I was only in Bangkok for three nights, but could easily have stayed three weeks. It’s bustling, colourful , noisy and steamy with loads of character, tradition and has awesome food – it does everything a proper city should do.
Bangkok’s dirty great river, the Chao Phraya, meanders its way up through Thailand’s capital city and is not only an ideal way to get around the city’s sights, it is the premier Bangkok sight.
After spending the day in the Chinatown area, I returned to my hostel in Banglamphu by ferry, a few stops north along the river. The Chao Phraya Express Boat is public transport at its finest – efficient, cheap and bags of fun.
The boats stop at each pier for no longer than 30 seconds and in that time there is a flurry of activity, as passengers scramble onto the boat and disembark at the same time in the same place.
This is no place for ditherers.
There are three members of staff per boat – driver, ticket inspector and whistler. The whistler must have one of the most interesting job descriptions you’ll ever hear – he must whistle when the boat approaches a pier and keep whistling, each time more quickly, like a car’s parking sensors, so the driver knows exactly when to cut the engine.
A single trip costs around 20 baht now (£1 = 50 baht), but was even cheaper when I was there back in 2006. It’s likely you’ll have to stand as these boats are dangerously overcrowded.
Whatever you do, don’t do what I did and take one of the seats at the back, which are reserved for monks. Look closely at the photo and you will see the saffron colour of robes towards the rear of the boat. Monks are revered across Thailand, and don’t have to pay for anything – the ferry included.
The bridge you can see is the Rama VIII Bridge, named after King Ananda Mahidol. It looks magnificent at sunset, and later at night when its cables are illuminated and the lights flicker on the surface of the river.
The area has probably changed a bit in the six years since I was there – I’d love to return one day and see for myself.