Bangkok / Thailand / Travel Writing

Chao Phraya: The Water Taxi Experience

Today, we remember with fondness(ish) the experience that is the Water Taxi on Chao Phraya, in the heart of Bangkok.

As the wise philosopher, or hubby Scott, put it:  The Water Taxi on Chao Phraya is… an adventure for the senses.

The people crowded around you, the rocking of the boat, the smell of water, and fish, and diesel, and the people crowded around you (did I mention the crowd?).  The colorful boats going by,  paint sleek on one and peeling heavily on the next.  Multiple languages. Always people shuffling past, getting on and getting off.  Giving up on “excuse me” and just threading, and then pushing through.

But I think the more fascinating part of riding was the willing suspension of critical thought.  It must be done to get from point A to point B without having a nervous breakdown. You have to access those synapses in your brain that send off the impulse to ask yourself, or worse ask aloud, “Hey, is that boat taking on water?” … and you just willfully disconnect.  Those parts of your brain will try to put up a fuss, I warn you.  But, for the sake of Point B, I recommend handing them a nice adult beverage you stored back in there at some point in your trip, and giving them the day off.

If done successfully, some of the things you will be able to successfully not acknowledge are:

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Chao Phraya Water Taxi:  Boarding

Wouldn’t it be safer if this thing came to a full and complete stop before all the mobs of people started getting on and off?  Not gonna happen?  Oh, ok, guess we just – literally – hop on.

Leaping on the water taxi.  This time it's fully tied off, but that's not always the case.  (I couldn't stop to photograph when it wasn't!)  Bangkok Chao Phraya Water Taxi

Leaping on the water taxi. This time it’s fully tied off, but that’s not always the case. (I couldn’t stop to photograph when it wasn’t!)

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Chao Phraya Water Taxi:  Maximum Occupancy

You see how relatively empty this watertaxi (above) looks?  Well, enjoy this moment, because this was the only time, all day, it looked like this.  Soon it was…

I believe we are exceeding the maximum occupancy on this thing.

This gives a a bit of an idea of the crowded state of the taxi, and it got more crowded from here. Bangkok Chao Phraya Water Taxi

This gives a a bit of an idea of the crowded state of the taxi, and it got more crowded from here.

Exactly how low are we sitting in the water?  

The water taxi coming in to accept new passengers. Bangkok Chao Phraya Water Taxi

The water taxi coming in to accept new passengers.

That load above may not seem too much, until you realize that we were getting on with about 80 of our closest friends.

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Chao Phraya Water Taxi:  Don’t Stand Near Engine

There is a diesel engine in the middle-back of the watertaxi, and our hosts nudged us at one point, encouraging us to move to the front of the boat.  Then adding in a low voice that they don’t like to stand near the engine because, ‘There have been fires.’

Oh,  Good Tip.  I’ll just file away that little tidbit.  shocked-emoji

Can you see the engine in this shot?  In the back… in the middle… with all the people crowded around it.

Do you see the engine? Of course not, it's in the back with all the people crowded around it! Bangkok Chao Phraya Water Taxi

Do you see the engine? Of course not, it’s in the back with all the people crowded around it!

Now, let’s all remember the catchphrase for this trip

I’m sure it’ll be fine!

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Chao Phraya Water Taxi:  Should We Worry About These Docks?

Oh look, I wonder how that dock collapsed?

A collapsed water taxi dock. Bangkok Chao Phraya Water Taxi

A collapsed water taxi dock.

Oh, goodie!  Another one.

Yep, another collapsed water taxi dock.  Bangkok Chao Phraya Water Taxi

Yep, another collapsed water taxi dock.

I’m sure it’ll be fine!

Oh, lets not quibble about the occupancy of this boat and weight limits on docks!

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Chao Phraya Water Taxi:  Fascinating Views of Bangkok

At some point, that little sensor in the back of your brain just goes into apoplectic shock, and shuts up nicely.  Which, really, is a relief.  Because now you can settle down and enjoy cruising down the Chao Phraya surrounded by the hustle of locals and tourists alike focused on their own missions. The view chugging by offers  a colorful, contrasting view of the heart of Bangkok that can’t be really communicated in words and pictures (though of course, I try).

I took so many pictures of the immense variety of boats, at some point, I just had to stop so I could enjoy the experience.Various boats on Bangkok's Chao Phraya Water Taxi viewVarious boats on Bangkok's Chao Phraya Water Taxi viewVarious boats on Bangkok's Chao Phraya Water Taxi view

Various boats on Bangkok's Chao Phraya Water Taxi view

In fact, there were so many we saw boat traffic jams

Traffic Jam on Bangkok's Chao Phraya. Water Taxi

Traffic Jam on Bangkok’s Chao Phraya.

More traffic on Bangkok's Chao Phaya.  Water Taxi

More traffic on Bangkok’s Chao Phaya.

Homes and buildings lined both sides endlessly.  Some looked like they could collapse into the water at any moment, but with their overlapping colors and textures made me want to photograph them all.Views along Bangkok's Chao Phraya from the Water Taxi.Views along Bangkok's Chao Phraya from the Water Taxi.Views along Bangkok's Chao Phraya from the Water Taxi.chao-phraya-homes2

And we found, on just a couple occasions, clusters of homes updated and modernized.

Modern homes along Chao Phraya as seen from the water taxi.

Modern homes along the Chao Phraya

And there was this… I’m actually not clear what we were looking at here.View of Bangkok from the Chao Phraya water taxi

And… someone wants to return to Thailand with grandpa to go fishing… because that’s a crazy amount of fish right there!

Fish seen in the Chao Phraya from the water taxi

Fish in the Chao Phraya

And of course, temples.Temples along the Chao Phraya seen from water taxiTemples along the Chao Phraya seen from water taxiTemples along the Chao Phraya seen from water taxi

Wait!  That dock apparently serves the local pigeon neighborhood, and they want to get on!  Why are we not stopping for them?!  Weight limit isn’t a concern, so I fail to see the problem.

Pigeon community on a Chao Phraya water taxi dock.

Pigeon community on a Chao Phraya water taxi dock.

The water taxi is not the OSHA regulated, US-sensibilities-built transportation system we may be used to – but in the end it got us safely from Point A to Point B… and actually from Point C, back to Point A again without incident.  It was colorful and scenic and effective, and I even had a nice chat with a Thai woman who was riding with her young daughter and wanted to know where we were from and why we were in Thailand and she wished us well as we went our separate ways.

See, it was fine.

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Bangkok Chao Phraya Water Taxi

10 thoughts on “Chao Phraya: The Water Taxi Experience

  1. Pingback: The Great Disappearing TukTuk | WanderToes

  2. I really like that you had a sense of humor about the whole experience! Yes, things get crowded in Bangkok no matter what you are trying to do. That’s why we lived in Chiang Mai! But the ride looks like it some interesting and surprising elements to it, like the colorful houses and array of other boats.

  3. Not just the experience, I really loved the way you have articulated it. The crowd, the smell and everything else. It must be very popular to be so crowded. I would like to give it a chance when I visit here

  4. Haha… It turned all fine! I can imagine how worried you were during this ride. But then you experience Bangkok as local, don’t you…

  5. I a happy to hear that your guys made it safety. Did you have to unload at a dock that was collapsing? I can’t believe how many fish were in the water. We take for granted that everything will be fixed or ‘mantained’ in the first world. (Or we will demand it does!)

  6. I took a water taxi last time I was in Bangkok and loved how much of the city you see from the water. That city really is incredible with all the different views and things to do.

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