I had visited Bangkok many times before and never used one of the canal boats. I often read about them as being a great alternative way to get around Bangkok and it does give you good access to some other parts of the city. On my last visit in October 2009 I resolved to have a ride on Khlong Saen Saeb. This canal has two lines which interchange at Pratunam pier. One lines goes west terminating at Fhan Fha, near to Wat Saket (the Golden Mount) and the other going east all the way out to Bang Kapi.
I went along with my (Thai) wife not being brave enough to negotiate it on my own at my first attempt! We wandered down to the Pratunam pier, which is rather dingy and as with most of Bangkok, the paving and the bridge down to the canal was in a poor state of repair. The canal itself looks filthy, whatever you do don’t fall in! But this is Bangkok and you kind of expect this and for me it all a part of the city’s charm. We hopped on a boat towards Fhan Fha first of all which wizzes you through the congested Pathumwan district alongside Phetburi road initially. On your right you can see the huge Platinum Fashion mall and the famed Pantip Plaza for all things hi-tech.
Now after a couple of minutes I was wondering how you paid, the seating on the boat is arranged in rows with no walkways through the middle. You basically shuffle along to allow more people in. Then a lady appeared at the side of me, complete with crash helmet, walking along the edge of the boat! She collected our fares and leaned in to collect the fares from the people next to us before ducking out of the way to avoid an oncoming bridge.
Before we knew it we were right behind Jim Thompson’s House, photos at www.matthewt.co.uk. If you’re struggling to get your bearings this will help as JT’s House is a fairly centrally placed and famous landmark, near to Siam Square and MBK shopping centre.
Around this area you can catch some glimpses of a more old fashioned way of life in Bangkok as you start to see some housing that was built around the canal. Keep your camera handy as you’ll pass by in a flash!
The next to last stop takes you into Bo-Be market, a famous garment market. We stayed on till the end of the line, when you disembark, climb up the steps and left over a bridge onto Thanon Bonphat and you will see the Golden Mount. If you go the other way along Thanon Ratchdamnoen, on your left is Wat Ratchanatdaram. The main attraction here is Loha Prasat (metal palace) and other unusual buildings. A bit further down the road you can see the Democracy Monument.
We caught the boat back to Pratunam and transferred over the other line with the intention of stopping off a random stop to find somewhere to have lunch. We decided on stop 9 (Thong Lo) which is an up and coming trendy district, and happened upon the Market Place shopping centre. In there is the Mama Do suki restaurant, similar to MK but with different soups available (the soup that you boil your food in). If you’re ever passing through Thong Lo I would recommend it.
After lunch we decided to head back but walk part of the way back home. So we took the boat back as far as Witthayu. This stop drops you near Thanon Witthayu (Wireless Road) quite close to the British Embassy. We walked the 20-30 minutes or so to Lumpini Park were we grabbed a drink and sat in the shade for a while before heading off home.
I would recommend this as a great alternative way to get around Bangkok and discover new places. One way to discover places in a city is to get lost (just so long as you can remember your way back to the canal!).
South East Asia photos on my website, www.matthewt.co.uk
My blog - http://matthewted.blogspot.com
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