The tour to Bhutan originated in Bangkok, where nearly all tours of Bhutan begin. Every visitor must arrive with a tour guide and certificates for visas to enter the country. Adding a couple of extra days in Bangkok prior to the tour allowed just enough time to visit some sites I had not seen on my prior visit to Bangkok and to recover from jet lag.
The Novotel Bangkok Hotel would serve as our home base before leaving for our tour to the Railroad Market, the Amphawa Floating Market, and the fireflies. We were picked up by the tour company at the Novotel at no extra charge, even though it is several miles out of the city. NOTE: I decided to stay here since the Bhutan group was to originate here – otherwise, I recommend staying closer to the major sites in Bangkok. The drive to Amphawa goes through the countryside, with many windmills used to pump sea water into salt-drying beds.
Railroad Market: The locals have their wares displayed alongside AND ON the railroad tracks. Trains pass 4 times a day in each direction, so the vendors have to pack up and move away, then come out again when the trains have passed! The trains are rarely on time, making the changes a bit more exciting.
Floating market: The Amphawa market is open only late afternoon and evening on weekends; it caters primarily to locals and visiting Thailanders, with relatively few foreign nationals. There was a large crowd there, however—with many eating an early dinner at one of the dozens of eateries on boats, the river banks or inside restaurants. The market is primarily food—“groceries” as well as the food to eat on site. We did not try the food because of potential stomach issues. Our guide said that most of it was perfectly safe.
Fireflies: After dark, we took a “long boat” (a fairly large boat with a car-type engine and a propeller and shaft driven by it) for a ride on the river searching for fireflies. They were in mating season, with congregations of them in a small percentage of the trees (the ones where the females gathered) along the river. They looked like white Christmas lights!
Back at the Novotel for dinner, we had delicious Phat Thai (or Pàt tai) that looked MUCH better than the examples we had seen along the river! It was excellent! Elizabeth
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