Down by the River

On Tuesday, I headed across to the Chao Phraya River, in Bangkok, to do some sightseeing. My day included a visit to Wat Arun, a longtail boat trip around the khlongs of Thonburi and a visit to Chinatown.

The easiest way for me to get to the Chao Phraya River from the Sukhumvit area was via BTS Skytrain. An interchange at Siam Station allowed me to switch from the Sukhumvit Line to the Silom Line. I then rode the Silom Line to Saphan Taksin station, which is adjacent to the main Central Pier on the river. From Central Pier, I caught an orange flag water taxi up to Pier 8 and then jumped onto a ferry to get to Wat Arun on the opposite side of the river.

Orange flag water taxi
Orange flag water taxi
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Blue flag tourist boat
Cross-river ferry that transports passenger to/from Wat Arun
Cross-river ferry that transports passenger to/from Wat Arun
Water hyacinth plants build up next of a longtail boat
Water hyacinth plants build up next of a longtail boat

Wat Arun is also known as the Temple of Dawn, as it was named after Aruna, the Indian god of dawn. Architecturally, the wat is said to represent Mount Meru, the centre of the Buddhist universe. The main structure at Wat Arun is currently undergoing repairs, so it is covered in scaffolding and not looking its best. But it was still worth a visit, with an entry fee of only 50 baht (less than $2).

Wat Arun, on the bank of the Chao Phraya River
Wat Arun, on the bank of the Chao Phraya River

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Woman in traditional Thai clothing
Woman in traditional Thai clothing

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Old China plates were recycled to decorate the wat

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Inside one of te small temples in front of Wat Arun

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On the pier, in front of Wat Arun, there was a sign and a loud speaker advertising longtail boat tours through the khlongs (canals) of nearby Thonburi. The tours were advertised as lasting for one hour and had a range of per-person fares, dependent upon how many people were in the group. The listed price for a single passenger was 800 baht, but I was able to get the price down to 600 baht (a little less than $20). This was a lot more than the 100 baht I paid for a 90-minute tour at the Lat Mayom Market, but there were about nine others on that boat with me. This time, I had a boat all to myself. It became clear that the guy selling the tours was just an agent, as once the tour price was agreed, he flagged down the next passing longtail boat (and no doubt paid the boat operator a smaller fee than I had paid him). Nevertheless, I was soon being whisked along the khlongs, observing the different types of houses on stilts that line these canals.

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A boat to myself
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There is a system of locks to maintain correct water levels in the khlongs
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The boat operator pointed out this sleeping ‘crocodile’ (actually a water monitor)

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The fancy house in the neighbourhood
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Another ‘crocodile’ (water monitor) on the bank

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My boat operator
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Canal signs
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Canal intersection
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canal shop
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A ‘floating market’ vendor

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“Floating Market” announced my boat operator – four women in boats laying in wait for tourists
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Loaded with tourist ‘tat’. I just bought a bottle of water for me and a can of beer for my driver!

At one point along the tour, the boat operator pulled alongside a dock outside a temple so that a young monk could sell be two packs of bread (20 baht) to feed to the catfish. Here is a video clip of the catfish feeding.

And here is a video clip showing one minute of the boat ride along the canals:

Despite being advertised as a one-hour tour, the trip ended after 40-45 minutes. But I think it was worth the $20 cost to get a glimpse of life along the canals on Thonburi.

After being dropped off at Pier 5, I jumped on the next orange flagged boat and rode down to Pier 5. From there, I walked into nearby Chinatown. It was lunch-time, so I began perusing the many offerings from street vendors along both sides of Yaowarat Road.

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Side street with market – Chinatown
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Yaowarat Road, Chinatown

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Side street with several restaurants

I was saddened to see a number of restaurants advertising shark fin soup. I’m ethically opposed to the sale of shark fin due to the barbaric and wasteful fishing practices that are decimating shark populations around the world. Unfortunately, as long as people are willing to pay 6,000 baht ($187) for the smallest bowl of the soup, others will be motivated to kill these magnificent creatures.

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Shark fins on display outside restaurant. One of the fins on the middle row is priced at 52,000 baht ($1,625)

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This restaurant is contributing to the decimation of the world’s sharks
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Menu prices for small, medium and large bowls of shark fin soup
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A smaller restaurant also selling shark fins

Fortunately, there were lots of other food options that weren’t ethically offensive.

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Squid satay, amongst other things
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Fresh seafood stall
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Crabs

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Barbecue chicken and pork
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Pig face

For my lunch, I opted for a small ‘shop-house’ that only sold one item – pork over fluffy rice. There were three types of pork (a sausage and two other cuts) along with some blackened eggs. Lunch for less than $2.

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Small shop-house where I ate lunch
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Barbecued pork and eggs on fluffy rice

After lunch and a walk around Chinatown, I headed back to the water taxi for a ride down to Central Pier and a train ride back to my condo before the day’s heavy rains began. A nice day spent on and around the Chao Phraya River.

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Rain clouds forming over the Chao Phraya River

 

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