Cycling Along Saen Saeb Canal in Bangkok

One of the canals that I haven’t explored much yet is Khlong Saen Saeb. This canal dates back to 1840 and connects the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok to the Bang Pakong River in Chaochoengsao. Unfortunately you cannot take a boat ride along the entire length any more due to various water gates. You cannot even go out into the Chao Phraya river. In Bangkok, there is a boat service that goes from Pratunam (which means watergate) and Phan Fah Bridge all the way east to Wat Sri Bunruang on Ramkhamhaeng Road. If you don’t mind the smell, then this is a quick way to visit some of Bangkok’s main attractions. It is a kind of hidden artery of Bangkok as not all tourists know about it. To ride the entire length only costs about 20 Baht.

They have been talking for years about extending the boat service further out of Bangkok from Wat Sri Bunruang (see map) all the way to Minburi. In fact, it was in the newspaper earlier this year that the boat service would open from August 2012. So, at the weekend, I decided to go and take a look for myself. What I found was perhaps a dozen new piers along the canal. All of them finished, though some looked like that they needed a new coat of paint. Between Wat Sri Bunruang and the Outer Ring Road bridge, they had also finished a concrete walkway on both sides of the canal. The budget for this was hundreds of millions of Baht. To me it looked like it had been finished for along time. Some stretches were overgrown and badly neglected.

This stretch of the canal is about 4 km long. I first cycled along on the southern side and then came back on the other side. If you plan to cycle here yourself, I would suggest that you use the northern side. There are less of these bridges and your way won’t be blocked by long grass or overhanging branches. Can you see the runner on the right of these steps? This is for pushing your bike up on. However, it is too steep and too close to the side to be much use.  A local that I spoke to said that they like this new walkway as they can come out here in the evening to exercise and enjoy the cool air. However, she said that the steps were too steep for the elderly and so they couldn’t walk too far. At one bridge, I came across some locals who were using a slab of concrete to make a gentle slope up and over. Obviously they were doing this for their motorbikes.

The second section of the canal, from the Outer Ring Road bridge to Minburi already has piers but they haven’t started on the concrete walkways. These are the old ones which are dangerous in some places and non-existent in others. I asked a number of different local people along the canal when they thought that the boat service would start. They all gave me different answers from a few months to next year. But all of them made it clear that they do no want the boats to start running until the BMA have finished the concrete walkways on both sides. They also said it needs to have lighting all the way. The budget for this is estimated to be about 500 million Baht. If they do it, then it would be great for both commuters and cyclists. However, they also need to allocate a budget for maintenance. Sadly this has been neglected.

Click here for my map of the route that I took. I will be continuing to explore the canal in coming weeks. This picture is at Wat Sri Bunruang and this boat is about to depart for Pratunam in Bangkok. I will start my next journey by bicycle from this point. I want to see how easily I can get into Bangkok from here.

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