Yes, there are river canals in Bangkok, and yes, you can take a boat through them. This was something that confused me deeply when I first heard about the river boats in Bangkok. If you haven’t visited here yourself, you might be asking, “why is that?” Well, for starters, the city is so dense that you just can’t really imagine a river running through it. Second, the sewer is an open sewer system that has to drain somewhere… Any a guess on where it drains? …Yes, the river. The same river that the river boats in Bangkok ride through. It brings a whole new meaning to the term “Sewer Surfing” from Ninja Turtules.
Now for the adventure
I decided I would take the boat down stream during rush-hour, as I’d heard a lot of praise about the time efficiency of the boat during rush-hour, and invited a Canadian from the gym along for the trip. I learned that the boat makes a stop at the international shopping mall destination, MBK. MBK is a great destination and a must for any traveler coming through Bangkok. There is a “Food Island” where it is very inexpensive, delicious, and nutritious place to eat. Not to mention the many floors of outlets, open market (for those that like to barter) and monthly Muay Thai fights that they have as well. Anyways, none of that sewer surfing stuff hit me until I saw the boat pull up to the dock… the boat isn’t small, but just very low to the water. I knew this would be bad, but figured the boat probably didn’t go too fast. I was wrong, oh so wrong. Not 5 minutes into the trip, Steve (the Canadian) and I were sprayed with water coming over the side of the boat. It took me a second to realize that we were literally being sprayed with sewer water. Yup. I’d ran into a friend on the boat from the Wai Kru Ceremony and asked him how long it would take to get to MBK… 40 minutes. 40 minutes on a boat where you get sprayed with sewer water, the sickos at Guantanamo couldn’t come up with a torture so perfect, and there were people who use this thing EVERY DAY. It brought a whole new level of respect to the lady who served me coffee every day after I learned that was how she would get to the coffee shop in the mornings. I quickly regretted my decision to be near the edge of the boat.
After a while, I realized that we still hadn’t paid to take the boat. I was confused because there wasn’t anything on the dock that specified how or where to pay. I began looking around and noticed that there were two people hanging off each side of the boat with a fanny pack. These people were taking the brunt of the shit spray on their legs, due to the deck of the boat being way below the edge that they were standing on. I learned that these people were responsible for people getting on and off the boat safely (and quickly) at each dock, while selling you your ticket to your destination. What a shit job (pun fully intended). I have nothing but respect for those people who work that job.
I started noticing that there was a tarp that the passengers could pull up using a cord that would help prevent the sewer splash. I held onto that cord for dear life as the boat sped along the sewers of Bangkok, it didn’t help too much but it didn’t prevent some major damage from being done. Somehow, water still managed to get into my eyes and ear (sad face). Eventually we did make it to MBK after transferring from one boat to another (not hard) which was kind of sketchy and fast, as the boats were swaying quite a bit in the sewer water.
After my initial experience, I realized that we would be taking the boat back, as the traffic was even worse at that time and we wanted to make it back in time to train. We took from our last experience the knowledge to sit in the seats and get far away from the edge of the boat to prevent getting sprayed with the black water. I got a nice little lesson in physics that day, as I realized that sitting in the direct middle wasn’t the best seat either. With the tarps on the side being pulled up, water still sprayed over the tarps, missing the first few people, yet landing directly into the middle group of people… yup. I facepalmed and held that position until we arrived at our station, through thick and thin, through heavy smells of the noodles from the previous night, we made it.
Now, THAT was an adventure. I would still recommend the boat, try it at least once. Some people have better experiences, and if you do, please share!