Travel by canal boat, Bangkok
Venice, it is not. Gondolas, they are not. Scenic imagery and romantic subtext, it doesn’t even come close. Welcome to the canals of Bangkok.
For anyone who has been to Bangkok, you’ll know how bad the traffic can be.
For anyone who hasn’t, imagine a carpark. Then imagine a few tuk tuks in that carpark. Then imagine everyone is honking their horns. That is what Bangkok traffic can be like.
So, one of the quickest and cheapest ways to get around the city is on the canal boats. And the best thing is that most tourists don’t know about them (or are too scared of them) and so you also get a quite unique experience, as a foreigner.
If the streets of Bangkok are the clogged arteries of the city, then these canals are the small veins that give life to places you didn’t even know existed (I’ll now accept my Pulitzer for most ridiculous metaphor, thank you very much).
For the route along the canals lets you see right into the houses, the apartments and the slums of Bangkok residents.
Washing hung out on the railings, underwear which the owner would never normally expose to the public; piles of rubbish that on closer inspection are carefully-scavenged collections; and apartment entrances that, despite what we might think, are probably doors to happy and loving families.
This is the view for the canal boat passengers… and Venice, it is not.
I got on one of the boats in the early afternoon and it was full of Thais travelling across the city. It is like any major public transport corridor – busy and effective.
People casually jump on and off at each pier.
As the splash comes up from the water, they pull up a plastic sheet on the site of the boat as protection.
A ticket collector walks up and down the side of the boat, taking the payments.
Speaking of payments, this is also a very economical way. From the popular backpacker area of Khao San Road, the closest canal stop is about a ten minute walk.
You can then go on the boat to the main shopping district for 9 baht. That’s about thirty cents.
If you’re ever in Bangkok, this is something I would highly recommend for both the convenience and the experience.
Don’t be scared – the boat operators are friendly and will explain how the payment system works (you basically just throw a few coins at them) and will help you know when it’s your stop (they’ll basically just shout and point at you).
The locals will probably also enjoy having you on there because it’s a bit of a novelty.
The guy I was sitting next to thought it was hilarious that I wanted to take photos of the trip… but then I’d probably think it was funny if someone was taking photos on the 380 in Sydney.
Welcome to the canals of Bangkok.