The Saen Saeb Canal is a handy way to get around town, and a great way to see local lives going about their business, but also a little dirty. If you don't mind the heat and murky water, you will be rewarded with snapshots of ornate Italian Barocco bridges and riverboats that resemble gondolas on steroids.

    Stretching west to east across the map of Bangkok, Khlong Saen Saeb begins in the Old Town, near the Mahakan Fort at the end of Ratchadamnoen Road, and runs all the way to Chachoengsao Province, where it ends by flowing into the Bang Pa Kong River. It cuts through central areas like Phayathai, Pratunam, Chitlom, Nana, Asok Road, Thonglor and Ekkamai, running parallel to Phetchaburi and New Phetchaburi Roads, before turning up Ramkhamhaeng Road and on to Bangkapi.

    There are 2 lines – the western line (terminating at Golden Mount) and the eastern line (terminating at Wat Si Bunrueang, near the National Institute of Development Administration). The interchange, at Pratunam pier, feels seamless and tickets are valid on both lines. This route guide features the most useful or interesting stops along the 18-km-long route, including what can be found at each one.

    While busy during rush hour, it's convenient for shopping and sightseeing while avoiding Bangkok's infamous road traffic. There are temples, markets, old wooden houses and interesting bridges en route, and it's possible to walk along the banks in many places. Simply wave them down and wait patiently for 2 helmeted deckhands to jump ashore, ropes in hand for fastening. Be warned though: rush-hours are busy and falling in the canal is never fun, so hold on tight when getting on and off canal boats. 


    Areas served by the river buses

    A shopping haven. Find everything from street fashion to top-end designer labels, luxury goods and even sports cars at the range of shopping malls all located in the same area: MBK, Siam Paragon, Siam Discovery, Siam Square and Siam Centre. To get here, hop-off at Saphan Hua Chang Pier.

    Another shopping haven, for those on a tight budget or in search of something totally off-the-wall. Find all your accessories from Platinum Market, Platinum Fashion Mall, or hit Pantip Plaza for cheap computer equipment. To get here, hop-off at Pratunam Central Pier.

    From luxury hotels to high street fashion and malls, Ratchaprasong has it all. Other highlights include the Erawan shrine and gourmet eateries along Lang Suan Road. To get here, hop-off at Chidlom Pier.

    This is the see-and-be-seen street. Peppered with hip outdoor malls and trend-setting pubs, the entire stretch of Thonglor is like a giant magnet that draws a cool and well-to-do crowd. To get here, hop-off at Thonglor Pier.


    Phanfa Leelard (route start)

    Location: Behind the Mahakan Fort at the end of Ratchadamnoen Road in the Old Town.
    What's around: Mahatthai U-thit Bridge (an interesting example of Italian Barocco sculpture), Wat Saket (Temple of the Golden Mount), Democracy Monument, Khao San Road, and the Grand Palace.


    Bo Bae Market

    Location: Beside Bo Bae Tower, just off Krung Kasem Road.
    What's around: Bo Bae wholesale clothes market with stalls lining the canal path and dilapidated but interesting shophouses and alleyways. 


    Ban Krua Nua

    Location: At the end of a narrow soi near BTS National Stadium station.
    What's around: Visit Jim Thompson’s House or walk past the rickety wooden homes on the opposite side. Some are home to the weavers who provided silk fabrics to a young Jim Thompson when he was starting out.


    Hua Chang Bridge

    Location: Beneath Hua Chang Bridge (Elephant Head Bridge), Phayathai Road, near BTS Ratchathewi station.
    What's around: Siam Square, Siam Paragon, Siam Discovery or MBK (turn left from the pier, then take a short walk or tuk-tuk ride); to visit Jim Thompson’s House (turn right along the canal path and walk around 200 metres).


    Pratunam Pier (Interchange)

    Location: Beneath the bridge on Ratchadamri Road, just before the junction with Petchaburi and Ratchaprarop roads.
    What's around: Pratunam Market, Platinum Fashion mall or Panthip Plaza IT mall (turn right on leaving the pier, then take the first left into Petchaburi Road); CentralWorld, Gaysorn and Erawan shopping malls (turn left down Ratchadamri Road); Ganesha, Trimurti or Erawan shrines (turn left down Ratchadamri Road) 


    Chidlom Pier

    Location: Beneath the bridge on Chidlom Road.
    What's around: Skytrain Chidlom BTS station, Central Chidlom (turn right down Chidlom Road), or enjoy a gourmet meal at one of Lang Suan Road's swanky restaurants (turn right down Chidlom Road, cross Ploenchit Road and continue straight).


    Wireless Pier

    Location: Beneath Witthayu Bridge, Wireless Road.
    What's around: The British Embassy (turn left down Wireless Road).


    Nana Nua Pier

    Location: Beneath Sukhumvit Soi 3 Bridge, at the northern end near Petchaburi Road.
    What's around: Experience the Middle Eastern/African enclave on Sukhumvit Soi 3; visit the red-light district of Nana Plaza on Soi 4; or get a check-up at Bumrungrad Hospital (turn right down Soi 3 to find them all).


    Asoke Pier

    Location: Beneath the bridge at the junction of Phetchaburi and Asok roads.
    What's around: Catch the underground (MRT Phetchaburi), visit the Siam Society museum and cultural centre, or experience the red-light district, Soi Cowboy.


    Soi Thonglor Pier

    Location: Beneath the bridge at the northern end of Soi Thonglor (Sukhumvit 55), near the junction with New Petchaburi Road.
    What's around: Hang with Bangkok's hip urban youth in Thonglor's cafes and boutiques (turn right over the bridge), or visit the clubbing zone RCA (a short taxi ride).


    Sapan Klongtun Pier

    Location: Beneath the bridge, near the busy intersection of New Petchaburi and Ramkhamhaeng roads.
    What's around: Catch a taxi to clubbing zone RCA; Ekkamai Bus Station.


    The Mall Ramkhamhaeng Pier

    What's around: The Mall Ramkhamhaeng, near Rama IX Road intersection.


    The Mall Bangkapi Pier

    What's around: The Mall Bangkapi.

    Willy Thuan | Compulsive Traveller

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