I would love to be able to tell you about our amazing time in Kanchanaburi or about the amazing things we saw in Bangkok. Unfortunately, the crud that I picked up in Siem Reap lingered on which definitely impacted our time in Bangkok.
Getting to Kanchanaburi can be a bit of an ordeal – a BTS trip, followed by a Chao Phraya Express Boat trip in order to reach the train station for a 7:50 am departure, followed by a 3-hour non-air-conditioned train trip. Check into your hotel, then catch a cab to Hellfire Canyon. Finally, take a train back to Kanchanaburi. I definitely did not have the energy for that, so we stayed in Bangkok instead.
On the positive side, our hotel in Bangkok was amazing! We stayed at the Jasmine City Hotel which is located a few blocks from the Asok BTS Station and Terminal 21 which is an 8-story tall shopping mecca. We had a full one-bedroom apartment which turned out to be perfect since I didn’t feel like going out much. The breakfast here was exceptional. There were plenty of Asian and Western choices, as well as a special section for the Japanese palate. The beautiful pool was located on the “lobby” floor, which was floor 12, I believe. The bottom floors in the building are office space; the upper floors are hotel space. I highly recommend this hotel in terms of amenities, location, and service provided.
So, what did we do in Bangkok? Lots of resting, eating, and lounging by the pool broken up by walks in the neighborhood (morning and evening were the coolest times to walk). And, we did spend a day wandering around on the Khlong Saen Saep Express Boats (http://khlongsaensaep.com/). These boats travel along the narrow canals of Bangkok and are ridden primarily by the local people. The fares vary depending on how far you travel; we went the almost the entire length of the line for less than $1 each. Don’t depend on anyone on board being able to speak English, nor are the stops announced ahead of time. I brought along a map on my phone so I would know what stops were coming up. This was helpful because you often couldn’t see the name of the pier until the boat had already stopped and moved on! Often, the boat only stopped for a few seconds; just long enough for people to step from the pier onto the boat. Money was collected from passengers after the boat had started moving again. Not a boat ride for the mobility challenged!
There are also tourist boats that run along the same canals. These charge 200 Baht for a full day ($6-$7); still a bargain, but not as cheap as the local boats.
The boats have splash guards which proved to be a necessity anytime you passed another boat. The canals were so narrow that there was quite a splash cutting across the other boat’s wake. The boats are a very popular means of transport (in other words, very crowded).
Some scenes from our boat ride:
Surprisingly, I was able to talk my hubby into visiting one of the world’s largest markets – the Chatachuk Weekend Market. This bad boy contains over 15,000 stalls; you can buy almost anything there. We arrived when it opened, thereby avoiding the crowded conditions that you will run into later in the day. There are maps available – it is really easy to get lost here!
We also spent a morning riding the Chao Phraya Express Boats, which are the ones that take you to the main tourists’ sights in Bangkok (Wat Arun, Wat Pho, and the Grand Palace). A couple of suggestions if you plan on riding these boats:
- When you exit the BTS station, turn left when you reach the piers. There is a sign pointing to the right that says ferry; this takes you to the long-tailed boats.
- Keep walking until you get to the end of the pier. Before you reach the correct dock, you will pass through a gauntlet of salespeople trying to sell you tickets for the tourist ferry. Keep going until you get to a desk with a person selling colored tickets for the local boat.
The different colored tickets correspond to the different routes the boats take. The local boat stops at every single dock (no flag). It is the cheapest, but you won’t want to stop at every dock (trust me on this one). This website is a good resource showing what is at each stop: http://www.bangkok.com/attraction-waterway/chao-phraya-river-chao-phraya-river-pier-guide.htm
The yellow flag is the tourist run. For 20 Baht (around 70 cents) you will only make 5 or 6 stops on the way to the Grand Palace. Your stop is Tha Chang (N9). The orange and green lines will make more stops but cost a little less. Since the fares are so cheap, I would recommend sticking with the yellow line.
If you are interested in pictures about some of the attractions along the river, here are links to my posts from our previous visit to Bangkok: