A Day on the Klongs

It was the weekend. Time to take to the canals, the klongs of Bangkok. It is the klongs that are the historical foundation of the city. It was from the river that trade arrived and departed, and it was along the klongs that goods were distributed. The flat alluvial plain of the great maenam Chao Phraya (แม่น้ำเจ้าพระยา), Thailand's principle river, is criss-crossed with klongs for transport. While less obvious these days, Bangkok still makes use of the ancient arteries. Long barges that are taxies link the Chao Phraya and the klongs, which provide convenient daily transport for workers and school-children. Every morning and evening they are crowded in the same way they have been for centuries. Follow the klongs and one can glimpse a previous incarnation of Krung Thep.

Shortcut Canals Built Across the Bows of the Chao Phraya River
"Shortcut canals of lower Chao Phraya River" (Heinrich Damm/Wikipedia)

Set away from the road, families live in houses set on stilts above the water. On a hot day a heavy silence sits with them. Only the sound of my boat making way through the water reaches my ears. One imagines many children have long since left these river-bound communities for the modernity and certainty of the concrete city. An elderly generation remain, part of the steady rhythm of the waterways.

On the klongs there is wood and there is water. It is a natural setting where the weather pervades and dictates life. Beside the houses, dark shade shelters small boats moored under deep porches. Passing on the klong, old ladies sell food and necessities from floating shops. It is a culture as old as the city itself.

When I return to Bangkok it will be to better explore these far reaches. Last year, on that sunny weekend I stopped to visit temples next to the water. By chance I found an orchid farm far from the tourist trail, as bright and brilliant as the nearby temples. I will post more photos here when I get back.

ฉันรักกรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยา มหาดิลกภพ นพรัตนราชธานีบูรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์.