Bangkok Canals

Harold Stephens’ column this week is called Bangkok is a water town and he writes about the importance of the Chao Phraya River and the canals, or “”klongs” to the life of the city.
Catherine and Oliver on the Klong in Bangkok

Perhaps our most thrilling experience in Bangkok this past February was on the klong that runs from behind Jim Thompson’s house out towards City Hall.

This klong is about 20 feet wide, and runs right through the middle of the city. The public boats that run along the klong are long and narrow, covered with a roof, and powered by a noisy and exposed engine at the back. There is an ingenious system rigged up for protecting patrons from getting splashed with water; it involves a tarpaulin that runs the length of each side that’s attached to pulleys. When the boat picks up speed everyone is expected to grab the pulley handle nearest them and haul down, which raises the tarp.

The protocol for getting on the boat goes like this: boat pulls up, you get on as fast as you possibly can to avoid getting thrown into the water when it hurries off 15 seconds later. As you might imagine, this feat, difficult enough, was doubly challenging with wee Oliver in my arms, but we pulled it off.

The utility of the aforementioned tarp system becomes immediately apparent once the boat takes off: they move fast. So fast, in fact, that we couldn’t avoid getting a wallop or two of klong water in our face before we figured out our roll on the pulley. Thankfully, we didn’t die instantly.

Once the boat takes off, a toll collector manouevers her way along the boat, collecting the 5 baht fare (about 17 cents) and you’re given a ticket.

We took the boat all the way to the end of the line, hurried off in much the same fashion as we alighted, and lived to tell the tale.


Alan's picture
Alan on December 9, 2002 - 15:43 Permalink

Good day to dream about warmer holidays past…