Writing about Bangkok, a place where I first left my vagabond heart, I found it only fitting to focus on its own heart, the Chao Praya River, and the adventures it can offer to anyone looking to explore the city’s curiosities by water.
Out of all the places I’ve been to in the 35 countries whose stamps I have in my passport, Bangkok is without a doubt one of those rare corners of the world that evoke in me the feeling of being home, even though it’s actually situated on the other side of the globe than where I originally come from. There’s just something in its notoriously sultry air, the famous Thai smiles and the omnipresent sweet smell of flowers and spicy food, that paradoxically puts my mind at ease and for one second halts my constant wanderlust to travel from one border to another.
Perhaps one of my best-loved ways to get around Bangkok, except, naturally, crazy tuk-tuk rides accompanied by a visual orchestra of flashing lights in the backseat and if you’re in luck a singing driver, is jumping on one of the express boats on the Chao Praya river. Every city river gives life to its surroundings, being a power that unites nature and human constructions. But in this dimension Chao Praya is even more to Bangkok than what the Thames is to London or la Seine is to Paris. The River of Kings is an urban organism in its own right, a mirror that reflects the city’s oriental hues, serving as a gateway to the labyrinth of its water canals, and carrying a soothing breeze, lost coconuts and drifting heartbeats.
The express boat route stretches for over 20 kilometers, with stops on both the South Bank and the North Bank, and what you get for the crazy sum of 10 bahts is an adventurous ride that can take you to beautiful temples, backpacker enclaves and anything in between. One of the most remarkable stops on the way is the Grand Palace, a complex that has since 1782 served as a residence for the Kings of Siam, as well as Wat Pho, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, and Wat Arun, which can be translated as the Temple of the Dawn, and which looks simply mesmerizing at or after sunset, just as the name rightfully indicates. These places, especially the ones within the limits of all the historical Palace buildings, offer a colorful feast to the eyes and the lens, hypnotizing you with emerald depths, gradient mosaics and golden prisms, all guarded by Gate-keeping Giants, Yaksa Tavarnbal.
On a side note, what I love most about something I call ‘impulsive traveling’ is that if you let your imagination get lost in the exploration of a new place, you never know where the adventure will take you in the future. Which is exactly how I came across a model of the Cambodian Angkor Wat in the Palace’s Wat Phra Kaew; and so when I saw that little gem, my eyes were set on the next destination for the following year. But back in Bangkok, another must-see place, a little farther up the river and not too far from the stunning King Rama VIII Bridge, is Khao San Road, the legendary backpacker destination for cheap accommodation, different types of massage, delicious street food and absorbing conversations with people from all over the world. Located 10 minutes away from Phra Arthit, the area is just the perfect spot for kooky urban wanderers like myself who like to run around looking for all nooks and crannies yet undiscovered, being home to the Banglamphu clothing market, dozens of hidden cafes and the National Art Gallery.
Even without getting off the boat you’re up for an unforgettable experience. Although the boat’s motor roars angrily in its back, shaking the entire structure, if you keep your eyes open, you’ll see the essence of Bangkok in the beautiful passengers, people who live there and who will welcome you warmly to their city – buddhist monks in their full grace, the King’s admirers wearing yellow on Mondays and college students drunkenly falling in love over a bottle of whisky they managed to smuggle onboard.
Lazuli Lazuli is a Paris-based digital artist and a vagabond fascinated with the mythologies of tropical islands and dancing flamingos. Only in her early twenties, she has been to 35 different countries.