Sunday, April 20, 2014

Bangkok: Venice of the East

A lot of us know Bangkok as the bustling metropolis of South East Asia, where electronic gadgets are cheap, tourism is popular and the food is amazing. It is home to mad crowds, crazy traffic and lots of pollution. In fact, a lot of the movie Hangover 2 movie can be seen in reality here. But, there is more to Thailand’s capital than just this. The reason the old capital was moved from Ayutthaya to Bangkok is because of its Chao Phraya river, its well connected canal system and its fertile lands.

A river view from Wat Arun, Bangkok
This is a side of Bangkok that the locals know very well, but the tourists tend to over see as the charms of the modern city of Bangkok seem to appeal to them more. But, if you want a different perspective of Bangkok, wish to see some of Bangkok’s truest charms and see life away from the hustle, bustle and pollution, you have to explore this ‘Venice of the East’ on water.

Chao Phraya River scene from Wat Arun
An early start (before sunrise) would be the best way to begin your water exploration. There are boat jetties at many places along the river. At each place, one can either hire a tourist boat or a local boat depending on comfort and budget. If you want to travel on budget and/or experience the local life, I would recommend the local boats. To start with, you have to watch the sun rise from the ‘Temple of Dawn’ – Wat Arun. From here, the options are endless.

Buddhist temples on the Thonburi bank of the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok
You can explore more of the temples along the Thon Buri bank or you can dig deeper into some of the smaller canals. It is here in the smaller canals that you give you a Venice like look and feel, but with a dash of oriental-ness to it. There are these floating markets that sell vegetables, fruits, meats and all these daily use type of things. Then, there is your daily post man on boat. Then, there are so many of these houses that live by the river and you can see kids boarding their boat to goto the mainland to catch their school bus.

Dessert being served at the Taling Chan Floating Market, Bangkok
There are lots of such things that one can see here. And even better is spending time with the locals here who will share their past of how their lives have remained still while the other half of Bangkok really zoomed skywards. The pace here is easy going, the people very welcoming and the food really delicious. All in all, make for great canal experiences.

Food Stalls at Taling Chan Floating Market, Bangkok
The other thing that I like about these canals is the different perspective of Bangkok that they offer. Skyscrapers look different, bridges look different and basically the entire river front wears a look so different from the rest of Bangkok. Personally, I am a big fan of this riverside life of Bangkok and if you have not seen this side of Bangkok, I would suggest you get acquainted with it soon. It is truly the Venice of the East.

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