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A way to experience Bangkok beyond the walls of the Grand Palace, the MBK shopping malls, the markets, and the backpacker haven of Khao San Road is to move out to the suburbs and across the river.
A long tail boat ride along the Bangkok Klongs of Nonthaburi slows down the pace a little, as well as offers a unique glimpse into the rural life of Thai people.
You’ll pass by floating markets, stilt houses, and riverside temples, plus riding in a traditional long tail boat is an experience in itself.
If you’re thinking of taking a long-tail boat ride down the Klongs of Bangkok, then read on to find out about our experience, what to see and do along the way, and how you can enjoy this exciting activity in Bangkok!
- What are Klongs in Thailand?
- What are Klongs used for?
- Our Experience of the Klongs of Bangkok
- Things to Do on the Bangkok Klongs
- Planning a Bangkok Klongs Canal Tour
- Before You Go
- More Bangkok Travel Tips
What are Klongs in Thailand?
Klongs is the Thai word for canal, and is a series of rivers and canals that run through Bangkok’s suburban neighborhood.
This area was once known as the Venice of the East because of its narrow canals and arched bridges. The romantic image of grandeur you probably have in your head with that label is not what the Bangkok Klongs are really like.
The water is muddy and thick with pollution, and quite pungent in places, but still strangely picturesque.
Crooked wooden houses, old arched bridges, and elaborate temples crowd the water’s edge as you whiz past shrouding them in a puff of fumes.
What are Klongs used for?
The klongs have a historical significance to Bangkok as they were the most common form of transportation in the city. They were also historically used for floating markets and have been for centuries. They were also used for waste disposal, sadly.
However, many of the old klongs in Bangkok have been filled in except for a few larger klongs in the Thonburi area, which covers the west part of the majestic Chao Phraya River, also known as the River of Kings.
The most popular klong for tourists to visit is Khlong Bangkok Noi. Historical records show this canal to be one of the oldest and most important in the city.
During the Ayutthaya Period, King Chai Racha Dhiraj who ruled in 1534 – 1546 ordered the excavation of a shortcut waterway to be a way to facilitate transport and communication.
Our Experience of the Klongs of Bangkok
One of the most popular things to do in Bangkok is to ride around the Bangkok Klongs on traditional small boats called long-tail boats, and we were lucky enough to visit them several times when we lived in Bangkok.
We loved meandering through the klongs of Bangkok in a water taxi, heading into areas that seemed quite jungled and green, far away from the concrete hustle and bustle.
It’s hard to imagine there is peace in Bangkok, but it exists out in the crisscrossed water highways of Thonburi. It’s the perfect activity for those looking to escape the frenetic pace of the rest of the city.
On my Thailand trip, I thoroughly enjoyed sitting low in the long tail boat, next to the murky water, and watching local life slip by.
It was interesting to see the two worlds of prestige and poverty live side by side.
Elaborate temples, wooden homes on stilts, and concrete mansions bordered by high fences and jungled gardens were flanked by corrugated iron shacks.
We came across a section of the klongs where the rocks and verandahs of homes were filled with water monitors basking in the sun.
Our guide pointed them out and explained that along this small section all of the wildlife was protected, including the catfish. This is because of all the temples nearby, as you cannot fish near a temple as it’s bad karma.
Judging by the amount of catfish we saw scrambling over each other for a morsel of bread that was being thrown at them at the docking pier for the klong tour, they are well aware of this safe haven!
Things to Do on the Bangkok Klongs
The long tail klong tour is not just about cruising around on the waters, there’s also plenty of attractions and places to see along the way! Here are a few of the most popular stops in the Khlong Bangkok Noi district:
1. The Klong Bang Luang Artist House
One of our favourite stops on the klongs was stopping off at the Klong Bang Luang Artist House for an iced coffee and a cultural show.
Originally it was an old Thai home, but the elderly owner could no longer afford the upkeep on the property and sold the house to the local, not-for-profit Art Society which has now preserved it.
The wooden shack sits on the edge of a peaceful stretch of water. There’s something to look at everywhere you turn, sculptures, statues, face masks, puppets, and paintings.
In the middle of the house, a small courtyard infront of a stupa was filled with the cackles and excitement of young children on a school trip sitting in anticipation of the puppet show that was about to start.
We sat and watched as three men dressed in black and wearing masks performed a dancing puppet musical rendition of Ramayana Gods, their sharp, jerky movements and stomping feet making them an extension of the little wooden puppet Gods.
There was not a movement or sound heard from the children. The audience was mesmerized, more so by the group of travel writing photographers sticking their lenses into the crowds to catch a shot of the dancing puppets and puppeteers.
Top tip: If you want to see the puppet show but don’t want to buy a ticket, then you can watch the teenage students perform every day from 2pm at the Artist’s House, or just up the road in the car park of the Wat Kamphaeng (Wat Kamphaeng Bangchak). It’s free to attend but donations are appreciated.
The ice coffee was my first coffee in Thailand and from then I was hooked.
I never thought of Thailand as being a place where you could get good coffee. The Thai Art house is a great place to start.
You can also buy fish food from here and feed the catfish in the klong – this is an activity that kids will love!
The tour ended by crossing the Chao Praya in front of the Grand Palace, offering a different, yet another spectacular view, matched by the Rama VIII bridge spanning across the Bangkok river in golden splendor.
As soon as you pass through the mouth of the canal, you enter the wide, open X river which is a remarkable contrast from the stilt villages you are in earlier.
You’ll pass by some of the top attractions in Bangkok, such as Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) and Wat Suwannaram
It’s not until the end of the tour that your eyes are given a small glimpse into the grandeur of the Venice of East.
2. National Museum of Royal Barges
Located on the northern rim of the banks of the Bangkok Noi canal is the National Museum of Royal Barges. Here you can see the Royal barges from the Royal Barge Procession.
These ornately decorated Boats are looked after by the Royal Thai Navy and belong to the Thai royal family. They are the most impressive and important boats in Thailand, and the most famous is the Suphanahong which was built in 1911 and is the King of Thailand’s personal barge.
It is 46 metres long and was made from a single tree. It has been covered in intricate gilt carvings and glass.
To move the boat, you need 54 oarsmen who row to the rhythmic beat of a drummer.
There are 52 boats at the museum and each has its own special design and story to tell.
3. Royal Wat Paknam Phasi Charoen Temple
The Royal Wat Paknam Phasi Charoen temple is located on Klong Dan and is pretty much unmissable because of the giant golden buddha statue that signals its location from miles around. You can even see the statue from the BTS skytrain over in Wutthakat.
The temple itself is around 500 years old, but the 20-storey tall golden Buddha was only completed in 2021. The house of worship is
The buddha is a fine work of craftsmanship and is definitely worth visiting. It’s also free to enter, so if you are looking for free things to do in Bangkok, this should be it.
There is also another stunning temple across the river, Wat Absonsawan Worawihan, which is also free to visit. You can walk across a bridge over the klong to get there, rather than getting the boat.
Just ask your driver to meet you on the right-hand side of the river.
Fun fact: As these temples are more for locals to go to worship, you will see something unique here. Thai Buddhism takes some inspiration from Hinduism, and they believe in Karma. You may see people selling eels and small fish in the temple complex. People who visit the temples wanting to receive good karma will buy an eel or small fish and set it free in the river next door. This act of freeing an animal is said to bring them good karma.
4. Visit a Floating Market
You’ll find many floating markets along the canals of Bangkok, but one of the best is Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market. Experiencing the floating markets is one of the best ways to feel the timeless charm of the city, which still embraces its historical traditions and ways.
At the floating market, you’ll find longtails with merchants selling a collection of all sorts of goods, including colourful fruits and flowers to homewares and street food.
The Thai merchants still use the canals as a way to sell goods to not only tourists but locals as well. This tradition has been part of the Old Bangkok Noi community for centuries and is a big part of the way of life here.
Whichever floating market you decide to add to your klong tour, be sure to look up the market days, as they do not happen every day. They are usually only open on weekends, or early in the morning.
Here are 13 of the best Bangkok floating markets
Planning a Bangkok Klongs Canal Tour
The easiest way to see the klongs is by a tour, but if you don’t want to book a tour, here’s where to start planning:
Best Embarkation Points:
You find long-tail boats, ferries and river taxis available at almost all floating docks along the Chao Praya River in Bangkok. The best place to start and end is the Phra Arthit pier near Khao San Road.
Here you’ll find enough boats to serve a party of 100, as long as you come early in the day.
You can also find boats from Thonburi Railway Station Pier.
You can also organize a tour with your hotel, or book directly online to ensure your place. These tours usually arrange pickup and drop off from your hotel.
Price of Bangkok Klong Tours:
Costs range depending on whether you join an organized tour, or hire a longtail boat tour privately. I have heard prices range from 900-1800 baht per hour for a private tour.
Consider going with a group of friends and arranging a boat driver yourself at Sathorn pier near Saphan Taksin BTS station, or from Phra Arthit boat pier. You can negotiate the price and your stop-off points directly with your boat driver.
Before You Go
So there you have it, this is what it’s like to experience the Bangkok klongs and how you can plan your visit. As you can see, this is a very relaxing activity in Bangkok and offers a more authentic way to see this enchanting city and learn about everyday life for the people.
There is so much to see and explore along Bangkok’s canals. Don’t just visit the floating markets, make a day of it and really get into the local people’s way of life and explore as much of the life-giving waterways of Bangkok as you can.
Before you go, make sure you pack plenty of water because Bangkok is hot and humid most of the year. Carry cash, as there are no ATMs along the klongs, and dress politely.
There are some temples to see along the way, and it is required to have your knees and shoulders covered when entering a temple.
We hope this guide to the Bangkok klongs has been useful and helped you plan your trip to Bangkok!
More Bangkok Travel Tips
Are you planning a trip to Bangkok? Then you may find these resources helpful!
- Places to visit in Bangkok to escape the madness
- A visit to the Grand Palace in Bangkok
- Helpful tips for traveling to Thailand with kids
- Things to do in Bangkok
- Exploring Chinatown Bangkok
- Best places to eat street food in Bangkok
Have you taken a long tail boat around the Bangkok klongs before? Let us know what you thought in the comments!