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Bangkok was once known as the "Venice of the East" and canals were running through all of the city. While most of the canals have today been covered and turned into roads, especially in Thonburi there are until the present day quarters of the city where the boat (the long slim longtail boats - called Rua Hang Yao) is the only means of transport. And, of course, there is the Chao Phraya river. The Express boatsthat run regular routes along the river are certainly the fastest as well as the least expensive means to get to the sightseeing spots in the inner city of Bangkok.

bangkok klong1To begin, start at River City Pier (Si Phraya) or Oriental Pier and take the express boat upriver. You can go as far as Nonthaburi, a small town 10 kilometers north of Bangkok. It`s true, there is nothing special to see in Nonthaburi, but the boat ride as such is pleasant and interesting. Otherwise, get out at Tha Chang (the pier near the Grand Palace) and take the ferry boat that crosses the Chao Phraya to Thonburi. On the other side of the river you will find Wat Rakang. Wat Rakang ("Bell Temple" - you can hear the bells every morning)  is not part of the organized sightseeing tours - and therefore blissfully quiet und undisturbed. Walk from the boat landing to the temple, along old teakwood houses. Most noteworthy are the  immaculately beautiful white Khmer-style Chedi (Prang) and the lovely library with wonderful murals that depict scenes from the Ramakian Epic (the Thai version of the Ramayana).

bangkok klong2After your visit to Wat Rakang  it is time for a Klong tour! Take the ferry back to Tha Chang and look for a longtail boat (Rua Hang Yao) - there are always plenty! Tell the boat driver that you want to go to Klong Bangkok Noi and ask to be dropped off after the tour at Tha Thien (Thien Pier). Discuss the price before you enter the boat. The boat driver will take you downriver on the Chao Phraya (the Rua Hang Yao are very fast and  usually  some water will splash into the boat and over you - dress accordingly and avoid getting the water in the eyes or in the mouth) before he enters Klong Bangkok Noi. If you like to, you can stop on the way at the Royal Barge Museum where the King`s long barges - today only used for very special occasions - are displayed. If not, just continue along Klong Bangkok Noi and, later, Klong Chak Phra. It is an entirely different Bangkok that you will see here - very quiet and peaceful, above all. The longtail boat takes your along lots of simple wooden houses as well as old colonial-style  mansions, palm trees, fruit groves, spirit houses standing on pillars in the water, Buddhist temples, and flower gardens.