If you were to think of 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 intelligent sayings!)
I’ve never been a water person or travelled much by boat but having taken a trip along a canal in Bangkok; I am willing to reconsider this. You will see the occasional bit of floating rubbish here and there but having travelled by boat around Bangkok’s canals 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, slipping along a narrow canal by boat creates a breeze, and so the hope of a cool breeze is one more reason why travelling by boat is the best way to travel around Bangkok.
But First, Lunch!
Bangkok boasts so many places where you can start a trip along its many canals. The canal I cruised on is called Khlong Chak Phra in Taling Chan, home to a popular 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.
I learned very quickly in Thailand that you can never judge the standard of food based on our western view of whether an eating establishment looks good. Sure, the fancy places will give you excellent food, but places like this that are, shall we say, ‘basic’, serve some of the best food you’ll get in Thailand! 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 a whopping £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 the Thailand tourist traps, I’ve done it myself at times, but this way has to be experienced (especially as I live here!)
As I mentioned, I didn’t see too many boats selling their goods which is a bit of a shame. It may have been a quiet the day or, as some will say, making a living selling at a floating market is becoming less attractive to younger Thai’s.
A private boat tour of the canal cost 1,000 baht which is excellent value in my book. You can get a much cheaper fare if you share a boat with other people, but it is worth going private for the serenity that this trip brings you. Once I had very carefully stepped onto my transport for the next hour or so, (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 head over heels in love with travelling along the canal. I had already decided that this was indeed the best way to travel around Bangkok.
I wasn’t the only person that prefers to travel by boat.
Canals In Bangkok?
Still, some of you may be thinking, “I had no idea that Bangkok had canals”, and I’ll admit I was completely unaware of them until I came here. Being such a sponge for knowledge, I did a bit of research and now follows some factual information that I have painstakingly gleaned from Google. For those who want to look at pretty photos don’t worry, there will be more soon.
The History Bit.
During the 19th Century, Bangkok was known as ‘Venice of the East’. But the canals date back more than 100 years before that when in 1782 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 vast swampy area, so carving canals was the perfect way to help this fledgeling city help its people and goods get around. The canals also served as an early form of defence against invaders.
Through the 19th Century, the canal system expanded as the city’s population grew, and the boat became the primary mode of transport. During this time in Bangkok’s history, more markets were on the water than land, and many homes and temples were built along the canals.
Things remained this way until the early 20th Century when due 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.
Travelling By Boat
I have 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 them, and I wanted to feel this more often – you don’t 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 disadvantage 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 beautiful 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