Tips for those seeking to enjoy a peaceful Thai atmosphere amid the bustling capital.
By Harold Stephens
Rivers and canals, referred to as “mae nam” and “klong” in Thai, have always been vital forms. When the capital of Thailand (then called Siam) was moved to Bangkok in 1782 at the beginning of the Rattanakosin period, it was laced with canals so European visitors started calling the city, “Venice of the East.” Nowadays even though Bangkok has become a modern city, the Chao Phraya River — as well as the canals — still charms whoever wishes to seek the peaceful atmosphere amid bustling Bangkok.
Trips along the Chao Phraya
On both sides of the Chao Phraya River are many magnificent temples and buildings of various architectural designs, 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. Boat services on the Chao Phraya River, which connect Bangkok with neighboring Nonthaburi, are operated Laem Thong Co. Ltd., and Chao Phraya Express Boat Co. Ltd.
Along Klong Bangkok Noi-Klong Bang Yai
A boat service operates 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m., departing from Tha Chang every half an hour after 11 a.m. They leave the pier when there are enough passengers. Boat fare is Bt30 per person. It takes 50 minutes to Bang Yai, a district in Nonthaburi. Attractions along Klong Bangkok Noi are: The Royal Barge National Museum, Wat Suwannaram and many ancient temples constructed in the Ayutthaya style.
Along Klong Bang Lamphu-Klong Phadung Krung Kasem
Chartered boats run between Pom Phra Sumen (on Phra Athit Road) and the Hua Lamphong Railway Station from 6:30 a.m. to 3. p.m., leaving the pier every 20 minutes. It takes 15 minutes to complete the route. The fare is Bt6. Sights along the route are Bang Lamphu, Golden Mount, and Bo Be Clothes Market.
Along Klong Dao Khanong-Klong Bangkok Yai-Klong Bang Chuak Nang-Klong Mon-Klong Chak Phra-Klong Bangkok Noi
Visitors willing to take a private trip along this route can rent a boat from Tha Chang at the rate of approximately Bt500 per hour.
Along Klong Bang Yai-Klong Om-Nonthaburi
Along the Chao Phraya River to Ayutthaya
Mit Chao Phraya Express Boat operates another boat trip on Saturdays and Sundays 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. through Khlong Bangkok Noi, Bang Kruai, Khlong Om, and stops for sightseeing at Ko Kret. The trip costs Bt200/person. For more information, call: 02-225-6179, 02-623-6169
Another interesting tour is to Ko Kret, a small island in the Chao Phraya River. The island’s Pottery Village, located along the pathway around the island, is the oldest and biggest source of earthenware in Nonthaburi. Visitors are allowed to observe the pottery making process. There are also many other interesting ancient monasteries, most of which were constructed in the Mon and the Ayutthaya styles.
Visitors can use a shuttle boat at Wat Sanam Nua pier, located within a short walking distance from Pak Kret Pier to cross the river 6 a.m.-9 p.m. for only Bt2. Returning to Pak Kret, visitors are able to catch a small long-tail boat at any pier around the island for Bt6-10.
Every Sunday, the Chao Phraya Express Boats set a one-way or roundtrip from Bangkok to Bang-Pa-In Summer Palace- Bangsai Thai Folk Arts & Crafts Center-Wat Pailom in Nonthaburi. Depart from Maharaj Pier at 8 a.m., arrive at 5:30 p.m.
For a description of the river in past days read my book, “For the Love of Siam.”