Living in the concrete jungles of central Bangkok makes it hard to imagine life a century ago. But it is entirely possible to experience a tranquil, idyllic side of the city, where the pace slows considerably against the backdrop of lush flora and weathered wooden houses — and boats serve as the main mode of transportation.
Along with our friends from Nancy Chandler Maps, we joined Pandan Tour on a private Small Teak Boat Canal Adventure last Friday for a day of exploration on the water. Bright and early, we met up with our friendly guide Nui at the Wutthakat BTS Station on the Thonburi side. After covering the day’s itinerary, Nui led us aboard our small boat and we took off into the labyrinth of canals that criss cross this oft-unknown side of the city.
Initially, Nui described the trip as going back in time about 100 years when Bangkok featured extensive waterways, and she was spot on. Life on the banks of the canal encompasses an eclectic mix of languid communities, people selling freshly prepared food from boats and an assortment of wildlife, from monitor lizards and catfish to egrets and domesticated fowl. While there are some high rise condos cropping up in the area, thanks to the accessibility afforded by the BTS, the urban landscape that we commonly associate with Bangkok seems a world away.
For the next six hours, our activities included strolling through a morning market where we picked up fruit and corn, buying savoury snacks from boat vendors (we were constantly eating throughout the tour), and stopping at several temples like the elaborate Wat Paknam Phaisi Chareon, which boasts a one-ton solid gold monk statue and other Buddhist artefacts, an exquisite crystal pagoda, and vast skyline views. In stark contrast, we also visited the simple Wat Pa Chearn Lane forest monastery, a cluster of open-air wood pavilions rimmed by tranquil canals and lotus ponds. In addition, we dropped by an orchid nursery and the Artist-House, a 250 year old structure on Klong Bang Luang, with intriguing human figures, large Thai puppets (unfortunately, there was no performance on the day of our trip), and art activities for children.
The highlights, especially for the kids, were feeding the fish from the walkway in front of the Artist-House, spotting animals in and by the canals and taking in the sights from the breezy comfort of the boat. We saw boys diving into the water, a postman doing deliveries by boat, spindly dragonfruit trees, tall lotus blossoms, a large Buddha image atop several elephants, a lion dance troupe practicing their moves…
The tour is recommended for families with children ages 5+ but babies and toddlers have also joined with their parents, explained Nui. Tours are flexible and can be adapted to suit the children’s energy levels; shorter tours can be arranged upon request. It can be challenging getting on and off the boat at the various stops due to fluctuating water levels (the canals are tidal) but it was manageable.
Our tour ended at 3pm back at Wutthakat Station. We definitely had a long day, but quite a colourful adventure without any hassle.
The cost is 2,395 baht per adult (minimum of 2 adults) while children ages 3 to 12 enjoy 75% off (special offer for BKK Kids). Under 2s may join the tour free of charge. The price covers an English-speaking guide, bottled water and other drinks, snacks and lunch. Tours are available daily; weekday tours are more relaxing but weekend tours include a trip to the Lat Mayom Weekend Floating Market (more food!).