Having ‘done’ Bangkok’s major sites, we wanted to do something less touristy. I’d loved the boats flying up and down the Chao Phraya River, and discovered that the Saen Seap Khlong (or canal) had similar long tailed boats aimed at locals.
The “website”:https://www.transitbangkok.com/khlong_boats.html showed two routes: Golden Mount Line heading west into the city (to the Golden Mount) and the Nida Line heading to the eastern suburbs (the terminus is near the National Institute of Development Administration). The piers were shown in Thai and English, and a drop-down menu detailed attractions at the more interesting stops. More importantly, it told us about the fare structure and how to buy tickets – ‘find a seat and the conductor will find you’. It all seemed so simple.
We stayed at the “U Sukhumvit”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/accommodation/195116-review-u-sukhumvit hotel and the Nana Chard pier was at the end of our street, Soi 15. The jetty had a map, arrows showing the next piers in each direction and the fare structure.
As it was early morning, we headed out to the suburbs to avoid the rush hour commuters heading into the city. The first boat to arrive was heading the wrong way, but it gave us the opportunity to see how things were done: the conductor hopped off, loosely tied the boat to a bollard, pulled the rope to get the boat as close to the jetty as possible although this still left quite a hop onto the boat.
As the second boat sailed merrily past us, sending a wave of water onto the jetty, we realised we needed to put our hand out.
We leapt onto the third boat without incident and found seats on a long wooden bench at the back. There were few other passengers on board allowing us to snap away at the passing scenes. Our 30-minute trip was 17 Baht each, just under £1 in total.
When boats passed in the opposite direction, a plastic screen along the side, could be raised with a string to avoid getting wet as the waves were relatively large. The khlong was aromatic in places, but we passed small boats full of people using fishing nets to collect litter.
At the terminus of the Nida line (Wat Sriboonreung pier), we continued along the canal path where around 30 boats were moored up and looked round a gilded wat before boarding a return boat to ride the entire line into the city (19 Baht).
Unfortunately, at the fourth pier Wat Klang, the driver hopped off and went to the back of the boat whilst locals craned their necks to see what was happening. Eventually it was ‘abandon ship’ and we swapped our comfortable wooden bench for standing room only. The nearer we got to the city, the more squashed we became. At the interchange stop, Pratunam, everyone changed onto smaller boats as the khlong becomes narrower and the bridges lower.
The conductors wore face masks, hard hats and life jackets and whilst the latter are stowed on the ceiling, it was hard to imagine the chaos if someone wanted to wear one. The whole return journey took 90 minutes and was certainly a good and cheap way of seeing local life, but a degree of nerve was required to jump on and off.
There are many different spellings for the piers, but those used are those shown on the website, although they’re all relatively similar.