Boat Trip in Bangkok

Public Express Boat and a Private Long-Tailed Boat

I was in Bangkok last week in order to take some pictures for our web sites. I love doing boat trips and I thought I would explore the river north of the city. I have explored the canals before on the Thonburi side of the river in a long-tailed boat (see picture to the right). You can hire these boats for about an hour or so for about 400 baht from the pier near the Grand Palace. But, this time I wanted to explore on public transport. This is a lot cheaper though you don’t really have much control of where you go! To get to my starting point I took the Sky Train to the end of the route at Saphan Taksin. Here I transferred to a Chao Phraya Express Boat. This is Central Pier for the boats. You can go south a short way towards Rama IX bridge or north for an hour to Nonthaburi. I chose the latter. This one hour trip cost me 13 baht which is less than 50 cents.

Singha Beer Brewery and the Rama VII Suspension Bridge

It is a good idea getting on at Taksin Bridge because you have a better chance to get a seat. Later on you might have to stand up as it gets pretty crowded. These boats are much like buses. You take your seat and later on a conductor will come around to take your money and give you a ticket. They do speak enough English to help you get by. “Where you go?” and “You get off now”. The boats are quite long and as they are usually crowded, it is a good idea to go to the back of the boat as you are approaching your pier. These are all numbered and are written in English and Thai so it is quite easy. A bell tells the driver that someone wants to get off. Everyone is used to foreigners taking these boats so you will have no problems. Get on and off where you like or, like we did, go to the end of the line at Nonthaburi.

Taking a dip in the water and river-side life

In our hour long journey the scenary had plenty of time to change. At the start we passed a number of famous sites like Wat Arun and the Grand Palace. Later on we passed Conception Church which was built in the reign of king Rama III. The orignal church on this site was built several hundred years ago. As we started to leave the city the tall and modern buildings became fewer in numbers and these were replaced by wooden houses which fronted the river. Here people had easy access to the river for both transport and also a means to keep themselves clean. In the old days, Bangkok was regarded as the Venice of the East. In fact, many of the houses back then were built over water and not so many were actually on land. If you want some views of life by the side of the river a generation or so ago then I would suggest taking a river bus north of the city.

4 responses to “Boat Trip in Bangkok

  1. It must be a fun life for those kids that live on the water like that, In Australia, back yard swimming pools are fenced, yet still there are a lot of drownings in them, I can imagine there must be a lot of kids drown, who live on the river like that.

  2. When I visited my friend in Bangkok, she brought us around on public transport throughout our whole visit. The most unforgettable means was the speed boat ride in the murky canals from the city back to my friend’s home. It was a Saturday night and we had apparently missed the last big boat. The only boat left there was this tiny wooden speed boat. Only two people could sit on the floor of each row. It took about 10 people. It was quite an adrenaline rush, but I don’t think I would ever want to go for a ride in that canal in that tiny boat again! Thank God it was so dark and we couldn’t see what the canals really looked like. But, boy, could we smell it! Imagine long canals with squatters on each side, everyone using the river for transport, washing up, toilet… Nonetheless I loved it that I really got to move around like a local and see Bkk from a different angle.

  3. Some piers are express stops and some are local. Express and local boats run at different times. I wanted to go to a local pier, but got there too late for a local boat, so had to go to a nearby express pier. No big deal.

  4. Richard Barrow

    Most urban middle-class Thais from say…the city can not swim to save their lives.

    However, for Thai kids from less than well-off families who have been brought with water surrounding them, the first thing they learn, when they are young, is fortunately to swim.

    As for newly-borns who have just begun to crawl, then i just can not even fathom to imagine how many a year perish to drowning. I doubt there are any figures available!