Bangkok is intersected by an extensive network of canals, which are known as khlongs in Thai. Riding the khlongs was once the main way of getting around the city and this is still a good way to travel if you want to beat the traffic. Taking a trip along the khlong in a narrow boat is also an interesting way to see a new side of Bangkok.
Many people choose to use the khlongs to travel to and from work. In fact, more than sixty thousand people travel along the canal each day. While the narrow boats that run along the khlongs can be rather crowded during the main commute times, the main advantage is that there are no traffic jams and the boats move reasonable quickly. Fares also cost just a few Baht, making this one of the cheapest ways to get around the city.
The main public ferry route is known as Khlong Saen Saeb. This canal line starts near Golden Mount in the Banglampu district and runs all the way to The Mall Bangkapi. Passengers can take the canal boat from the first stop all the way to the last stop for just a few Baht and the public canal boats pass a number of popular areas of the city as well as major attractions along the way.
Around a hundred long and narrow motor-driven boats run along the length of Khlong Saen Saeb and each boat is fitted with long wooden benches for passengers to sit on. The first boat runs at 05:30, while the last boat is at 20:00 each day. Boats arrive at the piers every fifteen minutes and pause for a couple of seconds for people to climb on and off the boat before moving on to the next pier.
A total of twenty three piers run along Khlong Saen Saeb. The best place to catch a boat is at Panfa Pier next to Golden Mount. Although passengers may have slightly longer to wait for the boat at this pier, they can be almost certain that they will get a seat. After allowing enough time for everyone to get on the boat, the driver then heads to the second pier close to Bobae market, then on to Charoenpol Pier.
After passing under a bridge, the boat pauses at Saphan Hua Chang Pier. This pier is situated at Siam in the heart of the city. Many people get off the boat here to continue their journey by BTS, while other people get out to go shopping at Siam Paragon, MBK or Siam Square. The boat stops at Pratunam Pier before turning around and heading back along the Khlong. Other boats wait at this pier to take passengers further down the canal to the Chidlom Pier followed by the Wireless Road Pier, the Nana Nua Pier and the Nana Chard Pier.
The next stop is the Asok Petchaburi Pier, which is situated in the Asok district of Bangkok. Passengers can choose to get off here to continue their journey by MRT or continue to Prasanmit Pier. It is worth noting that many of the piers on the line are request stops. If you wish to get off at one of these piers, you must indicate to the driver well in advance so that they will have time to stop.
You need to be fast on your feet and rather nimble to negotiate getting on and off the boats. It can sometimes be difficult to see where you are going, as large sheets of plastic often cover the sides of the boat to protect passengers from getting splashed by the khlong water. If you are unsure where you are going, let the driver know where you want to stop and ask him to let you know when you arrive at your destination.