Bangkok City Guide -> Sightseeing -> River Tour &  the Klongs of Thonburi
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 boats that 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.
A floating Spirit House
A "floating" Spirit House

To 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).

Teakwood Mansion at the Klong
Teakwood Mansion at the Klong

After 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 - you should not pay much more than 400 Baht per hour.  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.

To finish your tour, ask the boat driver to take you  to Thien Pier (Tha Tien) and visit Wat Pho with its stunning buildings and Buddha images. Wat Pho, or Wat Phra Jetuphon,which is the full name, is the oldest and also the largest temple in Bangkok. It was founded in the 16th century, before the fall of Ayuthaya. The besto known "attraction" here is the large Reclining Buddha, and you will probably want to see it first. The chapel is located to the right of the entrance (there are also signs).  The statue is 46 meters long and 15 meters high and depicts the Buddha in the attitude he assumed before he died. The statue is covered all over with gold and has a very beautiful and tranquil face. Also noteworthy are the soles of the Buddha`s feet. They are decorated with exquisite mother-of-pearl-inlays that show the 108 signs that characterize a Buddha.

Lacquer Door at a Viharn in Wat Pho
Lacquer Door at a Viharn in Wat Pho

While the Reclining Buddha is certainly very impressive, it is by far not all that is to see in Wat Pho. After you leave the chapel turn right and walk ahead. In front of you you can see four very tall Chedis, one blue, one yellow, one green, and the last one orange. They were built by the first kings of the still reigning Chakri dynasty. Directly to the right of the blue Chedi (on the other side of the wall) is the Mondhop (baldachin structure) which houses the library where the sacred scripts are kept. Walk past the library (along the wall) and the European Pavilion  and enter the inner courtyard of the Wat  through the small gate. The central building in the inner courtyard is the large Bot (ordination hall). It is surrounded by galleries with 394 precious ancient Buddha statues. The Bot itself is one of the most beautiful temple buildings in Bangkok. Especially noteworthy are the mother-of-pearl front doors and the relief panels on the walls that depict scenes from the Ramayana epic. You can also usually go inside (but take your shoes off!) and see the altar and the Buddha images.  

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Last Updated 10.02.2008