Rarely visited by foreign tourists and yet within easy reach of Bangkok, the tiny estuarine province of Samut Songkhram is nourished by the Mae Khlong River as it meanders through on the last leg of its route to the Gulf. Fishing is an important industry round here, and big wooden boats are still built in riverside yards near the estuary; further inland, fruit is the main source of income, particularly pomelos, lychees, guavas and coconuts. But for visitors it is the network of three hundred canals woven around the river, and the traditional way of life the waterways still support, that makes a stay of a few days or more appealing. As well as some of the most interesting floating markets in Thailand – notably at Amphawa and Tha Ka – there are chances to witness traditional cottage industries such as palm-sugar production and bencharong ceramic-painting, plus more than a hundred historic temples to admire, a number of them dating back to the reign of Rama II, who was born in the province. The other famous sons of the region are Eng and Chang, the “original” Siamese twins, who grew up in the province (see Eng and Chang, the Siamese twins).

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