Rivers and canals have long been a traditional form of transport in Bangkok. When the city was founded in 1782, the Chao Phraya River formed part of the strategic defence system, and canals were dug in the lowlying marshy ground as moats and as a means of communication. In fact, the first roads were not built until the 1860s. Building Bangkok around the river and canals is what led European visitors to describe the city as "the Venice of the East."
Today, even though Bangkok is a modern metropolis, the architecture and way of life along the river and canals, especially those on the Thon Buri side of the Chao Phraya, remain remarkably true to the city's origins. Numerous scheduled boat trips can be taken, and boats can be hired on an individual basis, for visitors to enjoy the scenic pleasures of an altogether more tranquil age.
Trips along the Chao Phraya River
Boat services on the Chao Phraya River to connect Bangkok with the northern neighbouring province of Nonthaburi are operated by two companies: Laem Thong Co and Chao Phraya Express Boat Co.
Chao Phya Express operates boats daily from Wat Ratchasingkhon, a riverside temple in the Yannawa area, to Nonthaburi. The service operates from 5:30 am-6 pm. During rush hours (6-9 am and 3-6 pm), the express boat with a red and orange striped flag runs along the same route and stops only at the main piers. Visitors wishing to travel to Pak Kret are able to connect with Laem Thong's boat at Nonthaburi Pier. The service is operated daily from 5:45 am-5:45 pm.
On both sides of the Chao Phraya River, visitors can see many magnificent temples and architectural buildings, including the First Presbyterian Church, the Royal Thai Navy Dockyard, the Thai Maritime Navigation Company, the Old Customs House, Wat Prayunrawong, Wat Arun, the Grand Palace, Wat Rakhang Kositaram, and the Royal Boat House. When arriving at Pak Kret, visitors can travel further to Ko Kret, a small island in the Chao Phraya River. A shuttle boat leaves Wat Sanam Nua, which is located within short walking distance from Pak Kret Pier. The service runs from 6 am-9 pm. Returning to Pak Kret, visitors are able to catch a small long-tail boat at any pier around the island. Attractions on Ko Kret include a pottery village located along the pathway around the island. There are some workshops where the pottery making process can be viewed. Villagers make various kinds of earthenware products for daily use such as pots, mortars and flowerpots. This is the oldest and largest centre of earthenware in Nonthaburi Province. The Ancient Mon Pottery Centre, located in the village, collects together a wide range of pottery items.
KHLONG BANGKOK NOI - KHLONG BANG YAI m A boat service departs from Tha
Chang every half an hour from 6:30 am6 pm. The journey to Bang Yai, a district in Nonthaburi, takes about 50 minutes.
Attractions along Khlong Bangkok Noi include the Royal Barge Museum, which exhibits royal barges and their ornaments used for waterborne state ceremonies. The museum is open every day from 9 am-5 pm. Admission is 30 baht.
Wat Suwannaram is a royal monastery constructed during the reign of King Rama I and well known for its mural paintings depicting the Jataka as well as its deities and Buddha image in the Subduing Mara posture.
Wat Si Sudaram was built during the Ayutthaya period and was renovated by King Rama I. The temple houses some interesting buildings, including Tam Nak Daeng (a pavilion) and the residence of Sunthon Phu, the greatest poet of the Rattanakosin period. A popular pastime with visitors is feeding the temple's many freshwater fish.
Wat Amphawan was constructed during the late Ayutthaya period and houses Ho Trai (a hall for keeping scriptures) situated in the middle of a pond. The magnificent Thai-style building is made of wood.
KHLONG BANG YAI - KHLONG OM - NONTHABURI
After arriving at Bang Yai, a district in Nonthaburi, travellers can continue the trip to Nonthaburi by catching the river taxi at Wat Sao Thong Hin pier, situated within walking distance of Bang Yai pier. The boat service is operated during 4 am-8 pm and takes 15-20 minutes.
Along the route, visitors are able to enjoy the peaceful scenery and waterway life along Khlong Om. Most of the picturesque houses along both sides of the canal are made of wood with flowers bursting from their verandas.
Mit Chao Phraya Express Boat operates another boat trip on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 am-3:30 pm. The trip passes through Khlong Bangkok Noi, Bang Kruai, Khlong Om, with stops for sightseeing at Ko Kret. For more information, phone 0 2225 6179 or 0 2623 6169
KHLONG DAO KHANONG - KHLONG BANGKOK YAI - KHLONG BANG CHUAK NANG - KHLONG MON - KHLONG CHAK PHRA - KHLONG BANGKOK NOI
Visitors wanting to take a private trip along this route are able to rent a boat from Tha Chang for around 500 baht per hour. For advance reservations contact Mit Chao Phraya Co at Tha Chang (tel: 0 2225 6179, 0 2623 6169) and Si Phraya Trip and Boat Co at the River City Shopping Complex (tel: 0 2412 0207, 0 2412 7644).