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Published: November 2nd 2012
Log-jammed in a sea of taxis, or crammed like a sardine in the BTS skytrain, many people overlook Bangkok's original means of transportation, one that brought it the designation The Venice of the East
, like it's predecessor Ayutthaya before it. Perhaps in the modern world, it is impractical to expect even a tourist to have the time to meander about the city on Bangkok's waterways, known as Khlongs -
though Khlong Saen Saeb
still sees about 60,000 passengers / day, and can take you to a quite extraordinary variety of destinations - a more in depth list is provided in the link below: http://www.bangkok.com/attraction-waterway/khlongs-khlong-saen-saeb-boat-route-guide.htm
However even if you are not in the market for alternative forms of transportation, Bangkok's Khlongs are a great way to experience the city more as it once was, to get off the concrete and onto the water. On our visit we decided to hire a private long-boat for a one-hour tour which ended at Wat Aroon, where shuttle services were available to take you back to where you began. The rather informal tour operation dropped from 1,500 baht down to 1,000 baht ($30) relatively effortlessly and we were out on the open waters of
the Chao-Phraya River. As we turned down the first shady Khlong we were immediately awed by the vast scale of the communities which still clung to the life-blood of the Khlong system. Grandmothers were pounding curry paste with mortar and pestel, mothers hanging clothes on the line, fathers with their sons fishing off the decks, dogs and even the occasional monitor lizard basking in the sun.
As we rode up the Khlong we were approached by the original street vendors - salesmen and women paddling in long canoes selling tacky souveneirs, cold drinks and beer. There were even a few food vendors and hawkers paddling about. One of the vendors, unsuccessful in selling us a beer, asked if we would like to buy one for the driver. I'm not sure what the open container laws are for motorists driving long boats fixed with car engines rigged into boat motors, but I decided against it anyways.
At the end of our journey we were dropped at Wat Arun. From a distance, the Wat is easily one of the most beautiful I have seen in Thailand, but one must see it from up close to really appreciate the exquisite attention
to detail that makes the temple so unique. It is said that a temple existed on the grounds even during the Ayutthaya period, before Bangkok became the capital of Thailand. Legend has it that King Taksin, following the fall of the historical Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya, passed the temple at dawn and vowed to restore it. Indeed, Wat Arun (Arun being the Thai word for morning) is said to be at it's most beautiful when the early morning sun reflects off the temple, shimmering as a beacon for all who pass by. Upon entering the temple gates, the majesty of the carvings and mosaics that make up the whole of the enormous temple is truly a sight to behold. There are also smaller temples on the site, one of which has every wall from floor to ceiling covered with an intense panorama painting of a great battle. The site is framed by beautiful gardens, and from the peak of the temple can be seen a stunning view of the river with the skyline at it's back. And of course, like most things in Thailand, the $1 entrance fee won't set you far back either.
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