Bangkok – The ‘Venice of the East’

bangkok river fusions
Modern skyscrapers mix with elaborate temples and colourful boats along the river

Bangkok is a city fusing the ancient, the futuristic and everything in between together at the same time in a hot, heady mix.

Golden temples, elaborate gabled rooftops, ancient stupas and praangs (spires) and traditional Thai riverside stilt houses jostle for space amongst the modern gleaming skyscrapers, trendy malls and neon lights.

grand palace
The roof line of the Grand Palace

Traditional Thai dancers perform by a shrine to the four headed Hindu god of creation Brahma while devotees offer flowers and coconuts and the futuristic sky train rumbles over head.

erwan shrine
Modern infrastructure fuses with ancient religious rituals

April in Bangkok is hot and humid – almost unbearably so. On every street corner the wafts of heat and scent of food are overpowering and the hot exhausts from the seemingly constantly stationary traffic jams fill the air.

bangkok 2

The main tourist sights like the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Pho are spectacular and seem to be on everyone’s bucket list, but my favourite thing to do was actually taking a boat ride with the locals along the mighty Chao Phraya river in Bangkok.

Taking care to avoid touching a monk or getting splashed by the murky waters as the boat powers along the river, the breeze is a welcome respite to the heat.

A ride on the river in Bangkok is a good commuting option in this grid locked city and still gives an insight to when Bangkok was the ‘Venice of the East’ – the river was its lifeline for trade and influence and Thais considered themselves ‘water lords’.

bangkok river 2
Catching the breeze on the Chao Phraya river

Along with the commuter boats, tourist cruises and posh hotel boats ply the river alongside traditional working barges. The remains of warehouses and slightly ramshackle wooden houses on stilts line the river, washing hung out to dry rustles in the breeze and plant pots spill over the ledges. Children jump in and splash around in the water to cool down.

riverside collage
The remnants of traditional Bangkok riverside life

Traditional Thai houses and elaborate temples mix with some European and Chinese architecture and the majestic praang of Wat Arun rises on the bank of the river and the golden tips of the Grand Palace rise above the trees.

Wat Arun

As the boat gets closer to the central pier where the commuters hop off the boats and onto the modern sky train above, gleaming skyscrapers and fancy hotels take over from the traditional Thai houses.

Rainbow coloured long tail boats decorated with garlands on the front speed up and down the river providing a contrast with the shiny modern high rises behind.

bangkok river 3
Rainbow coloured boats contrast with modern skyscrapers

A ride down the river in Bangkok costs less than 50p and provides relief from the heat, hustle and bustle around the main tourist sites. It’s a fascinating insight into how traditional riverside life in Bangkok contrasts with the modern metropolis and shouldn’t be missed off any Bangkok itinerary.

bangkok river
Colourful temples and boats along the Chao Phraya


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