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23.09.2020 Amphava and Samut Songkram film memories
The floating market of Amphava in Samut Songkhram province not far from Bangkok saw the boom in the early 2000s after it won the Unesco Asia–Pacific Heritage Awards in 2008. Once a local community with wooden houses and a quiet market area, the town was flooded with visitors from different parts of Thailand. The charm has been the 'home-stay' experience of staying at the same house as the owner, geting pick up to see the fireflies along the canal (if one wishes to participate) and the morning ritual of giving alms to the monks who are passing along by boats. Flash forward years later, Amphava has since been featured in travel documentaries, Chinese TV series leading to the interest by overseas tourists.
Apart from the touristic vibe, the area near the floating market of Bang Khon Tee was featured in a niche gay love story called Timeline (2013), which was much loved by its fans. Our trip visited Bang Orn homestay which is the main set of the film. The caretaker was so very kind in showing us around and sharing the multiple histories of the location, starting as a heritage house comissioned as a gift to the local trademan by the king Rama 7. The house has since been passed on to Bang Orn who is the current owner who started the accommodation for visitors after she retired at the time of the homestay travel boom.
A place of quiet retreat, the place has no internet and the caretaker does not use the computer or watch the film. Yet, she remembers so fondly of many guests including the small film crew who came and stay a couple of times. I was really moved by a fan repeat visits to this site and the story he shared online about his trips. This kind of location is very niche and what remains after the film was released is the memory recalled by different people on different occasions. In 2020, one of the main actors passed away and the film was being revisited with the film title as a hashtag to express condolences.
Apart from the location, other sites we visited include the floating market itself which now has many Chinese signs along with English and Thai. Covid-19 has really impacted the market which now opens only Friday and the weekend. On weekday, there are a few shops open with several boatmen trying to invite potential tourists for a trip to see the fireflies.
The province itself with many canals leading to the sea also has memories of transnational cultural exchanges. There is a prominent Catholic Church 'Cathedral of the Nativity of Our Lady' built in 1890 which is now part of a school ground and stands prominently different than anything near it.
We also visited the Mae Klong railway 'umbrella' market which has been featured in many travel programmes due to the spectacle of the market being folded away from the railway track just before the train passes by. The same province also has the monument of In-Chan Siamese twins who were born in the area. Although the park surrounding the statute has not been well-kept, it is generous in the scale of space and provides interesting details of various parts of the twins life stories. When considering the layers of transcultural memories and film and media representations, this small province has much to offer.