mphawa is a quaint little town, located approximately 80 kilometres southwest of Bangkok, in Samut Songkram province. This water-based community lies along the Amphawa canal, only 18 kilometres from the estuary of the Maeklong river. It is rich in terms of cultural heritage, traditional architecture, culinary arts and ancestral ways of life related to water.
One of the most famous attractions in this area is the Amphawa Floating Market with its beautiful wooden houses along both sides of the canal. In 2008, this community received the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation. The restoration of this traditional area was a successful cooperation between cofunding local Thai and Danish governments, together with the active support of the local residents, homeowners and the guidance of Chulalongkorn University.
Sunset over Amphawa Floating Market is a beautiful moment, not to be missed. The market comes alive every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from 2pm to 10 pm. There are enjoyable walks along both sides of the canal, providing an opportunity to sample delicious sea foods, local noodles, Thai desserts, O-liang (iced black coffee), fruits and so many other specialties. When the sun goes down, standing on one of the many bridges allows you to witness a myriad of colour in the skies over the canal.
Other activities at Amphawa Floating Market include shopping, foot massage boat tours and numerous others. During day time, boat trips show you the peaceful lifestyle along Amphawa canals as you pass traditional Thai houses along the banks of the canal. At night time, boat trips take you on an expedition to watch fireflies in cork trees. And there are even boat trips featuring on board foot massage on board!
The area surrounding Amphawa, naturally rich in delicious seafood, succulent fruits and fresh vegetables, is renowned for its mackerel and coconut palm sugar. Another of Amphawa’s specialities is “Guay Tiew Ruea” or Boat Noodles Soup, this dish can be ordered both in restaurants along the canal or from boat vendors, cooking on their boat. Boat Noodles Soup refers to noodles with beef or pork in a thick brown broth which contains cinnamon, star anise and beef or pork blood. Normally the portion of boat noodles is small and you can probably finish the bowl in about 2-3 bites, it cost an average of THB 40.
When evening falls, just walk in one of the many charming old style wooden restaurants, order a cold beer and listen to live country music. As Amphawa Floating Market is also home to the cutest home stays in the area, you can spend the night there: experience life along the canal for one night or more, sleep in one of the many traditional wooden houses and, the next morning, wake up early and join house owners in offering alms along the river: this tradition has been practiced for hundreds of years by the people living along Maeklong river, which nowadays can still be witnessed at Amphawa.
Surrounding Amphawa Market are also various interesting places to visit, and this trip might take you a few days. The first and very unique “Must See”, also known as an “Unseen Thailand place” is Wat Bang Kung: a temple hidden within the roots of a Banyan tree. This very iconic temple dates back to the Ayutthaya period and, aside from the golden Buddha image it houses, it is quite simple in design. The remarkably majestic banyan trees are the crowning glory of the site, dominating the temple and shading much of the landscape, a landscape that served as a battleground for Siamese and Burmese warriors in the 18th century. Today, the temple and nearby area are preserved as a memorial to those heroic warriors of the past.
The second temple not to be missed is Chulamanee Temple. This temple sits on the canal-side where the Amphawa canal converges with the Phi Lok canal, it houses many different buildings and can be reached both by car or by boat from Amphawa
Market. Chulamanee temple was built in the Ayutthaya period during the late reign of King Prasatthong. The back of the temple once contained the residence of KhunNak (or Queen Ammarinthramat of King Rama I) and KhunBunrot (Queen Si Suriyenthramat of King Rama II). Today, this wooden building can be visited. It is a superb sample of traditional Thai architecture, and inside, showcases the finest wall paintings made with gold leaf, as well
as ancient musical instruments and masks which were used during the Ayuthaya period. Another highlight of this temple is the marble octagonshaped chapel. The chapel is 40 meters wide and 80 meters high with green jade stone from Karachi Pakistan. Beautiful mural paintings, relating Buddhist history, are the work of painter Nittaya Sakcharoen which took him six years to complete.
King Rama II Memorial Park is another interesting place to visit: the colorful botanical garden features four unique traditional Thai architecture buildings and a museum dedicated to King Rama II period, showcasing ancient art objects dating back to Rattanakosin era.
Surprisingly, there is also one of Thailand’s most beautiful Gothic churches on the riverbank of Mae Khlong river, named The Nativity of Our Lady Cathedral. It was built in 1890, suffered some damage during World War II but was repaired shortly after.
Other places of interest around Amphawa Floating Market include the Mae Klong Railway Market (article coming up soon), a Thai desserts museum, a Siamese cat museum, and a museum dedicated to local musician Khru Eueh, famous throughout Thailand for his violin music.
As you can see, a trip to Amphawa area can take from one day to one week. For those in search of tradition, culture and delicious cuisine, it is a region that is definitely worth getting to know.