Despite the fact that Ashley (my fearless travel buddy) and I vastly overpaid, the river boat ride that we took through the backwater canals of Bangkok was the highlight of our trip so far. Floating atop the water in a colorful little motorboat (despite the noise and occassional whiff of fumes) provided a refreshing respite from the sprawling concrete jungle that is Bangkok.
Although perhaps not as prevalent as in Venice, much of Bangkok is covered by a network of small canals that intersect the area around the river. Once we turned off the main river, Chao Phraya, and into one of the tiny canals, the scenery immediately changed from industrial to residential. We felt as though we got a glimpse into the lives of others as we saw Thai homes of all shapes and sizes; crumbling high rise apartments, wooden shacks on rotting stilts, ornate French Colonial mansions and what can only be described as floating crates lashed together and covered with a tarp converged side by side in the neighborhoods we passed. Their only commonality was the mass amounts of laundry hanging outside to dry. Ornate wats (temples) broke up the plethora of homes lining the river, their rooftops a colorful mosaic of red and green and their spires glowing gold in the afternoon sun. We saw children jumping off docks to take a dip in the frothy, latte brown water, old men in tattered clothes fishing and colorfully dressed women scrubbing laundry in the waves of the garbage strewn waterway. But whether we were passing by a shanty town on stilts or a gleaming wat where small children brought bread to feed the irridescent mass of squirming fish below, everyone graced us with a smile and a wave. Thailand isn’t nicknamed “The Land of Smiles” for nothing.