Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem
The 5.5 kilometre long Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem is a moat marking the unofficial border for Bangkok's Old City, otherwise known as Rattanakosin. Digging began in 1851 during the reign of King Rama IV in response to the rapid expansion of the capital. It stretches in an arch from Chareon Krung Road, past Khlong Mahanak, before ending in the Chao Phraya River, near Rama VIII bridge.
If you are after an on-water experience, look elsewhere: Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem is a picturesque dead end. However, it has a wistful charm. Come for a stroll if you're in the area or have an hour to kill before catching a train (Chinatown and Wat Mangkon Kamalawat are nearby). Or make a morning of it and combine a khlong-side walk with a visit to Bo Bae wholesale market, which bisects it.
Life along the Khlong
From Hualumphong MRT station, stroll past the Neo-Italian railway terminal station and you will arrive at an off-white period bridge overlooking Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem. A fowl stench quickens the senses better than any espresso. The chaos that is the mid-morning traffic runs over it, alongside it, all around it, and yet the beef soup-like water beneath is, save for a few bugs skating the surface, dead still.
But, despite looking forlorn, there is still charm here... young trees dutifully line its sides, bougainvillea spills across it, and indolent tuk-tuk drivers lie over benches. Enquires about boats with a man washing down canal steps, a fruitseller and a tuk-tuk driver all get the same response: "rua mai mee!" (No boats!). Walking up Krung Kasem Road, I find consolation in the adjacent shophouses and workshops, many of which are photogenic, some easily as old as the khlong itself. Unlike the water, these are still teeming with trade and people.