestay Cycle through the chemical-free orchards, sample fresh fruits, learn about the region’s organic farmers, and stay overnight on the farm.
Khlong Khon Mangrove Conservation Center Learn more about mangrove forests, participate in replanting them, feed monkeys, and mud-ski (yes, getting muddy while being dragged around on a wooden board through the mud!)
Baan Mai Chai Lane (site needs Google translate) Boating, kayaking and mud clamming in the mangrove forest. This adventure eco-tour looks super fun – they were booked when I called, so we’ll have to catch it another time.