Saturday, July 17, 2010

Morning Riverboat Commuting In Bangkok

I've stayed a few times at the Asia Hotel on Thanon Phaya Thai in the Ratchathewi area, not because it's an especially nice or reasonably priced place, but since it's attached to the Ratchathewi BTS station it was handy getting to the places I'd wanted to see at the time. We'll address the pluses and minuses of the hotel itself another time, but the areas within walking distance alone make it a nice starting point for the day. Some of my fondest memories of early morning walks have begun and ended at the Asia.

One nearby point of interest - if you're a people watcher like I am - is the Saphan Hua Chang Pier area, about five minutes from the hotel and just below where Phaya Thai humps over the klong (canal) below on its way to the big shopping malls. I think mornings are best, primarily because it's not anywhere near as hot and humid as afternoons, but either commute window is fun to observe.

You can watch from the sidewalk at the street side above or go down the stairs on either side of the canal to see things at an everyday level. There are multiple food carts and stands with any number of fragrant, delicious aromas drifting past you, the coffee carts, the small sit-down eateries - many with only a half-dozen plastic chairs, news stands - and, of course, the hundreds of Thai themselves, scurrying along to work, school or wherever.

The klong riverboats are a show unto themselves; an efficient and quick way to get from point A to point B for a mere pittance. My friend who writes the fine blog Rice Queen Diary did a post a little over a month ago (here) showing how you could catch a riverboat at this very stop and take it to Wat Saket, a temple I've sadly missed - so far. Next trip, for sure.

I'll post some pictures of this station described above soon, but here today are two clips from December 2008 showing the riverboats stopping at this pier. The one at the top is a longer one, showing the active jockeying they do during a morning rush hour, and the one below from dock lever, giving you an idea of how fleet of foot you need to be if you intend to stay out of the - let's just say fragrant - klong itself while hopping on or off the boats.

At some point I'll tell the story of how I ended up halfway between those two points while visiting near the Grand Palace one day. I still have the scar on my shin to back the story up, but I'll spare you that.


neil said...

I'd be taking a dip if I was on that. Not nimble at all. They sure don't dally.

khunbaobao said...

Not in the slightest. The other riverboats (i.e. the red ones on the Chao Phraya river, for example) make a more normal stop, but as soon as the last person's on or off they are, too. These are the local's commute boats, and for a farang who hadn't done their homework they'd be what my British friends would call a "Mystery Tour" - HA!