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 breeeze means – no sweating! Regular readers to my blog will know how much the promise of doinf something that doesn’t involve sweating is a big deal to me. I’m not saying I sweat a lot but if you were to wring out my t-shirts whenever I got home you’d have enough to fill a small paddling pool…I wouldn’t suggest you do that though…why not bottle it and sell it on Ebay when I become a famous writer?!
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 floatimg market . When I arrived I didn’t see too many boats selling goods but I did find a place selling food…
He doesnt look to 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 establisment 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 experince, seeing these kind of places, 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 dissapointed.
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 comcically into the canal flashed through my mind!), I was off and away! I think its fair to say that within 30 seconds I was completely in love with travelling along the canal…
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 (aswell 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, they’ll be more soon.
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 fledgling city help it’s 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 trasport. At this time in the city’s history more markets were on 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 beoming more of a problem it’s a great shame.
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 a 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…
By now I was so relaxed, the noise and intensity of Bangkok seemed a million miles away. I tought my day wasn’t going ot 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 reming 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.