Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Adventure Cruise

Klong BoatA lot of the stuff that amazes me about bangkok would amaze me in any big city I suppose. The mass of tall buildings, the traffic, the crowds and the availability of almost anything you can imagine within the distance of a 15 minute sky train ride.

But today the trip I had been hoping to have an opportunity to make finally presented itself. I had to go somewhere that the sky train did not go, and neither did the subway. Busses go there, and so do taxies, motorcycle taxies and of course, our driver Fred. But I had wanted to take a Klong Boat and this was the perfect trip to do it.

A Klong, is a canal and Bangkok has plenty of them. Klong boats are probably 40 feet long, skinny and diesel powered behemoths that ply the waters of Bangkok delivering passengers all over the city.

Our apartment is about 1/4 mile from one that runs parallel to Petchuburi Road to the North, and Sukhumvit to the South. I walked to the canal and waited about 5 minutes for the boat. It was really an uneventful experience, except that I learned a few things that you have to know if you ride the boats.

Klong boat approachFirst, you have to know how far you are going before you get on. The fare is dependent on how far you ride, unlike the busses, and it's not that easy to figure out how far you are going. There is no map, at least not a good one that shows the boat stops. So you kind of have to guess at what to tell the guy that collects the fare. Oh, and collecting the fare happens after you get on the boat and it is underway again. I don't know what they do if you can't reach an understanding. Do you think they still have "Planks" to walk in Asia?

On this trip I called ahead to ask which stop I should use. That brought up the second problem. On my street (Thong Lor) there is a sign in English showing where you are. I used this single point of reference to deduce that all the stops have sign that I can read. Ooops. I didn't see another sign that I could read for the whole trip. Maybe there were there, but I looked and looked and didn't find them.

Luckily, I also knew what my destination looked like, and after a few stops I saw it. All excited, I hopped off the boat at the very next stop, right across the canal from where I wanted to go. Unfortunately I got off one stop too soon. That was the second problem. On my street (remember - my single source of information) there is a bridge over the Klong so you can cross over. Not so at my disembarkation. As I watched the boat pull away, I looked around for a way across the canal and realized I had probably made a mistake. It turned out to be a mistake that required a 45 minute walk to the South, then West, then back North to get to a main street that crossed the canal. Oh well, I told you it was an adventure cruise......

I walked my way out of difficulty, as I have done so many times before since arriving in BKK, and completed my business at my destination. I made my way back to the Klong, this time at a stop that let you cross the canal if necessary, and hopped aboard the next boat that came by in the right direction. Fun day. Total cost - 20 Baht round trip (54 cents)

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingYou can see from the pics that a lot of Thais use the boats. They are reliable, relatively cool and fast compared to busses. If you sit in front of the engine, they are reasonably quiet and smog free, and they are much faster than any method of over the road travel (taxis, busses, cars…) due to the lack of competing traffic. Most of the Thais were on the boat when I got on, and still on it when I got off. I surmise that these boats are generally used for long distance travel, and they do traverse the city from East to West along several lines of Latitudes. A few canals go North to South, but not nearly as many as the E/W paths.

I'll do it again, but it will take a lot more planning than I gave this trip. Now I have to figure out how to plan with no map….


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