Homestaying experience doesn't get any better if you're looking for a quick night out of Bangkok
If you are looking for somewhere to unwind from the pressures of city life, Bang Nam Phueng Homestay nestled in a farming community in Phra Pradaeng district of Samut Prakan, only a short drive from Bangkok, could just be the place for you.
Ten families there have opened up their homes to visitors. Its cosy environ and natural setting welcome visitors to come and experience their simple, traditional lifestyle.
Every weekend the community boasts a floating market reputed for its relaxed atmosphere and a multitude of mouth-watering local delicacies, desserts and Otop handicrafts native to the province.
We arrived to a warm welcome from our homestay host, aunty Mali Phunsawad, who lives in a traditional Thai house almost a century old. Wearing flip-flops, she seemed ready to take us on tour from the moment she met up with us at a car park.
She began by briefing us about changes the community had gone through in the last couple of years. It included the addition of an air-conditioned rest area for elderly people complete with a gym, thanks to the Bang Nam Phueng municipality, and it is open to all free of charge. It is a convenient place where the elderly or handicapped people can relax. For the latter category of visitors there also are special ramps and toilets, while wheelchairs are available on request.
The local Phra Pradaeng Home for the Disabled has a booth selling handicrafts at the market.
The homestay service attracts people from all walks of life, mostly students and teachers, a majority of them repeat visitors arriving for nature study and to learn about eco-tourism. Popular activities available to them include bird watching, boating and cycling, walking tours of fruit and vegetable farms.
Visitors can bicycle along mangrove forest or by the Chao Phraya River and the canals it feeds, or try their hands making herbal incense sticks and, if tired, go for traditional massage.
After a sumptuous lunch, we rented a boat to capture the tranquil ambience of this riverside community. A patchwork of brick and traditional wooden homes lined the banks, they stood out against the backdrop of dense vegetation.
Later we toured the community on foot which was enlightening. We learned that most families grow organic produce, while old folks seemed eager to share local know-how with us.
If you are visiting weekdays, there is a good chance you will observe women folks and elderly men using their free time making products they would later sell in the market. We saw them make chili paste and admired their skill at making flower decorations using fish scales.
There we met Parichat Chotikot, 42, deaf since birth. She was busy creating small bouquets of flowers from lemongrass, a trade she spent six months learning from aunty Mali, herself a retired teacher. Today Parichat is financially secure, earning just enough on weekends to support herself.
Following a path of self-sufficiency, Bang Nam Phueng residents put local wisdom to good use. Most food products they sell on weekends originate in their farms and vegetable gardens.
Since opening their doors to visitors four years ago, they have become conscious about environmental conservation. Waste generated by the community is recycled for future use. It often ends up in the form of wooden, plastic and metal toys or decoration items which they sell at the floating market.
Homestaying guests can join in the conservation efforts by complying with norms such as turning off the light or electricity when leaving their rooms, even if it is only for a short while.
Bang Nam Phueng charges a flat rate of 350 baht per night per head which includes breakfast, dinner and alms-offering to monks. For bookings, call Khun Arporn at 089-807-2501 or Khun Mali at 081-347-3997.
Review with pictures: http://www.bangkokpost.com/travel/localtrips/211542/bang-nam-phueng