Folding umbrellas

It only happens three times a day and it was a totally unexpected spectacle when it did today.

Just when you think a country can't surprise you anymore, it does.  Back in Thailand much sooner than I ever expected, I was lucky enough to go exploring with some local Thai friends and it's amazing what else is out there when you have some local know-how.

A couple of hours drive from Bangkok by van brought us to the tiny, riverside train station of Banlaem where we boarded a little old train and travelled slowly and very closely alongside seaside prawn farms and mangroves before arriving at Maeklong Station market (the Folding Umbrella Market).

My friends had told me we were going to see a local market, but they didn't tell me about the umbrellas.  Well, they're not really umbrellas, more like folding market awnings and fold they do, three times a day.  Because the train goes right through the middle of the markets  - really, really, really closely.  When I stuck my head outside the train window, I could almost reach out and grab things from the stalls.  Three times a day, the market stall owners pack up, move their wares back a metre, fold up their 'umbrellas' and wait for the train to pass.  Then the umbrellas get unfolded and it all goes back again, like nothing had ever happened.

Apart from being a great local market, it is a nirvana for true food lovers (well, it would be if I was an actual foodie, not just a photographer of foodie things) and it was fun wandering around between bowls of frogs, the freshest of fruit, an abundance of sugar-laden treats, every possible type of seafood, flowers, sock & jocks.  There was no such thing as a cup of coffee and a biscuit today - morning tea was a bowl of noodles with fish lung, quail egg, chicken blood and bamboo shoots.  I repeat, not a foodie - it was out of my stomach's comfort zone, but I went there anywhere.

I admit it Thailand, you managed to surprise and delight me.