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:

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.


Yes, yes, this one is tied off, which happened on almost all of our stops.  But don’t get comfortable, the Taxi dude hops off and ties it as people are flooding on and off, then disconnects and hops back on. You are stopped for a very short, some would say insufficient, period of time.

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.


Exactly how low are we sitting in the water?  


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

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.


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

I’m sure it’ll be fine!

Oh look, I wonder how that dock collapsed?


Oh, goodie!  Another one.


I’m sure it’ll be fine!

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

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.chao-phraya-boatchao-phraya-boat2chao-phraya-tugboat


In fact, there were so many we saw boat traffic jamschao-phraya-traffic2chao-phraya-traffic

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.chao-phraya-homes4achao-phraya-homes5chao-phraya-homes3chao-phraya-homes2

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

And there was this… I’m actually not clear what we were looking at here.chao-phraya-banks

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

And of course, temples.chao-phraya-temple3chao-phraya-templechao-phraya-temple2

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.    chao-phraya-pidgeon-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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