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A klong tour, sailing through old Bangkok!

A klong tour through the canals of Bangkok is the ultimate way to discover Thonburi, the old part of Bangkok. Thonburi is located west of the Chao Phraya River. This is a part of Bangkok where you, as a tourist normally don’t come quickly. You feel like you are far away from the blocks with skyscrapers, large luxury shopping malls and four-lane roads. Yet Thonburi is closer than you think and easy to reach. During the boat trip you will see wooden houses on stilts, friendly locals, unexpected green oasis and colorful temples.

You sail mainly through the narrow canals (klongs) of Bangkok. Because of this you sometimes literally look closely at the houses at the waterfront. You will see the hustle and bustle along and on the water; people who garden, cook, do the laundry or take a nice nap. In short, just life along the river as it has been for generations. For the Thai very normal, for us very special! 

Narrow river in old Bangkok
House on the water with woman doing laundry by the river

Images: ThailandMagazine.com

Our boat trip through the old Bangkok

In the early morning we traveled with the Sky Train to the BTS station Wutthakat. Here we met our English speaking guide.

We booked our klong tour in advance with the Bangkok Boat Company, this turned out to be a good choice!

When we got out of the BTS station we noticed that there were no high tower blocks here, but small houses and a few low apartment buildings.

Together with our eloquent guide we walked through the narrow streets to the boarding point of the boat. On the way we met an old lady who made slippers and a group school children brushing their teeth in the street. The atmosphere in this part of Bangkok is not to compare with the modern and new part of Bangkok.

Old lady makes slippers on the street
A group of schoolchildren brush their teeth on the street.

Images: ThailandMagazine.com

In the longtail boat

Arriving at a narrow canal our cute little longtail boat with captain was ready for departure. Because we had booked a private tour we got a smaller version of the longtail boat. Cute, but also a bit exciting, because this one sits quite low on the water!

Longtail boat with driver on the river of Bangkok

Image: ThailandMagazine.com

Sailing through the klongs (canals) of Bangkok

As soon as the boat starts to sail, your eyes won’t rest! The houses on stilts in the water are very nice to see, some are on the verge of collapsing. Other houses look very nice and have beautiful gardens with fruit trees and beautiful flowers. Although you are still in the mega metropolis of Bangkok, there are still parts with nothing but green.

There are quite a few monitor lizards living in this water by the way, we saw a pretty impressive specimen swimming nearby!

Large monitor lizard in a klong of Bangkok
Nature along the klong of Bangkok

Images: ThailandMagazine.com

From a woman in a small boat we bought freshly baked banana, one of our favorite snacks in Thailand!

Thai woman sells fried banana from a longtail boat

Image: ThailandMagazine.com

During our klong tour our guide gave us a lot of information about the area. She told us that in a decade or so, maybe all the traditional houses on the water will have disappeared. The land in Bangkok is precious and large investors are very interested in the land along the canals of Bangkok. The inhabitants cannot always prove that the land is officially in their possession because it has been passed on from generation to generation. Also, sometimes there is not enough money to repair / renovate the old houses and selling it is the only alternative.

Old dilapidated house on the water
Old man's on the waterfront

Images: ThailandMagazine.com

During the boat trip through Thonburi you also make some stops, which are often depending on which tour you book. There are also klong tours where you only stay in the boat. If you book a private tour, you can discuss which stops are planned. For example, you can visit an orchid farm or take cooking lessons in a traditional Thai house. Even an introduction to meditation is possible.

Two longtail boats cross on the river
Narrow canal called klong in Bangkok

Images: ThailandMagazine.com

We had agreed that we especially wanted to discover the narrow canals of Bangkok in peace and quiet. We also visited The Artist House, a cultural center and the Buddhist temple Wat Pak Nam.

The Artist House, house with wooden decking and plants on the waterfront

Image: ThailandMagazine.com

The Artist House 

The Artist House is an inspiring place on the river of Bangkok. The whole building is made of wood and richly decorated with plants. There is a few hundred year old pagoda where a Thai puppet show is given on Saturday. Admission is free.

There are shops with art objects such as statues, paintings, books and postcards. It is a nice place where there is a lot to discover about Thai culture. You can decorate Thai wooden masks or make your own bracelet (also fun for children!). For some extra luck you can give the fish some of the colorful fish food that is for sale, no nibbles for you but for the fish…

The Artist House richly decorated with plants.

Image: ThailandMagazine.com

The surroundings of The Artist House are also very worthwhile. The narrow streets are connected by steep bridges, here we will definitely come back!

Steep bridge over the narrow canal
Narrow street with wooden houses in Thonburi

Images: ThailandMagazine.com

After exploring the surroundings of The Artist House we got back in the boat. We went to the Wat Paknam temple, we already caught a glimpse of it from the boat earlier. Man, that looked impressive!

Big golden Buddha on the waterfront

Image: ThailandMagazine.com

Unknown temple, Wat Paknam Phasi Charoen

Wat Paknam is a temple that is very popular with the Buddhist Thai population, but still relatively unknown to tourists. It was very quiet and that gave the temple an extra special serene atmosphere. The Wat Paknam is known for its stupa with beautiful handmade gold decorations. At the very top is a fairytale almost fluorescent ceiling.

Entrance Wat Paknam Temple in Thonburi
richly decorated ceiling supported by golden pillars.

Images: ThailandMagazine.com

We also saw how a new Buddha statue was built. On the picture you see the mouth of the Buddha. Eventually it will be almost 70 meters high, making it the third largest sitting Buddha statue of Thailand! 

Piece of Buddha's mouth under construction.

Image: ThailandMagazine.com

The Buddha of Wat Paknam in Bangkok
The Buddha of Wat Paknam in Bangkok
The Buddha of Wat Paknam in Bangkok

Different kinds of tours

We booked our klong tour in advance with the Bangkok Boat Company because we had heard good stories about it. You can choose from different kinds of tours. Like the Lazy Afternoon Tour, Family Tours and Breeze and Pleased Tours. With a private / custom tour you can decide in consultation with the guide what you will see. Whatever you choose to book a klong tour with these nice people is highly recommended!

Old Thai houses on stilts in the water

Image: ThailandMagazine.com

Nice (family) outing in Bangkok!

After the beautiful temple we made a last boat trip back to our pick-up point. By now it was around noon and time to say goodbye to our guide. We had been on and around the water for almost 3 hours and the time had passed! A tour through the canals of Bangkok is really fun to do, also for the children. (life jackets are available). For people with walking difficulties it can be difficult to get in and out of the longtail boat. Of course the guide or the captain will help where possible.

walkway along narrow canal (klong) in Bangkok

Image: ThailandMagazine.com

Where to book a longtail boat in Bangkok?

It isn’t necessarily necessary to book a longtail boat tour in advance. You can also rent a longtail boat at the Phra Arthit Pier (near Khao San Road and Rambuttri Road). We did this a few years ago. If you ask us which one we liked better, the answer is easy, the pre-booked tour at the Bangkok Boat Company! With the tour of Bangkok Boat we went longer and deeper into the canals. This is also because you get on a different location.

During the tour we booked at the pier, we spent a lot of time reaching the narrow tributaries and houses on stilts. After that we went back at a fast pace. Of course this is a pity because there is so much to see! So if you want to see the houses on stilts, at least take the 1.5 hour tour.

Thai woman swinging from a longtail boat passing by

Image: ThailandMagazine.com

Prices longtail boat hire

The price of a longtail boat tour depends on your wishes. At the small tour agencies on the pier the prices seem to be pretty fixed. However, if you can negotiate well, you can sometimes manage to get something off the price. You can also try to negotiate directly with a longtail boat owner. Always make clear in advance what the price is, how long the trip will take and where you are going to take the boat. At the pier you pay around 750 to 1,000 baht for an hour and a half sailing through the klongs of Bangkok. In comparison with the Bangkok Boat Company, you pay 950 baht for 2 hours sailing. The choice is yours!

Even more fun activities on and around the water in Bangkok

Read here all about the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand
Read more about the Chao Phraya River Express, public tarnsportation in Bangkok, Thailand.

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