Just cruisin’ along
The new electric boat service on Klong Phadung Krungkasem makes a lovely change from the humdrum of Bangkok’s streets
As the EV boat leaves Hua Lamphong pier and sails steadily and silently along Klong Phadung Krungkasem, the first sensation is one of joy at not being stuck in Bangkok’s congested traffic. The second is curiosity at seeing the city from another perspective.
Since the extension to the underground train service opened two years ago, accessing the old town area has become easier. Now, though, there’s an even more convenient and environmentally friendly way reach the old quarter: a gentle ride on an EV boat along Klong Phadung Krungkasem.
Launched last November by Krungthep Tanakom – a holding company under the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) for public investment projects, this latest service has added another way to access the old town although travelling by bus and the Klong Saen Saep boat service as well as the expanded Blue Line from Hua Lamphong to Sanam Chai station are still viable options.
While the route of the e-boat service is quite similar to that of bus number 53, Bangkok commuters know only too well how unpredictable the bus schedule could be. The e-boat is infinitely more predictable, especially in terms of time. However, safety is one of the priorities of this service. Due to a limit of 30 passengers per boat, reduced by half during the current coronavirus outbreak, you could well have to wait for the next boat if the first is full.
The service is highly recommended for those wanting to visit the old town area especially on weekends when there’s time to spare. Just hop on oroff at one of the 11 piers.
Access Bobae Market for shopping or get a quick bite at Nang Loeng Market by getting off at the Ministry of Energy or Nakhon Sawan piers respectively. Or if you feel like taking an architectural tour around the government and official buildings, get off at Ratchadamnoen Nok pier. And if you are hungry again and want to grab some dinner, the Thewet area is a perfect last stop; either get off at the Thewarat Market or Thewet pier.
From the boat, it’s easy to see how people live. Many can be spotted eating from vending carts by the canal banks, while others can be seen fishing in the canal. Commuting on a waterway that’s much lower than street level can be quite an experience, featuring both positive and negative images of Bangkok.
The service is friendly to all types of commuters andcyclists are allowed to board with their bicycles. While old-fashioned two-wheelers are not banned,it’s recommended you share the boat ride with afoldable bike.
Yu Wachana of Littleroute Bicycle Tour was sorry that her group of three cyclists couldn’t get on the boat because the service allows only one bicycle at a time. While she understands the limit is for safety reasons, she hopes that operator will reconsider and allow more than one foldable bicycle per ride.
Dr Sukamon Wipaweeponkul who doesn’t own a car and has commuted all his life by public transport and bicycle is impressed by the friendly service that prioritises safety. He and his wife discovered the service quite by accident while walking around Hua Lamphong and Chinatown the day after the launch.
Due to unfamiliarity with the canal route and a perspective of the streets from the canal’s low level, it’s not always easy to figure out the location. To enjoy the trip more, Sukamon recommendspassengers check their GPS while taking the boat.
The officials at the piers and in each boat make sure passengers get on and off safely while providing useful information, he said. The 5km route which takes about 30 minutes is enjoyable and should be interesting for any Thais who can’t travel abroad at the moment.
Although the BMA intended the boat ride to serve tourism, it doesn’t offer a guided tour but rather serves as a feeder taking tourists from Hua Lamphong MRT station to the old town area. Many passengers expect more from the service since it was designed to serve tourism, with some saying the ride would be much more interesting if it also provided some information about the places along the route.
A passenger who asked not to be named noted that boat had taken her past many interesting places such as the Government House and the nearby Bobae and Nang Loeng markets. “It would have been much nicer to hear or read about the history of the route and places nearby, especially the lives of the people who live along the banks,” she said.
The EV boat service runs through 11 piers on a 5km route between Hua Lamphong train station and Thewarat Market. After the six-month trial period, a fee will be introduced, and the ride will cost amaximum of 10 baht. If you want to try the service while it’s free, do it while it lasts.
The service operates from 6am to 7pm on weekdays with boats running every 15 minutes for a total of 39 trips per day. That number goes down to 23 trips on weekends between 8am and 7pm.