Monday, June 26, 2006

Chaopraya River - Bangkok - Thailand

Chaopraya River Bangkok Thailand Chaopraya River Night Bangkok Thailand The Chao Phraya river is Bangkok’s lifeline: it was our preferred mode of transportation, especially in hot and humid weather. It is a long ribbon of brown/grayish water, with Bangkok on one side and Thonburi on the other. Most important historical sites are built on its banks. We were at Station 16, a 5 minute walk from our hotel. Piles of sandbags are always around the stations; frequently, you will find wooden planks positioned above ground so as to offer dry paths to pedestrians. Alas, on most, only one person can really fit and it becomes a game of wills when 2 or more people are trying to get through. The river boats that are the workhorses of the Chao Praya are categorized as Yellow or Orange express lines, and White for local. Our fare was Bs. 10 apiece, the highest fare for going from Zone 2 to Zone 1. There are 3 zones in all, and they’ll be denoted on any river map. You can hire a private boat that will take you for an hour’s ride, which we did, for Bs. 600 (US$14) and make stops at designated tourist spots. We did not want to make any stops, but we sat side by side toward the front of the vessel, and as we turned into one of the khlongs (canals), we caught glimpses of everyday life. Most remarkable to me was that regardless of how seedy the housing, every one had an abundance of potted flowers and plants. We went through a small floating market, and had a few vendors trying to interest us in knick knacks. A bit further, we stopped and bought bread to feed fish that magically surfaced in hundreds. It reminded me very much of Lake Mead, where we had a similar experience, feeding the fish popcorn. As I suggested earlier, just get on one of these boats and take it as far as you can go. For 25 cents, you’ll get an overview of Bangkok and then you can decide where you’d like to further your explorations. The best seat in the house is on your feet, posted at one of the openings toward the back, but take care not to stand where they reserve the area for monks. If it’s very crowded, you’ll be constantly elbowed by new passengers making their way to the front of the boat, and by the conductor/tress, who will tear your ticket in half with this circular metal coin holder which she seems to enjoy shaking to no end. If there is any irritant at all, it is the sound of the strident whistle you cannot escape, which is heard as a signal to the captain that he can proceed to the next stop. At times, two boats will get very close to each other, and their insurance against collision comes in the forms of used tires which they hang on the sides of the barges. Very clever indeed.

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