Sunday, March 9, 2014

Khlong Ride in Bangkok

Me and my Klong driver
In my last post I was just about to tell you about my boat ride up the Chao Phraya River.  I don't remember exactly where I left off, but the tuk tuk driver left us at a dock where just a couple of employees were milling around. It looked a bit shady, but I didn't have a bad feeling, so after a quick price negotiation from 2,000 bht down to 1800 bht for a private 60km boat ride, we hopped in the khlong or longtail boat. This boat is exactly as it sounds, long and slender, and it has an oversized motor in the back. Great for navigating tight turns and canals, but it's pretty loud and not very eco friendly spewing fumes and gasoline all over the place.

One of many temples
This kind of boat ride is a must do especially if you only have a short time in Bangkok. In just an hour, I saw probably a hundred temples and got a good look at what the city looks like from the river.  The river was a lot of fun, bobbing up and down, nearly missing boats much larger than us, tilting from side to side with fear of falling overboard, all very exciting. But those weren't the most interesting parts of the ride. Once we made that left turn into the canal, life in Bangkok dramatically changed. What I was doing was a very touristy thing to do, but it didn't feel like it at that moment. It was quiet, the water was calm, and I felt as though I was experiencing a part of the city that few tourists got to see (even if that wasn't necessarily true).

All along the canals are homes, small restaurants and who knows what else holding on for dear life on stilts hoping not to plunge into the murky waters below. It wasn't the prettiest trip, but I wasn't looking for pretty. What I got was a lot of laundry hanging out to dry, men fishing from the banks, smells of food cooking in tiny kitchens and the things that people all over the world do every day without even batting an eye. I got life in action. And I got smiles and waves from people along the way. For me, there's nothing better when I travel somewhere than to see what life is really like.

In addition to people, there is also the occasional wildlife like the giant hungry fish that have learned to expect dropping food from passing boats. They thrash about waiting for a tasty morsel. Since I must have been very lucky, I also saw a monitor lizard sitting on the river bank. Unfortunately I  don't have a picture of this robust reptile, but a quick google search will yield some beautiful photos or you can see a photo and learn more here. This guy was big, and I was very glad that I was on the other side of the canal when I saw him. I'm sure he thought the same of me.

People selling items out of their boats

The ride soon had to come to an end, and we were back on the main river coasting along the choppy wake of the larger boats. As we were about to dock, we had to wait for one of the water taxis to pass. It was jam packed with tourists, and it looked like a pretty miserable experience. It may be a cheaper option for getting up and down the river to visit different sites, but I still think that the khlong is the way to go. We were dropped of back in Chinatown which is known for shopping. I'm not much of a shopper, but I enjoyed watching the people cook street food that I have yet to eat. I'm working up to it.

Next overnight train and a long trip to the jungle.

But first, here's a video of what it was all like...

Thai houses along the canal