Bangkok was once known as the Venice of the East and for good reason as it was a city crisscrossed by many canals and though many of these have been filled in, the canals and main Chao Phraya River of Bangkok still offer many waterways for boat travel. The main piers for boats along the river are within easy access to the main riverside hotels and one of the most popular piers is Saphan Taksin which connects with the BTS sky train line allowing even better travel access to and from Bangkok.River Express Boat
One of the best ways to travel through Bangkok and certainly one of the most fun ways to travel is the Bangkok express boat, in fact if you don't even have a destination it's worth travelling up and down the river at least once on an express boat just to get a different view of the city. It's cheap and quick, and it just takes a little know how to learn the ropes of travelling by boat, such as knowing what boats to get and what piers to get off at, though piers are conveniently named with English and Thai spellings so that makes it easier from the start.
There are two main types of express boats, the boats with flags and the ones without. The non flagged boats tend to stop at all of the piers making it a slower journey overall if you want to go some distance but certainly more convenient for some as it gives you more chance you jump off the boat at the pier closest to your destination. The flagged boats come with a few different coloured flags which denotes where they travel to and at what piers they stop and you can check this at the pier with the bilingual map or enquire further at the ticket office at the pier.
The express boats travel from Wat Ratchasingkhon as far up to the Nonthaburi province which is just outside Bangkok and fares for any distance will work out to be less than 20 baht. The service runs from 6:00 am to around 6:30 pm. For those people that wish to travel up to Pak Kret, the famous pottery island then you can connect to a Laem Thong Co. boat at Nonthaburi pier. To cross to the other side of the river to get the boat going in your direction there is a special river crossing ferry, a small cumbersome boat that costs about 2 baht to take you to the other river bank.
- Yellow Flag Express Boat - Nonthaburi - Rajburana
- Orange Flag Express Boat - Nonthaburi - Sathorn
- Green Flag Express Boat - Pak Kret - Wat Ratchasingkhon
- No Flag Express Boat - Nonthaburi - Wat Ratchasingkhon
In 2003 the Chao Phraya Tourist boat was introduced to cater for foreigners using the river. It starts at Sathorn Pier where it can be easily accessed by the BTS Saphan Taksin station and travels as far as Banglamphu pier and stops in between at the 10 main piers giving tourists access to the many attractions in the riverside area such as Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), Wat Pho, Chinatown and The Grand Palace.
The boat can work out to be more expensive that the usual express boats with the price being 75 baht for an all day pass which allows as many trips as you want, so really the ticket value really depends on what you can get out of it. The Chao Phraya Tourist Boat is more comfortable as well, with better seating and less crowding making it an altogether more pleasant journey. You’ll be accompanied by an onboard tourist guide to help you get around and explain where the attractions are. This service runs everyday from 9:00am to 3:00pm.Canal (Klong) Boats
Though many of the canals have been filled in over the years and turned into roads there is still some room for canal boat travel in Bangkok, mainly along the main canal of Klong Saen Sap. The Canal boats or Klong Boats as they are often called as ‘Klong’ means canal in the Thai language, are long tail boats that travel at an amazingly quick speed through the narrow canals of Bangkok, delivering you to destinations within the city cheaper and faster than many other means of transport. Canal boats are not the easiest form of travel to use though for first timers, they can be awkward to get into and out of, the smell of the canal can sometimes be unbearable and you constantly have to keep the plastic cover up on the side of the boat to stop you getting sprayed by dirty canal water.
The low fares though keep it a firm favourite method of cheap travel amongst Bangkok residents and it's worth trying one out just for the fun of it, you'll be surprised at the speed of the boat and the cheap ticket price which works out to be around 6-15 baht. It's also a good way to see a bit more of unseen Bangkok, the shanty town houses overhanging the canals, and the Thai people that still use the canal as a major way of life, fishing for food of for fish to sell to the street vendors.
It is worth noting here again that they can be difficult to get into and out off with slippery boat sides and a slippery pier, and a fall into the canal's dirty water will not only feel pretty bad at the time but could lead to sickness later so if you are elderly or just plain clumsy then this form of travel should either be avoided or approached with some caution. Sadly with the subway developing now, canal boat travel may soon be gone for good in Bangkok as people start to use alternative methods to travel around the city.