A peaceful river-and-canal lifestyle, unique floating markets and historic temples have made Amphawa, in nearby Samut Songkhram Province, every Bangkokian’s favourite day-trip or weekend escape. Until recently places to spend the night leapt from rustic homestays to a handful of posh hotels, with little in between. Asita Eco Resort adds a new dimension to the local offerings with a laidback collection of 20 villas plus a three-room house set back from the banks of the Mae Klong River.
The brainchild of Asita Vimolchaichit, former marketing director at Novotel on Siam Square, the resort architectures makes abundant use of wood, stone, terracotta, thatched roofing and other eco-friendly materials. An intimate, natural-appearing canal and pond system, backed by a large grove of coastal pines, contributes a sense of calm. The spacious, pleasantly landscaped grounds also boasts a salt-water swimming pool.
Asita’s helpful staff can arrange boat tours to experience the many local sights. On weekend mornings and certain other special days (depending on lunar phases), palmfringed canals lead to Tha Kha Floating Market, where elderly ladies in lampshade-style hats paddle wooden boats laden with flowers, fruit and noodle soups.
Near the junction of Amphawa Canal and Phi Lok Canal stands ancient Wat Chulamani, the most venerated Buddhist temple in the area. A stately semi-open-air chapel in the small complex displays a number of artefacts chronicling religious life in Amphawa since the Ayutthaya era.
Another temple worth checking out is Wat Bang Kung, often called ‘Banyan Tree Temple’, where a small ordination chapel is entirely encased within the branches and roots of a massive banyan tree. The chapel contains a highly revered bronze seated Buddha.
First-time visitors to Amphawa usually pay a visit tothe much-photographed Railway Market, a collection of vendors who set up their stalls on active railway tracks running between Bangkok and Samut Songkhram to sell fresh seafood, fresh produce, herbs and spices. When a train approaches, the vendors deftly shift their stools, tarps and umbrellas away from the rails, leaving just enough room for the train to squeeze through. Once the train has passed, the market quickly re-assembles.
At nightfall, continue further up Amphawa Canal to glimpse the nightly lightshow performed by millions of fireflies cavorting in the trees along the canal banks. Further on is Amphawa Canal Market, an extensive complex of wooden shophouses lining both sides of the canal, the descendant of a market which flourished as early as the 17th-century reign of King Prasat Thong. Over a hundred traditional wooden shops, most dating to the early 20th century, flank wooden walkways on each side of the canal, linked by quaint pedestrian bridges. Vendors sell everything from spicy fresh clams to souvenir T-shirts and thick Thai-style coffee or tea sweetened with condensed milk. As at Tha Kha, wooden rowboats move along the water below, offering local sugar-palm sweets, handicrafts and one-dish meals. The Amphawa Canal Market is open only on weekends, beginning around 3pm but reaching peak attendance after dark when the walkways are thronged with visitors.
Asita Eco Resort’s world-class resident chef takes excellent advantage of abundant fresh seafood acquired directly from the local fishing fleet in the Mae Klong River (which feeds into the nearby Gulf of Thailand). A riverside table at Asita, piled with steamed clams, grilled prawns and baked fish, is a perfect way to end the day.
Villas and rooms at Asita Eco Resort start at B3000 a night on weekdays, B3750 on weekends. A special Loy Krathong Festival rate of B2500, inclusive of buffet breakfast for two, boat trip to view fireflies, Amphawa Floating Market and other local sights, and a riverside launching of krathong is available on November 6 only.
Asita Eco Resort
3/3 Taihard, Samut Songkhram | 08 9866 2168 asitaresort.com