If you were to think of what is the best way to travel around Bangkok your first thought probably wouldn’t be ‘canals’ but I suggest you think again…
Canals…a word that either makes your heart leap with excitement like a salmon jumping on a trampoline or one that makes you more sleepy than an elk in slippers? (I don’t know how I come up with such stupid sayings!)
I’ve never been a water person or travelled much by boat but having travelled along a canal in Bangkok I am willing to reconsider this. You will see some bits of floating rubbish at certain places but having recently travelled by boat around the canals of Bangkok I don’t know why on earth more people don’t do it? (Well, because it’s a slower way to get to travel, but you know what I mean)
Also, travelling by boat creates a breeze and a breeze means – no sweating! Regular readers to my blog will know how much the promise of doing something that doesn’t involve sweating is a big deal to me. So the promise of a cool breeze is one more reason why travelling by boat is the best way to travel around Bangkok.
But First, Lunch!
There are many spots around Bangkok where you can take long-tail boat rides around the canals, the canal I cruised on is called Khlong Chak Phra which is in an area called Taling Chan which apparently is home to a well known floating market. When I arrived I didn’t see too many boats selling goods but I did find a place selling food…
He doesn’t look too pleased with his predicament but he tasted lovely – I don’t know for sure but my guess was he was swimming around only the day before.
One thing I have learnt very quickly in Thailand is that you can never judge the standard of food based on our western view of whether an eating establishment looks good or not. Sure, the fancy places will give you nice food but places like this are cheap and the food is absolutely gorgeous! In London, I would expect to pay maybe £15-£20 for a fish like the one I ate in a restaurant but here it cost me…£1.20.
It also feels like a more authentic experience, seeing this kind of place, full of the local Thai people, gives the sense of being off the main tourist path. There’s nothing wrong with seeing Thailand that way, I’ve done it myself at times, but this way has to be experienced (especially as I am living here!)
As I mentioned it was a bit of a shame I didn’t see more boats at the market but I’d come for the canal trip, so I wasn’t too disappointed.
A private boat tour of the canal cost 1,000 baht which is really good value in my book. You can get a much cheaper fare if you share a boat with other people but for the serenity that this trip brings you, it is worth going private. Once I had very carefully stepped onto the boat, (brief flashes of being incredibly British and falling comically into the canal flashed through my mind!), I was off and away! I think it’s fair to say that within 30 seconds I was completely in love with travelling along the canal…I had already decided that this was indeed the best way to travel around Bangkok.
And…well…the breeze…the beautiful, lovely and downright sexy breeze. It felt amazing but it didn’t do a lot for my hairstyle…
But seriously, who cares what you look like when you are surrounded by such beautiful sights.
Some of you may be thinking you had no idea of how beautiful my hair looks in the breeze and I thank you for that, but some of you may be thinking, “I had no idea that Bangkok actually had canals”, and I’ll admit I was completely unaware of them until I actually came here. So, with me being such a sponge for knowledge (as well as sweat) I did a bit of research and there now follows some actual information that I have painstakingly gleaned from Google…For those of you that just want to look at pretty photos don’t worry, there will be more soon.
The History Bit.
During the 19th Century, Bangkok was actually known as ‘Venice of the East’ but the canals date back more than 100 years prior to that when in 1782 when King Rama I ordered the building of Rattanakosin Island, the home of The Grand Palace which sits along the Chao Praya River. Bangkok was originally a huge swampy area so carving canals was the perfect way to help this fledgeling city help its people and goods get around.
Through the 19th Century, the systems of canals were expanded as the city’s population grew and the boat became the main mode of transport. At this time in the city’s history, more markets were on the water than on land and many homes and temples were built along the canals.
It remained this way until the early 20th Century when thanks to a shift to a more European road-based system, most of the canals were filled in which, with the rising water levels and pollution in Bangkok becoming more of a problem it’s a great shame.
I have actually posted another blog with 26 seconds of video footage of my trip, imaginatively titled 26 Seconds Of A Trip Along A Bangkok Canal.
As I made my way further along the canal I became aware of a real vibe of people still using the canals and I wanted to feel this more often – you don’t really notice how loud roads are until you can’t hear them!
We passed homes, businesses, temples and markets, just like the Thai of one hundred years ago would have done. As I passed every house I wondered how much they cost and what would be the drawbacks of living life along a Bangkok canal. During this trip, I couldn’t think of any drawback that would stop me from buying somewhere!
Imagine nipping out to the shop for some milk and passing places like this every time…
We then passed the local take away restaurant…
The Swimming Dog.
By now I was so relaxed, the noise and intensity of Bangkok seemed a million miles away. I thought my day wasn’t going to get any better…until we came around a bend in the canal and came across this…
I have written a short post about The Swimming Dog before but it’s worth adding here to to see this photo again and to remind us all that the dogs that live along the canals of Bangkok don’t go for walkies…they go for swimmies!
A trip along the canals of Bangkok is a must, they are so different to so many other things you can do here and they give you such a different view of this wonderful country. For me, it is the best way to travel around Bangkok.
For more info on where to get a boat from and different areas check out the link below