Long Tail Boats Bangkok

Skip the crowds one afternoon at the colossal lustrous reclining Temple of the Reclining Buddha, known as Wat Pho, and instead our guide will reserve a long tail boat for the sizzling afternoon. Why stand in line with other weary travelers, take to the river in local style, go back to the Buddha at opening hour, make a donation, light incense, lay a beautiful lotus blossom at the feet of a deity and say a quiet prayer.

Gleaming Golden Buddha Wat Pho Golden 46 meter long figure

For me, an afternoon on water is very pleasant and in Bangkok, an exceptional method of seeing how local people spend their days. A Rua hang yao is a long wooden boat powered by an enormous exposed truck engine, navigated by the driver with a long tiller, which also acts as the throttle. Quiet they are not, and the diesel engines can be a bit smelly, however, they are powerful wave hoppers and seem to turn on a dime in the narrow canals or khlongs of Bangkok. An entirely different world is moments away from the hustle bustle din of this clamoring, never quiet city. They are the tuk tuks of the river, a tourist draw, but also an essential transportation vehicle.

Each long tail boat is handmade, these days with nails, and the techniques have been passed down from father to son. Each captain paints their boat with personal colors and designs, intended to message the water spirits and gods, thus the bows are also decorated. Colored silks, banners and strings of colorful flowers draped on the bow pay respect to Buddha, it’s a sacred temple area of each boat.


 Long Tail Boat Bangkok[

Today, long tail boats can be found on Thai waterways utilized as small ferries moving local people about their destinations, floating markets brimming with quick snacks, beads and everyday grocery supplies. Amazingly able to navigate shallow bays and creeks and passageways that appear to lead off to a thicket of deep green jungle. A narrow profile and slight draft allow these Venice of the East boats to ply quiet residential canals.

Crawl in, sit low on a wooden plank in the bottom of the boat, a flat cushion to soften the ride, an overhead canopy will provide shade. Did you love the African Queen? Different boat styles, but the atmosphere may remind you of their adventure; as far as I know, no leeches in the water. Languidly or speedily propel through jungle like communities, timeworn wooden homes listing off the river banks, their porches sometimes dangling in the water. Many newer homes have been built farther off the river banks. Imagine timber homes inhabited for generations, their storage and laundry exposed to all who pass by, every other home has an elaborate elevated temple built for the deity.

Wednesday was bathing day apparently, as I witnessed many locals shampooing in the river, washing clothes and even a few fishermen with dropped lines and kids cooling off in the December heat.

Khlong Tour on Long Tail Boat Bangkok 

My favorite riverside spot was an oversize dock governed by an elderly woman selling loaves of bread to feed fish. Whiling away her day, earning a few dollars with her biscuit bread. Everyone journeyed to her dock to buy bread, who wouldn’t indulge an old woman selling bread? And the fish who jumped for crumbs were gigantic, well feed and apparently never full!

A Small Portuguese community, the Kudichin neighborhood can be explored, the brick clad dome of the Church of Santa Cruz alerts you to one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, a rare Catholic Church in this Buddhist country. The narrow paths lead past small in-home restaurants, ladies on their tiny terraces cooking deep fried cookies outside – space is at a premium and many of these homes lack air conditioning – we were offered samples of home cooking as we meandered through the old neighborhood. A local woman started a museum in a family members home, the Baan Kudichin Museum, sharing local history of the neighborhood. The number of visitors inspired her to add a small café where she serves local Thai desserts, from family recipes. Small general stores line long piers, one might not have to venture off the canals into the hectic Bangkok streets.

[ The dock owned by the Old Woman selling Bread

[ My favorite – an old woman on her dock selling loaves of bread to feed the fish.

One particular charming stop is the Royal Thai Barge Museum, worth your time. Photos weren’t allowed, stroll the long interior docks and enjoy an up-close look at ancient gilded royal barges, ornate ships exemplifying Thai art and craftsmanship.

All in all, a slice of ancient and current Thai life – canals edge the city but are rarely seen by most tourists. Time seems to have stood still in the peaceful quiet canal community, even though in some of the river bends, gleaming skyscrapers, remind you of the humming city.

Take a ride with us down the canals!

Back to Bangkok!

Thailand’s capital city draws an estimated 45 million tourists yearly and several travel publications have deemed it one of the world’s best cities. It’s easy to see why travelers would gravitate here, with its colorful patchwork of Buddhist temples and ultra-modern hotels, gleaming temples and three-wheeled tuk-tuks.

Temple Offerings at Jim Thompson House and Garden[/caption]

Peak season is between November and March when tourism is particularly high. The months of March, April and May are the hottest. December to February: regarded as the ‘cold months’, the perfect time to explore Bangkok on foot. Visitors looking to participate in Bangkok’s festival season should visit from November through May.

[ The Temple of Dawn, Bangkok

My two visits in December coincided with a heatwave, one from a cold northern California winter shouldn’t complain, but 95 degrees combined with 95% humidity was challenging. Modify touring, visit Temples and shrines as soon as they open and add a long tail boat for a canal tour in the afternoon and sip gallons of freshly juiced pomegranates!

A long list of tours, besides the city Temple tours, Wat Pho, the glimmering golden reclining Buddha is breathtaking. Chinatown night tour with sidewalk snacking from street vendors – yes, I did this! My first evening out, my guide took me to a small hillside bar with a stunning illuminated view of the Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn. An easy walk down the hill through the Pak Klong Talat market, one of Bangkok’s largest, liveliest and loveliest markets. A maze of wholesale and retail vendors selling flowers, vegetables, fruits, Pak Klong is truly a delight for the senses. Nighttime doesn’t limit activity, Bangkok never sleeps, in my case a behind the scene look at the flower vendors preparing for a National Holiday, florists were creating dozens and dozens of orange marigold wreaths to be laid on local altars. My favorite is the small jasmine bracelets, enchanting fragrant adornment for your pillow!

Wat Pho, Bangkok


[ Flower Market Bangkok

Bangkok is overflowing with ancient markets, easily reached by the long tail ferry boats – narrow down your choices and definitely include a few of the floating markets outside of the city. I love the vibrant market scene – similar to the souks of Marrakech, in that the markets are in small cavernous buildings, narrow foot traffic is interrupted by small scooters, workers dragging transport carts, a vibrant sea of activity. Booths and small permanent shops offering strange, sometimes useful, sometimes not so useful items. Clay handicrafts, wooden furniture, ceramic ware, local artists host small studios. 

Tha Kha floating market

Start in early morning to visit the local floating markets and the Mae Klong market where the train rolls through, vendors quickly move their tarps of fresh vegetables to allow the train to pass. Minutes later, they’ve unrolled their tarps of vegetables and the market continues. Saturday is a popular local day for the floating markets and less touristy. Dawn to dusk floating market tour at Tha Kha floating market, is one of the most authentic markets in Bangkok. Observe an age-old way of living, ancient ladies in their wooden rowboats selling meals, drinks, household objects, vegetable and fruit from their gardens. A long tail boat ride here offers a quiet glimpse of Thai living, their somewhat dated wooden homes along the river bank interrupted by deep green fields and local farms. My knowledgeable guide picked up greens from the rowboat ladies and we took to a local restaurant to enjoy with massive prawns – the restaurant was happy to steam the just picked greens.

Jim Thompson House, the Bangkok based American businessman who is still missing since 1967, is honored by the firm still running his silk business in maintaining his unique house and beautiful gardens. Thompson pieced together his small estate from six traditional Thai teak wood houses in order to house his growing collection of Southeast Asian art. A beautiful representation of authentic Thai design and a stunning inspiring garden set along the banks of the river. 
  Jim Thompson Home and Garden

 Jim Thompson Home and Garden

[ Amulet Market, Bangkok

One of my goals was to visit the amulet market, a rewarding afternoon combined with visiting a few Thai temples and hidden neighborhoods. My last day in Bangkok was spent at the amulet market, a mini sacred day outing. After my 10 days in Bhutan absorbing Buddhist culture this was the perfect end to my three-week Asia exploration. City tour of the spiritual and mystic side of Bangkok, with a focus on religious shrines, spiritual art and local worship ceremonies.  Talismans, some prized by collectors are sorted by type, vintage and provenance. Religious charms and traditional medicine can be discovered in one of Bangkok’s oldest markets, you may be bumping elbows with monks as well as men in dangerous occupations, looking for an amulet to ward off danger or to ensure long life. Bargaining is expected!

Visiting the Amulet Markets, Giant Swing, Wat Suthat, and the historic Bang Luang Mosque. One can learn a great deal about Thailand, its belief system, and the life of everyday Thais by looking beneath the surface of the city, in the spirit shrines, amulet markets, tattoo houses, and other symbols that connect the people and their faiths. From Chinese shrines to Brahmin deities, picturesque mosques and talismans galore, multi-faith Thailand offers fascinating windows into the diverse beliefs of the people.

Dining and Hotels to come, something intriguing for all tastes. Bangkok is overflowing with Michelin restaurants and authentic street food stalls – an exciting gamut of dining experiences.. 

Street Scenes Bangkok