One sees a place differently by water. I first discovered this sailing down the Nile. There are no vendors vying for your attention to make a sale. No mad drivers to mow you down mid-stride. No children tugging at your trousers or heartstrings. It’s a slower pace. A pace that allows you to absorb and appreciate your surroundings. A glimpse of daily life that you don’t necessarily see by street with its many distractions and commercial concentration.
I was surprised to discover that Bangkok had a canal (khlong) system branching from its main river, the Chao Phraya, revealing the backyards of Bangkok. Laundry, fishing, bathing, and meal preparation – they all happen riverside.
The canals were a major source of transportation until the late 19th century, but many canals have since been filled in and replaced by roads and other infrastructure. However, a ride in a long-boat shows that the waterways are still vital and vibrant.
The colours shout to you. The orange of a monk’s robe drying on a balcony.
The golds, oranges and reds of a buddhist temple. The rainbow of a line of laundry against the weathered wood houses of grey and brown.
From your long-boat you can stop at a riverside market, or a beer vendor may cruise up to you, or you can buy bread to feed the fish.
Getting on and off the long-boat is not for the faint of heart. Health and safety are not top of mind in this part of the world, but the acrobatics one must perform to ride the river certainly reduce the touristy factor and it’s all part of the experience – an experience that should be part of an itinerary to Bangkok.
A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it. – John Steinbeck