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In a huge city teeming with traffic like Bangkok, a very easy way to experience the real Bangkok is to hop on the Chao Phrya Express boats that run along the river in both directions. They run every 20 minutes, but in the rush hours they run about every 5 minutes.
For 20฿ you can ride the express boat from the "Central Pier" (CEN), also called Sathorn Pier located beneath Saphan Taksin BTS station, all the way to the end of the line at Nonthaburi. A fascinating journey of about 50 minutes to an hour. It's also a fast way to get to the Grand Palace at Ta Chang Pier (N9), and other interesting locations. There is no need to buy a ticket on the pier, just board the boat and pay the young lady when she comes by shaking her coin tray.
The boats can get quite crowded during busy periods. Don't forget to hold onto your ticket, as ticket inspectors often make spot checks.
Hours of Operation
River Boats operate in daylight hours from 5.30am until 7.30pm, except for the River Crossing Ferry which operates from 5am to 10pm at a cost of 3฿.
Located beneath Saphan Taksin BTS Skytrain station, Central Pier - see below
Identifying Different River Boats - See Photos linked here
Yellow: (S4) to (N30) - 10 stops - peak periods - Mon to Fri.
Orange: (S3) to (N30) - 20 stops - 7 days.
Green & Yellow: (CEN) to (N33) - 11 stops - peak periods - Mon to Fri.
Express Local Boat - No Flag: (S3) to (N30) - 34 stops - Mon to Fri.
Blue - Tourist Boat: (see below) (CEN) to (N13) -10 stops - 7 days.
In 2003 the "Chao Phraya Tourist Boat", specifically for tourists was rolled out. It uses newer more comfortable boats and restricts itself to stopping at places of interest to tourists (10 stops). To use the tourist boat you purchase a one-day river pass for 150฿ which allows you unlimited trips on the same day. This option does not represent value for money if only a few trips are being undertaken, although it may be worth it for the additional comfort and convenience and for the running commentary about what's at the various stops and what the passing scenery is.
These conjoined 20 metre wide khlongs (canals) stretch east to west across for 18 kms through Bangkok.
Khlong Mahanak was dug during the reign of King Rama 1 when Bangkok was chosen as Thailand's new capital. Khlong Saen Saeb is an extension of Khlong Mahanak, and was dug during the reign of King Rama III, to speed up the provision of food, soldiers and weapons to fight the wars against Vietnam and Cambodia.
Beginning in the Old City near the Mahakhan Fortress they run all the way to Chachoengsao, and join the mouth of the Bang Pa Kong River.
These klongs run parallel to Phetchaburi and New Phetchaburi road, cutting through central areas of Phayathai, Pratunam, Chitlom, Nana, Asoke, Thonglor and Ekkamai. They then turn up Ramkhamhaeng Road and on to Bangkapi.
Express boats are a fast, inexpensive means avoiding traffic-infested Bangkok. Boats run from 05:30 to 20:30 every day. Boats depart every 5 - 10 minutes stopping at 27 piers. Fares start at 10฿ and rise to 20฿, depending on how far you go.
Taken from a review of the Khlong boats by regular Bangkok forum contributor AndyBKK:
Stops and nearby attractions: