As giant skyrise glass and steel structures erect at alarming rates, there are still sections of town that remain how they used to be.
Though many canals have succumbed to fast paced city expansion, being filled in to make roadways as money demands, there are still a few gem worthy waterways that cut through Bangkok.
Khlong Saen Saeb (Saen Saep คลองแสนแสบ) is one of the more prominent canals that passes through the heart of the city.
The canal is one of Bangkok’s living arteries.
After numerous occasions of being ferried through the canal and observing the interesting inhabitants, dwellings and art work, I decided it was time to explore the region on foot.
One of my favorite things to do in Bangkok (or any city for that matter) is to just explore unique areas of town.
Once you’re along the canal, it’s like a whole new world of Bangkok, hidden from the roads and free of pedestrians (other than those living there).
If you have time, check out this short 1:41 video that I put together about the canal:
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Much of the canal, depending of course at what section you are walking, has a sidewalk along the edge. Sometimes junk or random debris fills the walkway and makes it impassable, but nevertheless it’s there.
Canals in Bangkok are known for their reeking stank.
It’s possible to smell many from long before approaching the edge of the water. Since the Khlong Saen Saeb is larger than many canals, the stagnant water is constantly stirred and the putrid smells of sewage are for the most part absent.
There is a real interesting mixture of homes that are scattered along the Khlong Saen Saeb. At points there are makeshift housing that are constructed of rusty tin, wooden planks and sheets of plastic.
Other homes are newly renovated – the kind of homes that are marked by reinforced wooden doors and air-conditions that constantly blast air so cold the windows fog up.
At some points along the walk, there is just stuff – reminiscent of a vintage warehouse of peculiar odds and ends.
One could lay a t-shirt on top of the pile of junk that gets naturally weathered and pounded by the sun, and in a few weeks that same t-shirt would be worth a lot more money as a vintage item!
Some houses look like Kenyan style Jua Kali workshops, where anything can be made or fixed.
This little stuffed Koala Bear, though battered by the previous nights rain, looked to be holding it down and securing his territory!
The Bobae wholesale mall in Bangkok is located right along the Khlong Saen Saeb canal. This section begins to teem with life.
Stores open their doors as close to the canal as possible without falling in. Women cook on platforms that often hover directly over the water, and conveniently, they can just dump out their wok straight into the canal. Clients are able to dine canal-side on delicious Bangkok $1 Menu items.
At the end of the day, the Khlong Saen Saeb is a real community in Bangkok.
It’s an area that few choose to venture to, to pay any attention to, or to simply leisurely walk through and smile at its friendly inhabitants.
I walked through this neighborhood where a little boy ran from the train track into the walk-way of his small shanty town neighborhood, cornered between the Khlong Saen Saeb canal and the busy Bankok railroad track.
Boats slosh back and forth, creating a ruckus of waves as they zoom through bridges and hustle to pick up more customers.
Transportation on Khlong Saen Saeb
Though many of the small waterway canals have been filled up to make way for more productive roads, there are still many khlongs that exist in Bangkok.
A few of the larger khlongs are even still used for public boat transportation. Khlong Saen Saeb is one of the last remaining canals where the city of Bangkok offers affordable boat rides for around $0.30 per ride.
The service begins at Pangfa Pier near Banglamphu and goes all the way until The Mall Bangkapi.
Walking down the canal, and looking towards central Bangkok offers the amazing glimpse at more extreme contrasts of a developing city.
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