A stop in Bangkok: the khlongs and Wat Arun

The plan for our 2nd day in Bangkok is to get out of the city to go visit Nakom Phathom and from there to go sightseeing aboard a long-tail boat. But before we set out to narrate this day, we want to tell our dear readers about an absolute must-do in Bankgkok: a ride in a long-tail boat on the Chao Praya River to go visit the maze of the Bangkok khlongs. This little boat ride will make for a very unique and incredible experience which we highly recommend!

On this day of August 4th, 2013, on the bank of the Chao Praya River we find a friendly driver and agree on a fair price for a 2-hour ride. All excited and impatient, our little Parisian band clumsily steps aboard the typical Bangkok-style long-tail boat.

The khlongs are the intricate network of canals which spread on the west part of Bangkok. They actually cover a very large area. And all along the khlongs, there are literally hundreds of houses built on wood pillars: some quite nice, but mostly old shacks with rusted iron-sheet roofs, resting on tilted pillars. One cannot help but wonder by what miracle some of these houses manage to stay up. There are also many temples, some small, some big, all brightly colored and very colorful. Lots of trees and plants. And truly gigantic lizards, the size of a crocodile. Pipes bent and crossing in all directions, electrical cables hanging between tilted poles not that high above water level. And the indispensable satellite dishes.

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Needless to say, inhabitants of the khlongs are among the poorest in Bangkok. They make do with what they have or can find, and they live just a few feet above the water. One wonders what happens in case of a flood.

On the water, long-tail boats come and go. Taxis, floating stores, freight, etc. The long-tail boats are the perfect means of transportation on the narrow khlongs of Bangkok.

It is not our place here on this blog to elaborate about poverty and wealth inequalities, which of course the experienced traveler will encounter in many countries when going off the beaten path.

A tour of the khlongs of Bangkok makes you catch a glimpse of authentic everyday life in what is very much part of the Thai capital. It is an incredible scenery, a unique experience, and you will not see many tourists there (which actually we do not complain about).

We exit the khlongs and instruct our boat driver to head for the magnificent Wat Arun, the temple of dawn.


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The Wat Arun temple is built in the Khmer style of architecture. Construction was started under Rama 1st and was completed under Rama 3rd. It is covered with mosaic so fine and delicate that you can only notice it when you look very closely. The stairs going up to the 2nd level are quite steep and narrow, but the view from up there on the Chao Praya River and the city of Bangkok is truly splendid.

It is a euphemism to say that Bangkok has plenty to offer in terms of sightseeing. We are short of time on this visit, but as we are heading back to our hotel, we make our wish list of the places we will go visit on our next stop: the Chinatown district, the Chatukak flea market, Jim Thomson’s house… And of course we will cap a full day of sightseeing with a drink at a panoramic bar atop one of the high-rise buildings to watch the city lights as the sun sets over lively Bangkok.