The River forms the backbone of all water-based transport in the Bangkok area. Passengers are not the only thing carried on the river and waterways (klongs) of Bangkok. All kinds of cargo are transported cheaply via the river. Some of this cargo includes rice, cement, crude oil, fuel oils, soft drinks and rocks. On the lower reaches of the river containerized cargo is carried to and from Klong Toei port.
Around 400 years ago a network of man made waterways known as klongs started to be built and this continued right up to the 1920s. Around 100 years ago Bangkok was known as the Venice of the east due to the thousands and thousands of miles of klongs around Bangkok. In fact most transport was by these waterways. However in the last 60 years a lot of these klongs have been filled in or covered over to make way for roads and buildings. It’s a surprise to many that Silom, Rama 4 and Sukhumvit roads had klongs running next to them.
In the past all most all passenger transport was by boat. Today it’s a very different story a lot of klongs a gone now. And where they do exist they are often very polluted with bad smelling black water. However these klongs along with the Chao Phraya River do still have regular mass transport boat services on a daily basis.
The Mass transport boat service on the Chao Phraya River operates from Ratburana (S4) to Pak Kret (N33) in the north via Sathorn (CEN) and Nonthaburi (N30). The boats operate every few minutes along the river between Sathorn and Nonthaburi lower frequency to Ratburana and Pak Kret.
There are a number of different classes of boat based on the number of stops it makes and the length of the route. Below is an outline of the different boat services on the Chao Phraya River.
Green and Yellow: Sathorn (CEN) to Pak Kret (N33). This service makes 11 stops. Operates only during peak hours on Monday to Friday.
Blue: Sathorn (CEN) to Nonthaburi (N30). This is the fastest boat service making only 3 stops. Operates only during peak hours on Monday to Friday.
Yellow: Ratburana (S4) to Nonthaburi (N30). This service makes 10 stops. Operates only during peak hours on Monday to Friday.
Orange: Wat Rajsingkorn (S3) to Nonthaburi (N30) This service makes 20 stops and operates 7 days aweek.
White (all stops): Wat Rajsingkorn (S3) to Nonthaburi (N30) This service makes 34 stops and operates Monday to Friday only.
Most of these Boat services start around 5.50am and run until 7.30pm every day. The Chao Phraya River has no night boat service due to a lack of lighting on the piers and boats. The fares range from 15 baht to 30 baht depending on distance and class of boat. And are normally paid to a ticket lady on board the boat. The exception is Sathorn peir where you must buy a ticket from a counter before boarding. This is due to the large numbers of transfer passengers from the BTS rail based mass transport system.
The main reason why the Chao Phraya River still operates an extensive mass transport system is due to the amount of traffic on the roads that often slows down road travel greatly. A trip from Nonthaburi to Sathorn by boat takes around 50 minutes. However by bus at peak time it would take around 2 hours.
Below are a number of pictures and movies taken from a trip that I did using the mass transport boats on the Chao Phraya River.
1. This is an image of a white all stations boat approaching Sathorn pier. Boat number 165.
2. This is boat number 165 waiting at Sathorn pier. Note this pier is located under the Taksin Bridge and is the only pier with direct access to the BTS system.
3. This is an image of an orange express boat approaching Sathorn pier. Boat Number 157.
4. This is an image of the Sathorn to Taksin cross-river ferry service. Taken from under the Taksin Bridge.
5. This is a short movie showing the departure of a yellow express boat from Sathorn pier. Note how quickly they take off from the pier.
6. This is a short movie showing the boarding of an orange express boat at Sathorn Pier and what its like to ride on the boat. Also shown is how short the stops at each pier are.
7. This is an image of the captain’s seat on a Chao Phraya express boat. Note how close the passengers can sit or stand to the boat captain.
8. This is another angle on a Captain’s seat.
9. This is the captain’s seat on another type of Chao Phraya express boat. These boats are much wider and more stable in the water. Note how the captain’s seat is elevated much higher up on this boat.
10. This is a shot of the inside of an orange express boat facing the rear of the boat showing how much loading these boats do get. This was taken around 3.30pm on a weekday.
11. This is a shot of two express boats passing in the choppy river water. Note the larger type of boat in the left. The choppy water is created by the constant boat traffic on the river.
12. This is a shot of the white all stops boat powering though the rough water. Boat number 156. Taken from another boat near Si Phraya pier.
13. This is a picture of a very full orange express boat heading toward Sathorn. Note how close the other riverboats get to the mass transport boats.
14. This is another angle on boat number 156 powering though the waves on the river.
15. This is an image of a boat tied up at pier. The boat will only stop for about 10 seconds or so at each stop.
16. This is a short movie showing a stop at pier from the perspective of being on the boat. Note how short the stop is and how long you get to board the boat.
17. This is a shot of a typical pier on the Chao Phraya River. In this case it is Harbour Department Pier (N4). Each pier has a number depending on if its north or south of Sathorn Pier (CEN)
18. This is another short movie showing the very short stops at each pier and how the boats hit the piers quite hard. Note how the rope man has to jump to get back on the boat.
19. This is a general view of the river showing the different kinds of traffic.
20. This is a shot of an orange express boat approaching Harbour Department Pier This boat was also very full these boats carry around 117 people per trip.
21. Another shot of a pier on the Chao Phraya River. They are all built in this way out of steel on a floating pontoon due large changes in the water levels in the river.
22. This is another angle on the Taksin cross-river ferry service. Waiting to depart Sathorn Pier.
23. This is a picture of the inboard engine typically installed on every express boat. These engines are quite loud when running and get quite hot. But as you can see are well kept.
24. This is a shot of passenger seating on a typical 3.5 metre wide express boat taken south of Sathorn Pier. Looking towards the front.
25. This is another shot of the passenger seating looking toward the back of the boat.
26. This is an image of the larger 5.8 metre wide express boats being held at one of many holding areas along the river.
28. This is an image of the normal 3.5 metre wide express boats at another holding area. Note the green and yellow flags on some boats these are for the Pak Kret service.
29. This is the boat holding area at Wat Rajsingkorn (S3). They tie all the boats to each other when not in use.
30. This is a movie showing the final approach of an orange express boat at Wat Rajsingkorn pier and holding area. Note how they tie the boats to each other and how you must exit via other boats.
31. This is a picture of boarding platforms of other boats at Wat Rajsingkorn. You have to walk along these boats to exit the pier.
32. This is a shot of the seating area of the 5.8 metre wide express boats. Taken from the rear boarding platform. Note how much more standing room there is on these boats.
33. Another shot of the seating area. Again note how much extra capacity these boats have. They can hold around 150 people per trip.
34. This is an image of the seating area facing towards the rear of the boat.
35. This is a shot of the rear of the standard express boats at Wat Rajsingkorn.
36. This is another shot of an orange express boat taken at Wat Rajsingkorn pier.
37. This is another image of the cross-river ferry at Sathorn pier. Note how close it gets to the bridge supports. This is due to traffic on the river forcing it this way.
38. This is a picture of a pair of older style long tail klong boats stored at Sathorn Pier. These are mostly used as water taxis and tour boats on the Chao Phraya River. However they are still used as mass transport boats on some klong services.
39. This is an image of the tickets used on the Chao Phraya express boats. On the left side of the image are the boat tickets and on the right side are similar style BMTA and private bus tickets.
I hope you find the pictures and vehicles shown to be of interest if you view this please post some comments and feelings about the pictures.