Bangkok: A Journey Down the Chao Phrya River

March 8 - Bangkok: Got up fairly early, considering how late I had gone to sleep. I took the river boat down to the southern-most point, figuring I would just ride back up the river to the north and get a tour of the enti re length of the river service. The boat costs about 7 baht (US$.28) which gives you some idea of why that 400B taxi ride makes people's blood boil. Getting your ticket is easy. Getting on the boat is another matter. The driver, with the help of an as sistant, maneouvers the back end of the boat to the little jetty, which bobs up and down due to the boat's wake, then you are expected to jump on as the other passengers or jumping off. You have about 30 milliseconds to do this, or the period of time whe re the boat and the jetty are less than 50 cm apart. Before or after this window of safety, you run the risk of ending up in the river. It's lots of fun. Especially for women with children or travelers with very heavy backpacks. I strongly recommend it!

On the way down the boat passes several impressive wats (temples) including the Royal Palace Grounds and Wat Arun,on the west side of the river. Many ramshackle houses are built on the river, so you also have a chance to see something of the life style of these people. Near the Shangri-La Hotel you can see posh riverside restaurants and some new high-rise condos for the wealthy Thais who are becoming more visible in Bangkok.

When the boat finally arrived at the southmost point the crew forced everyone to get off the boat! I had expected to just ride back up again, but it seems that this was not the next boat going up. I got out and wandered around for a while, checking out this part of town.

There is a wat just behind the jetty, so I took a look around. All of the buildings were draped in black and white banners. I had heard that the king's mother had died and apparently these decorations were in honor of her upcoming funeral, which was to be held on the sunday (March 10).

Further down the road was an elementary school. It was recess time, and kids were running and screaming all over the place. A few of them spotted me and ran up while I took some photos. They were all shouting "Hello!" and generally going crazy. Some shy kids ran away when I tried to take a photo, but quite a few posed, then ran off laughing.

On the way back to the boat, I saw two men using the high-tech method for painting the speed bumps in the road. One man had a can of white paint, the other yellow. First they painted the lines to divide the white stripes from the yellow, then proceeded to fill in their respective colors. Their brushes were quite thin and it looked like it would take them quite a while to finish the job. Both were wearing short pants and one had a cigarette hanging out of his mouth as he worked. A third guy sat on the side and watched them.

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All text and photographs Copyright (c) 2001 Naomi S. Smith

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