Like all great cities of the world Bangkok has a river, the Chao Phraya, which flows through Bangkok and on into the Gulf of Thailand. Cities often begin their existence where there is water not just for living but for transport too and Bangkok is no exception. Off the Chao Phraya flow innumerable canals and small tributaries known as Klongs. Many of the klongs have now been filled since they were not exactly healthy, but there are sufficient left to give you a great alternative look at Bangkok, at what became know as the Venice of the East although that name might not quite be valid today.
Travelling on water sets you slightly apart from the world that borders the water, and in Bangkok that helps you to see the city without the danger of being run over! The river is wide, busy and carries you through the heart of Bangkok, through the history of the city combined with a view of the modern metropolis of office blocks and hotels. And once toy have done that divert into the networks of canals that subdivide, criss cross and are a labyrinth. There is every kind of boat including some that seem to be driven by outboard engines taken from large lorries.
Bangkok is famous for its floating market on the canals which is often crowded being a favoured tourist destination but away from the you find sellers on small boats floating slowly down the canals in search of business. ~The sellers are often gentle faced ladies earning a crust, but they drive a hard bargain and are very persistent. They will sell you a drink a souvenir and if they don’t have what you ask you they will persuade you to spend your money on something else, or at least try to.
Where there are rivers people live, and the canals are lined with old houses leaning over the banks of the canals jammed together, constructed haphazardly and remaining there for generations. Some even collapse into the canals and lie there a forlorn reminder of previous inhabitants. Wander in amongst those houses and you find networks of alleys and small streets and walk past people washing and cooking I the street, or plying their trade selling or making small things.
The canals are in all the various parts of the city, the water grey, turgid and not smelling of roses, but the life that is around them goes on as it has for generations. It is not difficult to walk a short distance from all the symbols of the modern Bangkok and find the canals and people living there, hidden away , seemingly separated from modern Bangkok but still actively part of it.
The canals are a fascinating world of seeming tranquillity in the heat and noise of Bangkok, the houses and buildings look forgotten but they are not, and aside from the Bangkok of condos and blocks of flats its another world, another Bangkok to see.