Discovering the Joy of Bangkok's Water Taxi

Sunday, 02-01-2015. Day 165. 

Express boat to the Australian Open. 

We really wanted to see the final match of the Australian Open, and, after a little research, we found out that The Sportsman, an expat sports bar in the Sukhumvit area would be showing the match live. But how to get there? None of us felt like negotiating with and being scammed by another taxi driver. Fortunately, the Khlong Saen Saep Express Boat was just up the road and one of its stops was a pier just to the north of The Sportsman.

The Khlong Saen Saep Express Boat

Khlong Saen Saep Express Boat on the water.

Khlong Saen Saep Express Boat on the water.

Although this service is officially called the Khlong Saen Saep Express, we called it the water taxi. I'm not sure if anyone else calls it that, but that's what it was. For between 8 and 18 baht per person (we never paid more than 12 baht, and Jackie was free if she was sitting down, but they charged her if she was standing up), a boat will ferry passengers along an 18-kilometer stretch of  the narrow Saen Saep canal.

Plenty of room on the water taxi.

Plenty of room on the water taxi.

Over the next few days, we ended up taking it a lot. It sure beat trying to hail a street taxi, arguing over prices, and then trying to get through Bangkok traffic. As long as our destination was withing a 15-minute walk of one of the piers, we took the water taxi over a tuk tuk or car.

Selling the tickets from the outside of the boat.

Selling the tickets from the outside of the boat.

One you get on the boat and it starts off down the canal, a lone ticket seller walks along the gunwales issuing tickets to the passengers. This person makes the rounds of the boat at each stop, sometimes holding onto a rope to keep them from falling into the canal as they collect fares.

There is one downside to the water taxi. The water of the canal is pretty nasty. It's heavily polluted and has a particular strong odor, and you don't want to get any of that splashing onto you as the boat speeds down the canal. There are tarps hanging along the sides of the boat for the passengers to pull up when the spray really gets big, like when two boats zip past one another in the canal.

Tickets to ride the water taxi.

Tickets to ride the water taxi.

The boats stop at the different piers frequently, especially at the terminus. There always seemed to be at least one boat at the Panfa Leelard pier, which is just up the road from the Golden Mountain Hostel. And the longest we waited for a boat was ten minutes at Pratunam, which is a short walk from CentalWorld, the second largest mall in the world..

So if you, like us, find yourself occasionally frustrated by Bangkok taxi drivers and how long it can take to get through the city by car, then give the Khlong Saen Seap a try. Just be careful of the water ...


Unfortunately, the water taxi only runs until 7:00 p.m..on Sundays, so after the long match between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in a bar full of Murray fans (sorry, guys), we had to take a regular old street taxi back. The first one didn't know where we were going, but we settled on a rate of 300 baht with the second driver we talked to.

Everything was going pretty well until we drove past the Siam Paragon Shopping Center. Police lights were flashing and huge crowds of people stood on the side of the street, snapping pictures and video with their phones. We didn't know what had happened at the time, but the next morning when we read the news, we learned that a pipe bomb had been detonated in the area a few hours before we passed through. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

Notable Statistics:

  • Hours of tennis watched: 4
  • Disappointed Scots encountered: 3
  • Taxis taken: 1
  • Water taxis taken: 2

is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. He also drinks coffee.

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Discovering the Joy of Bangkok's Water Taxi
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