Like any giant city, there's a powerful river cutting through a portion of it. In Bangkok, this river is the choptastic Chao Phraya, and its waterway is an expressway of tugs, barges, zippy longboats, lumbering vintage hotel water taxis, slow commuter boats and the Express Boat bus, which ably navigates the traffic to hop from pier to pier to pier, picking up and depositing passengers faster and easier than taxis could in certain cases.
The riders are pretty evenly divided between locals and tourists during off-peak hours, the latter settling in for a cheap sightseeing ride while the locals perch, ready to jump off when the boat briefly pulls alongside their stop. Rush hours mean the busboats can be crazy packed with locals heading to work or home.
One way the Express Boat makes the most sense is if you're staying in the Sathorn or Silom areas, or you're at a riverside hotel with a free water taxi. You'd hop the water taxi, or a real taxi or tuk-tuk to Sathorn Pier next to the Shangri-La Hotel and Saphan Taksin Skytrain stop. From there, it's a 15 or 20 THB ($0.50) and 20-minute ride on the boat bus to the old town district and Phra Arthit pier. The color of the flags atop the boats clue you into the fare, which will be collected in coins onboard. Fifty cents and a nice boat ride sure beats being stuck in street traffic and forking over $15-$20.
It's unairconditioned and you can get a little spray in your face, but for the sights, the time saved and the local experience, the Chao Phraya Express Boat is worth every little sweatbead that drips down your forehead.
Disclosure: We were a guest of the Travel Authority of Thailand for some travel and accommodations, but rest assured all photos and opinions are completely our own.
[Photos: Cynthia Drescher for Jaunted]