The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

Khlong Saen Saep Bangkok water taxis: Quick, but not for the faint-hearted

Written By: herbrunbridge - Jun• 02•10

Your taxi's here, just don't get splashed

Not to be confused with the river taxis that travel the Chao Phraya River, the khlong taxis that ply Bangkok’s Saen Saep khlongs (canals) offer quick transportation at a great price, but with a major caveat.  If the Royal Palace could be considered Bangkok’s heart, and Wat Pho its soul, the khlongs can rightly be called Bangkok’s intestines, carrying the water-based detritus of this city of 13 million people to the Bang Prakong River, in Chachoengsao province, and out to the sea.  Here, black water, brown water, and grey water are mixed in a foetid arterial soup.  Khlong taxis are used primarily by locals, but offer good service that can be a real alternative, especially during hours of high traffic where city streets are clogged.  Primary service areas parallel Phetburi and Ramkhamhaeng roads. 

Construction of the Saen Saep khlongs was begun prior to the era of King Rama III, but it was under his reign that they were expanded circa 1837, primarily as a means of carrying supplies to Thai troops fighting wars against Cambodia and Vietnam. 

There is a dearth of signs in English on the piers, except for a hand-lettered sign designating the pier name.  The western “terminal” for the khlong taxi route is in western Bangkok, where Khlong Saen Saep intersects with Krung Kasem Road at the Boe Bae Market pier.  Here, you’re a 10 minute walk from the Banglamphoo section of the city.  Going east, the route passes Jim Thompson’s house, the Pratunam, Chitlom, Nana, and Asok districts, before heading northeast at the Sapankhlongtun pier under Phetburi Road near the Sukhumvit Soi 71 intersection.  This route parallels Ramkamhaeng Road, through the Bangkapi district, and ending at the Sri Boonreung pier in Hua Mak. 

Bankok also offers other smaller khlong taxi routes.  One favorite begins at the Prakhonong Bridge Pier, on the bank just northwest of the bridge.  The pier is located roughly between the Phra Khanong and On Nut Skytrain stations.  Here, the long-tail khlong taxi runs north to Wat Mahabut, then runs east, paralleling Soi Sukhumvit 77 (On Nut), to a pier near the intersection of Pattanakarn and On Nut.  The khlong area around Wat Mahabut is surprisingly beautiful, a small riverine oasis.  

Khlong taxis aren’t for everyone, but do allow you to see life along the khlongs as it is lived today by thousands of Thai families, who eat, sleep, and do laundry along the waterside.  They’re fast: our trip from the Nana Nua to Sapankhlongtun pier took less than 20 minutes, where a street tax during rush hour might have taken 45.  Khlong taxi service runs generally from 7 am to 7 pm, daily, and fares are roughly 10 baht. 


The water is toxic, and many riders cover their faces to avoid spray (taxis do employ moveable plastic water-guards, which help a bit).  Taxis stop for only a few seconds, so you have to anticipate your stop.  Before getting on your taxi, tell your conductor where you’re going, and he or she will indicate whether you’re on the correct boat.  As farang customers are relatively rare, they’ll usually tell you when your pier arrives, if not busy. 

Plan for adventure, and have a good attitude.  This is not a Disneyland ride, so exit your boat with care.  If you overshoot your pier, get off at the next one, and backtrack.  You may find yourself smiling, because you’re seeing sights that many of your tourist friends will never see.  Do keep your mouth closed, and stay healthy.

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  1. panele ogrodzeniowe says:

    You got a really useful blog I have been here reading for about half an hour. I am a newbie and your post is valuable for me.

  2. Curt says:

    The signs in English at the piers display the name of the pier you are at and the name of the next pier going in each direction so you have a little time to prepare to get off. When approaching your station stand up before the boat stops and be prepared to get off quickly. If you’re not sure how much the fare is hand the conductor 20 baht and tell him/her your destination and they will give you the ticket and change.
    Pratunam is a terminal station so if your trip takes you by Pratunam pier your must get off there and follow the crowd to the next boat. You don’t need to buy another ticket when you transfer. Just keep your original out where the conductor can see it.

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