River Boats & Ferries in Bangkok
Getting around Bangkok
Boats are a great way to get around the famous riverside area with its many historical attractions, and to explore the 'klongs' (canals) for a glimpse of yesteryear Bangkok. Several kinds of boats (express boats, river taxis and tail-boats) run up and down the Chao Phraya River, connecting with the local suburbs on the Thonburi side and along the river, while ferries can be used to cross the river at various points.
There are different types of boats offering different services, and some of the express boats only stop at the main piers. If you simply want to cross the river, there are ferries which cost 2.5 baht, available at several boat landings. River taxis operate up and down the river and cost from around 6 baht, depending on the length of the journey. The Chao Phraya Express Boat Company offers a day pass for 75 baht with departures every 30 minutes from Sathorn Pier. It stops at ten major piers and provides access to attractions like Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn) the Grand Palace, Wat Po and the Royal Barge Museum. Great value, considering that it includes a guide and drinking water! The Sathorn Pier can easily be reached by traveling with the Skytrain (BTS) to Saphan Taksin station.
Exploring the Khlongs of Bangkok
On the opposite bank to the Grand Palace (Thonburi side) there's a network of canals ideal for exploring local life along the water's edge. Hire a tailboat for a peek. If you want a more informative visit, take a group or private tour. Watertaxis also operate along some of the main canals (Klong Saenseap) on the Bangkok side.
Much of Bangkok's history has evolved along the banks of the Chao Phraya River. Winding its way through the heart of the city, it continues to play an important part in daily life. Every day you'll see commuters, saffron-robed monks and school children speeding by on fast river taxis, overtaking the heavily laden rice barges making their journey upriver. For the visitor, the river provides a fascinating contrast of the old and the new, with some of Bangkok's most revered temples standing alongside warehouses, old wooden houses, new residential blocks and prestigious five-star hotels.
On the Thonburi side of the river a network of canals still connect the city to these suburbs, which remain largely unaffected by modern development. A trip around these canals offers a colorful insight into local Thai life, and a refreshing diversion from modern-day Bangkok. Women still sell rice and noodles from their 'floating kitchens' and people still use the river to bathe, wash their clothes and catch fish. Everywhere you'll see water hyacinth floating on the surface of the river, collected regularly and dried to make the latest trendy woven furniture. A completely different side of Bangkok worth taking a few hours to explore. While many of the klongs have since been replaced by roads, the Chao Phraya River continues to flow unaffected, separating the original capital of Thonburi on one side of the river, from today's Bangkok.
How to Visit the Canals of Bangkok
Hire a long-tail boat ('hang yao') and go exploring. Agree on the price before departure (400 to 500 baht per hour, negotiable). You can hire boats at the Tha Chang ferry pier near the Grand Palace, or the pier at the River City Shopping Complex (next to the Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel & Towers). It's great fun, but bear in mind that the boat driver is not a guide. His English may be limited, but he will know the main spots. Ask to explore 'Klong Bangkok Noi' and 'Klong Bangkok Yai'.
If you require something a bit more more organised (including a pick up from your hotel), we can recommend this afternoon tour along Bangkok's picturesque waterways for a close-up of traditional Thai life that leaves the city's modern face behind. You'll enjoy a long-tailed speedboat ride down the Chao Phraya River and the network of winding canals. En route you'll catch sight of authentic riverside lifestyles, such as houses on stilts and children playing in the water.