We looked at online maps and read tripadvisor recommendations before we booked a hotel in the Banglampoo area of Bangkok, an older section of the city. We knew we’d enjoy being in an area with a night market, smaller shops, and no high-rises. Fast forward to a few days before we were to arrive when we made a major discovery. The Banglampoo area of Bangkok is quite distant from the nearest sky train and, so, we who prefer light rail or subways, would have to rely on river taxis, tuk tuks, motorscooter taxis, and our feet.
How would we sightsee outside our neighborhood? We ruled out taxis as too expensive for our budget, and prepared ourselves for a lot of walking. Our first trip – to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew – appeared to be a good hour’s walk away. We studied the map to plot out a walking route when we discovered how Thais get from here-to-there: the Chao-Phraya River, which wends its way through Bangkok mostly on a north-south axis, has a system of river boats for transporting passengers. Fares are very inexpensive. Of course!
We walked over to the dock, paid our 15 baht fare (about 50 cents US), scrambled on to the boat, and enjoyed the ride down to the Grand Palace. Never mind that the river is dirty, the boat very crowded, and athleticism may be required to hop on and off the boat. For the cost, convenience, and views, we loved it.
The next challenge came a day later planning a trip into the city to visit the Jim Thompson House & Gallery. Protests were going on across Bangkok, traffic was snarled, and getting there would be a very long walk. We studied the map looking for a route. The walking route would take us to Democracy Monument, then we’d head due east to the Golden Mount, where the map showed a symbol for the “Phan Fah Boat Stop”. What was this? Turns out taxi boats travel along a narrow, long west-to-east canal. We followed the route of the canal on the map and saw a stop right by our destination. What luck!
You should know if you plan on taking the taxi boat that it’s super cheap (we paid 10 baht – about 33 cents US); not easy to board as you’re climbing into the rocking boat from the dock any way you can (no ramps here!) requiring agility and speed; you very well may get wet with really dirty water; and don’t stand in the boat as the tarp ceiling drops when the boat goes under bridges. We took the canal boat in a pouring rain, adding yet one more challenge. The protective blue tarp on the side didn’t prevent a wave or two from splashing a few passengers on the right side. (Hey, you dry off fast in this heat.)
We really enjoyed moving across Bangkok on the skytrain, river boats and canal boats. Sure, taxis aren’t expensive compared to US fares, but we didn’t want to spend our money that way. Our transportation choices – walking, river taxi, and canal boats — made our stay in Bangkok a memorable one at a price we were willing to pay.