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An occasionally belligerent mother of four and an autism parent / advocate who believes that traveling, good food and good company are vital to keep one sane. I've worked as a news writer/newscaster, a quality systems auditor, a ISO9001 consultant, an FM radio DJ, a Filipino tutor, TOEFL reviewer and have gone into the food industry both as an entrepreneur and as a mommy chef, giving a sponsored demo on healthy cooking in a mall and on local TV. My favorite job however, is being a mom and a wife.

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

THE CHAO PHRAYA CANAL TOUR: Reasons To Say NO!

The main thoroughfare, this is the part of the river where river cruises (with dinner and entertainment) are held nightly.
NOTE: a river cruise is TOTALLY different from a canal tour
The Chao Phraya is a major river in Thailand, with its low alluvial plain forming the centre of the country. It runs through Bangkok, the capital city, and then empties into the Gulf of Thailand (source: Wikipedia). Guidebooks and various travel writers have always mentioned it (and the points of interest along its banks) as one of the "must sees" when visiting Thailand (especially in Bangkok). As the river flows through the city, a series of narrow waterways or canals are used a thoroughfares for narrow and long pump boats that are either used as public transportation or to hold goods for retail, such as that in the floating market.
fast, traffic free and inexpensive, these public water taxis  could be an option to get to certain stops.
JUST KEEP YOUR MOUTH CLOSED at ALL TIMES!!! Getting splashed on with protozoan filled water and possibly swallowing a drop is not the way to take a vacation!
This prompted us to include it in our itinerary. According to Frommer's guide to Thailand, a day would be sufficient to tour the various museums, temples and what have you's along the river. This was why, we did not hesitate to cough up the 1500 baht to take a canal tour after visiting the Grand Palace. We actually didn't even get to use our tickets for the Vimanmek Mansion since we wanted to take the hour long tour before it got dark (we left the Grand Palace at around 4 pm).
from the main gate of the Grand Palace, turn left, walk to the end of the block, cross the street into the street food market and just ask for directions on where to ride the boats for the canal tour
Getting to the mini wharf from the Grand Palace is just a 5 minute walk away. Passing through a whole block of street food hawkers. Looking back, we were better off hanging out at the food stalls. Paying to a woman who handed out  official looking receipts, we waited for a mere 5 minutes before our boat was ready.
these are the same boats used as water taxis. paying the 1500 rate allowed us to rent it for an hour.
It came with an ornery looking boat man who barely spoke English . Good luck with pointing out the points of interest!
devastation probably caused by last year's flood?
It was such a warm day, that the breeze as we traveled through the narrow canals was a welcome change. At first, we managed to neglect the not so clean smells and garbage floating on the water. 10 Minutes into it, we felt we got screwed! (Pinoys, think boating through esteros in Manila and paying 2300 php to do so). 




a 3 1/2 ft monitor lizard cools off before heading
up the stairs of someone's backyard

We couldn't turn back, we couldn't exactly get off the next stop. So we did what we could: took pictures and pray that the boatman wasn't a secret pirate who kidnapped foreigners for a living :p 

While on the canal tour, we had two stops that the boatman felt was relevant enough for us crazy tourists:


FIRST STOPOVER:  Wat Bangsao Thong
No racy undergarments here. Just a monk on a mission. A mission to sell as much bread as he can! Is he a contestant of the Amazing Race finishing a leg? Nope. Dude's selling bread ( and lots of it) for 10 baht a pack to unsuspecting tourists. This is so that they may feed it to the river monsters that lurk beneath the boat and to the many pigeons (who probably have fleas) scavenging about. Apparently it's for luck. The bread are somewhat oily medium sized dinner rolls that catfish and pigeons seem to love. They love it so much that birds and fish alike have been observed to fight over it (fish vs fish and bird vs bird. you gotta throw the bread in different directions). A different path to enlightenment that's downright fishy!!! (pun intended)
getting splashed on with filthy water is enough to make me rethink this luck thing. Eeeww!!
the bread loving catfish. TIP: throw the bread as far away from the boat  as possible
I have a mild case of ornithophobia. Confronting my fears has NOT changed anything.
I still live by the creed that the only nice bird is one that is fried, steamed, roasted etc (no offense to those who love birds)
more of the lovely view. Venice, this is NOT!
a hovel with satellite tv!
big machines digging to remove sludge from the canal
we passed by gorgeous houses and fine looking temples. But since our boatman did not speak English, we had no idea what these places were!
SECOND STOPOVER: The Floating Market
I've always wanted to see the floating market. Every since I was in 3rd grade and my dad brought home his latest copy of the Travel and Leisure magazine that he subscribed too, I thought it was absolutely charming. 
food to...go? meals on wheels, er, water?

The floating market is normally filled early in the morning. By noon, much of the vendors have paddled away to their individual destinations. However, because of the canal tours being held (we passed by a LOT of unhappy looking tourists who probably felt the way we did *duped*), a few of them stay behind to sell cold drinks (beer, soda and water) and a variety of souvenirs. 
Phil had reached the end of his patience and refused to even look at the vendor and her wares. This was the only pic we had of that particular experience
Samphran cost 300 baht at the floating market. No thank you was what we said. However, "no" was clearly not a word the woman wanted to hear. She even wanted us to buy a beer for the so not helpful boatman. A 60 baht (90 pesos) can of coke zero was all we got from her. Take that you...vendor! Ha!
nearing our destination's end (Thank goodness!!!)

So off we went for the last 10 or 15 minutes of our tour. MAX was the luckiest, as he fell asleep 5 minutes into the tour.

MAX probably knew what was coming when we signed up for the tour :p

Houston, we have landed!
The wharf where the trip ended had this kinda kitschy yet somewhat interesting wooden structure (see left side of pic above) that housed a cafe, a lot of souvenir shops and even ones where artists displayed how they made their wares. Would've loved to look but Phil and MAX weren't happy campers.

All in all, it truly was an experience. Great or quite the opposite, you decide. I, for one, would probably try the River Cruise instead of this the next time around. Oh well. You only live once (unless you believe in reincarnation, then go ahead, be my guest and do whatever), and I can actually say that for once in my life...

I HATED THE FRICKIN' CANAL TOUR!!!!

From TMW, may all your wanderings be better than ours!

2 comments:

  1. I guess, you should try tripmart.com
    I have used the service and found quite good, guys are supportive

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks! will check out their services on our next trip :)

      Delete