Exploring Bangkok’s canals
When travelling Khlong Saen Saeb from east to west,motorboat buses terminate at Wat Saket, a late 18th-century temple topped by a golden stupa, and it takes about an hour to ride directly from the first stop at Wat Si Bunrueang. Get off one stop early at Bo Bae where Khlong Saen Saeb intersects with Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem.
Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem is the third of the original moats around Rattanakosin but there are no boat services here. At 5.5km long it is easily seen on foot, with a tree-lined walkway along the water. The canal passes Hualamphong, Bangkok’s main train station, and is a great place to spend time before catching a train.
From Bae Bo, walk south for excellent food in Chinatown and Little India, or north for the plant- and garden-focused Thewet market. Since Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem is one of the original moats around Rattanakosin, it is also a good starting point for exploring the Grand Palace and Bangkok’s historical heart. No matter which direction you travel on the canal, you will meet the Chao Phraya River, where you can catch a boat across to Thonburi on the public riverboats that constantly pass by.
Thonburi, west of the Chao Praya River and directly across from the Grand Palace, was the first area of Bangkok to be settled. In 1542, a small channel was dug to shorten one of the Chao Praya’s meandering horseshoes to reduce shipping times, and this channel is now an established part of the river’s main course. The old river bend and new channel created an island, now home to photogenic Wat Arun , the Temple of Dawn (which is actually most photogenic at sunset), and the impressive Royal Barges National Museum, where Bangkok’s fleet of ornate teak boats, used only for ceremonial processions, is on display.
A trip on public transport along the Chao Praya from either end of Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem is one way to view Wat Arun and the section of Thonburi that resides on the riverfront. But to see the heart of the district, book a canal tour at any of the central piers, including Tha Phra Athit, during which you will zip along Thonburi’s remaining network of canals past leafy trees, teak houses and temples. All tours will take you to Wat Arun and the Royal Barges National Museum, and on weekends to the Taling Chan floating market. Also in Thonburi, this market is popular for its waterborne food vendors who cook up fresh seafood in their boats and serve them to diners in floating restaurants. You will see plenty of tourists here, but it is an authentic market that is remnant of Bangkok’s early years, when floating markets were the norm.