Boats and Canals

Packing them in like sardines is an understatement
by Bangkok Mouth

canals

Although Bangkok’s canals are horribly polluted, canal boat transport still plays a major part in getting the city’s thousands of commuters to work on time in the morning. Travelling by boat is an enormous time saver. There are no traffic jams on the waterways of course, and journey times compared to road travel can be up to 80% shorter.

There are notable disadvantages to this mode of transportation however. The safety measures (laugh) are an absolute joke. Passengers have to stand on slippery wooden boat piers which look as though they could collapse at any moment, and commuters have to jump on and off the boats with the agility and reflexes of a hummingbird. Quite how all those office girls in their high heels and short skirts perform the task I’ll never know, but they manage to do so with considerable poise and grace.

Several years ago during the morning rush hour, a wooden pier did in fact collapse under the weight of morning rush-hour passengers and there were something like 28 fatalities in a tragedy which was splashed all over the newspaper front pages around Asia, while the Thai authorities and powers-that-be blamed each other in the usual fashion.

I’ve never been a boat user, possibly something to do with the fact that I swim like a brick. I’ve stood on those rickety old piers at times and watched in horror as people almost go arse-over-tit into the black murky waters and just can't bring myself to take the plunge (no pun intended).

For those who are interested in risking their necks, the canal boats are very regular, and fares are ludicrously cheap (8-20 baht). You could however end up with one or two dry cleaning bills on top if you’re not careful.

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