by Kelly Harvey
When most people hear the word ‘khlong’, images of polluted, stinky or dirty water most often come to mind. But, believe it or not, travelling along Khlong Saen Saep offers an easy, breezy way of cutting across Bangkok without getting stuck in its painstakingly horrendous traffic that has become known the world over.
The khlong – meaning canal in Thai – was built during the reign of King Rama III to serve as a transport system for Thai soldiers and weapons to Cambodia in the years before the Siamese-Vietnamese War of 1841-1845. It starts at Khlong Mahanak in Bangkok and flows into the Bang Pa Kong River
in Chachoengsao. Once filled with lotus flowers the khlong now serves as an alternative transport system for Bangkok’s city commuters and travellers alike.
The Khlong Saen Saep Express Boat operates daily from 5.30am-8.30pm during the week and from 5.30am-7pm on weekends and public holidays. It costs between 8-20 baht depending on the distance travelled, offering fast and inexpensive transportation across Bangkok.
With 100 boats in operation along the 18km route that runs from Panfa Leelard Pier near Khao San Road to NIDA/ Wat Sriboonreung in Bang Kapi, the Khlong Saen Saep Express Boat serves approximately 60,000 people per day. Transfers from the BTS, MRT, Chao Praya Express Boat, Khao San Road, MBK or CentralWorld are also easily accessible and are only but a short walk. The boats serve two lines: the Golden Mount Line running from Panfa Leelard Pier to Pratunam, and the NIDA Line running from Pratunam to NIDA/Wat Sriboonrueng. While there is only one access point from the piers to the boats, there are small signs showing you where to stand and in which direction the boat you need to catch will be going.
Boats run roughly every 20 minutes, but during peak traffic hours they can run as often as every minute. And like any other public mode of transport the boats fill up quickly during peak traffic, particularly those serving commuters travelling towards the city centre in the mornings and out of the city in the evenings. The experienced locals are fearless as they swiftly jump onto the boat and edge their way inside. For those less brave, you shouldn’t have to wait more than 10 minutes for your turn. Once all passengers are onboard plastic tarps posing as side panels are raised to keep everyone inside safe and dry. Thankfully, these side panels still allow for a cool and surprisingly fresh breeze to pass through as the boats cruise from pier to pier at an unbelievable pace, making for a pleasant and enjoyable commute.