As I dropped into our seat on the long-tailed motorboat I looked around to see the orchestration of tourists. We were in the first of many mini-buses filled with site-seers arriving to explore the “traditional,” “authentic” floating market. Yes, I thought to myself, we’re about to see a lot stuff.
And by stuff I mean the hoards and hoards of repetitive handicrafts and trinkets and fabrics and tourist goods, many of which have been Made in China, made available at these places. Lindsay and I came to see paddle boats filled with locals buying fresh fruits and vegetables, but if our drive to the water, and our earlier walks were any indication of what was to come down the canal, we were in for the material onslaught of souvenirs.
The ninety-minute drive away from Bangkok to the market area was lined with warehouses and storefronts selling wooden benches, pre-fabricated houses on stilts, boats in the shapes of ducks, water towers and tanks, giant rooster gargoyles, political campaign posters for the upcoming election, and rows upon rows of street bikes and car tires. While walking in Bangkok we were privy to outdoor markets selling gems and jewelry, knock-off sunglasses and religious tokens, and the same stuff over and over and over.
Where does all this stuff come from? Why, no, how is there so much stuff in the world? We saw it in Agua Calientes near Manchu Pichu and in Oaxaca and Guatemala in our trips there. And we of course don’t escape it in our malls of America. Maybe it’s because I’ve made the mistake of reading Ed Abbey’s “Hayduke Lives” in our down time, which rallies against “growth and more growth” as a way of building and human development, but I can’t help but ponder these questions. I know the money helps put food on the table and clothing on people’s backs, (barely) . . . And yet, is this the economy we want to assist in building for the world?
Sure enough, as we turned a sharp corner into the Damnoensaduak Market, we were greeted by locals selling stuff. Yes, some paddle boats sold coconuts, a tourist favorite to sip on (I bought one myself, but for research purposes only), and mangosteens and freshly cooked food, but the vast amount of floating storefronts were filled with all the keepsakes we look forward to bringing home to our families (fear not, we’ll find the stuff made locally).