Klongs Pong in Bangkok

It may sound like I don’t like the experience, but the Bangkok waterways that are known as klongs are on the nose. That’s not a complaint, merely a statement of fact. If you can put up with the exotic aromas which emanate from the muddy waters of the canals you can see a part of Bagnkok that is definitely worth exploring.

Bangkok is a watery city, as it is intersected by the wide Chao Praya River, off which run many tributaries and klongs. The klongs are used as transport corridors and are plied by long boats powered by large noisy, smoky engines which zip them along at a rapid pace. I remember standing on a jetty once, waiting for a boat, watching the bloated body of a dog float gently pass, and realised this was not water in which you would willingly swim.

So, I wouldn’t swim in a klong, nor drink it, but I would, and I have, taken a boat ride on a klong, and it s both a thrilling and very interesting experience.

You can do a klong tour by long-tailed boat, which is fairly structured in that it takes you to some of the most interesting places, but it is casual enough that you have freedom to do some exploring on your own. One of the stops that is certainly worth doing is to visit the Royal Barge Museum, where there are eight elaborate long boats that are used on special occasions for ceremonial purposes. These intricately carved boats are propelled by dozens of rowers depending on their function.

Apparently, there used to be thousands of these royal barges, but they are rarely used now. The most important of the barges is the ‘Golden Swan,’ which has a figurehead prow in the shape of a huge golden swan.

As you speed up the various canals you pass traditional wooden stilt houses and call into various temples, one of which is shaped like a giant boat which, apparently, doubles as a stable for buffaloes, although they weren’t obvious when I visited.

Bangkok can be a noisy city, but once you journey deep into the klongs, and after they turn of your boat’s engine, it is actually quite serene. You also have the opportunity to go for a walk along the riverbank, and to try a meal at the local street stalls which seem to pop up everywhere.

The klongs can look, and they certainly smell, unfriendly, but it is quite a good adventure to discover a part of Bangkok which pre-dates the modern era.

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