Thailand’s smallest province, Samut Songkhram, is located 50 miles to the south-west of Bangkok. The province is known locally as Maeklong and is probably best-known to most tourists as the location of the popular Amphawa Floating Market and the photogenic Maeklong Railway Market. Both these markets can be visited on a day trip from Bangkok, but to really soak up the local culture try to stay overnight at a homestay in the village of Ban Bang Phlap. Enjoy village hospitality, learn how to make local delicacies, and experience the traditional way of life.
Relax in Ban Bang Phlap
Ban Bang Phlap is a traditional farming community where villagers go to bed early and wake up early. It’s a very different environment to nearby Bangkok and this is one of the reasons that make this community such a rewarding place to visit. The slower pace of life in the village is a real contrast to the Thai capital and provides visitors with a chance to experience another aspect of Thai culture and a more traditional way of life. Unwind in the Thai countryside and ease into the slow life as you cycle along country lanes and walk through fruit orchards.
The community at Ban Bang Phlap has embraced the concept of the ‘sufficiency economy’, an idea that was developed by King Rama IX as a model of sustainable development. With the support of the villagers, farmers at Ban Bang Phlap have championed organic agriculture. Not only is this good for the environment, but it also helps to keep production costs down. The Ban Bang Phlap community has won awards for their conservation work and the village is regarded as a centre of excellence for responsible tourism.
Learn from the local masters
Ban Bang Phlap is one of a select number of communities across the country that has been chosen to take part in the Thailand Village Academy project. The project encourages responsible tourism and is aimed at younger visitors to Thailand. The idea is to connect travellers with local experiences. And by doing this it also encourages the local communities to preserve the lifestyle and traditions of the village. These communities are at the heart of Thai life and play a key role in preserving the old traditions that help make Thailand such an amazing destination to visit.
Ban Bang Phlap has appointed a number of ‘local masters’ to preserve the old traditions and pass on their knowledge. These leading members of the community will be able to show you how to cook local speciality dishes such as ‘kanom ray rai‘; rice flour dumplings made with coconut milk, sugar and sesame. You can also learn how to plant mangroves and why this is so important for the local environment. Or try your hand at making traditional Thai kites or palm hats. These are all fun and educational activities that can make a great addition to a family holiday in Thailand.
Ban Bang Phlap is well-known in Thailand as one of the premier locations in the country that produces organic pomelo. This large citrus fruit, known as ‘som-oh’ in Thai, resembles a grapefruit but with a sweeter, less bitter taste. Other fruits grown locally that you should try if you visit Ban Bang Phlap include coconut, lychee, mango, and rose apple. The fruits are so popular that villagers have adapted a technique that preserves them so they can be sold in packets as handy snacks. This also provides a valuable source of extra income for the local farmers and the community.
The coastal province of Samut Songkhram is famous for salt production with numerous salt farms dotted around the region. One of the by-products of the salt production is a potassium-rich nutrient which is used as a natural fertiliser for the Ban Bang Phlap pomelos giving them an extra sweetness that other varieties don’t have.
Samut Songkhram is home to a number of tourist attractions with the most popular being the Amphawa Floating Market. The market is open Friday to Sunday and is only a couple of miles away from Ban Bang Phlap. Visit the market during the day and take an evening boat cruise to watch nature’s free light display courtesy of the fireflies who thrive here. If you’d like to experience a quieter market with more of a local atmosphere, head to the nearby Tha Kha Floating Market. And talking of markets, a trip to the Maeklong Railway Market, known in Thai as ‘Talat Lom Hup‘ is the epitome of ‘Amazing Thailand’.
If you’re staying in Samut Songkhram, make time too for the picturesque grounds and traditional buildings at King Rama II Memorial Park. Another attraction not to be missed is the historic temple of Wat Bang Kung. The temple dates back to the Ayutthaya period of Thai history, but it is the work of nature that makes this such a memorable location. Over the centuries, the roots of a banyan tree have grown around the temple making it an incredible sight.
How to get to Ban Bang Phlap
If you’d like to stay overnight at Ban Bang Phlap, you can contact the community directly via their Facebook page. Alternatively, you may find it more convenient to arrange a tour via a company who specialise in community based tourism:
Take Me Tour
Thailand Village Academy
If you want to make your own way to Ban Bang Phlap, the easiest way is to take a taxi from your hotel in Bangkok. Buses from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal do go to Samut Songkhram, but don’t stop near the village. Look for a bus heading to Amphawa and take a songthaew/tuk-tuk from there to the village.
It’s possible to travel by train from Bangkok, but the service isn’t direct. Local trains run from Bangkok’s Wongwian Yai station to Mahachai station. You then need to walk a few minutes to the pier and make a short hop across the river by ferry. Once across the river it’s a five minute walk to Ban Laem station to catch the train for the onward journey to Maeklong station. On arrival at Maeklong, take local transport to Ban Bang Phlap.
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