To get to Chinatown (Yaowarat) Bangkok, the fastest way is via the boat ride, since it avoids traffic and it’s cheap. First, we took the BTS to Saphan Taksin, and once we’re out from the station we followed the crowd and saw Sathorn Pier barely 3 minutes away. At the pier though, it could be confusing because there are several private boat companies offering boat rides for tourists and there’s also the Chao Phraya Express Boat Service (taxi), which is referred to as the ‘boat taxi’. We have been there twice and during our first time, we blindly bought tickets from a counter at the pier for 25 baht/single trip. Looking back, we found out that we’ve actually bought tickets from the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat, which charged a higher price especially to the tourists. The local boat taxi doesn’t require you to buy a ticket at the pier, but only collects the fare on the boat itself, for a cheap 15 baht!
One of the boats from Peninsula Hotel, Bangkok
Price of taxi fare in Bangkok
Chao Phraya Express Boat Service at Sathorn Pier
Being newbies in the first visit, we were anxious of missing the boat so we bought tickets at the first counter that we saw. That was a mistake. The only counter that collects money at the pier is for tourist boats. The Chao Phraya Tourist Boat charges 25 baht for a single trip and a whopping 150 baht for unlimited trips along the Chao Phraya River. The only difference between this boat and the taxi boat is that it came with a tour guide who talked about the Bangkok attractions during the journey. Also, since it’s more expensive, the boat was relatively empty with more seats to go around.
Chao Phraya Tourist Boat
25 baht for single trip
Chao Phraya Tourist Boat
More empty seats at the tourist boat
During our second trip though, we were more alert and found out the way to take the local boat taxi instead. We were asked to wait at the waiting area nearby the signage below (Sathorn) and were told that the taxi would come in 20 minutes time. You could see many locals and some seasoned tourists waiting patiently at the pier for the taxi to come. Once it arrived, all of us flocked towards to the boat and it was filled to the brim within seconds! There was a conductor who went around collecting fares from the passengers, a mere 15 baht per person. To me, the boat ride was just the same as the tourist boat that we took last time, but at a much cheaper rate.
Wait for the boat taxi near this sign
The local boat taxi at 15 baht/ride
To get to Chinatown, we had to alight at Ratchawong Pier, which is Pier No. 5. If you are taking the boat taxi, do get ready and walk to the boat exit one pier before your destination to avoid missing the station. Since the taxi was crowded with passengers, it was quite a challenge to move about especially if you are sitting near the front of the boat. We only started to move to the exit at the pier itself and almost couldn’t make it out of the boat! When you’re in the boat though, don’t forget to enjoy the ride and scenery – they can be quite gorgeous.
The Millenium Hilton Hotel from afar
The Millenium Hilton Hotel
View from the boat
Some flats along the river
Saucer with flag of Thailand
Another majestic building by the river
More shop houses
The gorgeous Wat Arun
Wichai Prasit Fort
Royal Thai Navy Headquarters
One of the piers
We got down at Ratchawong Pier (barely!) and saw the map of the Chinatown area. From the pier, we walked for a couple of hundred meters and saw a narrow lane on our right, filled with colourful shops and packed with people. We thought, that must be it! And so, we joined the crowd and immersed ourselves among the stalls and stalls selling all kinds of accessories, bags, leather goods, shoes, clothes, household items, bed sheets, you name it! Oh, and don’t forget the multitude of street food stalls along the way too. It’s such a narrow lane that when someone stopped to buy food, half of the lane would have been blocked.
Chinatown area map
Colourful mobile phone straps
Street food rules!
More stalls – handphone accessories, hats, pouches, etc
And if you’re (un)lucky, you would encounter motorcycles and trolleys carrying goods along the narrow lane. Once they come by, the whole lane would have been blocked and you would have no choice but to escape into the stalls to avoid getting squeezed by them!
Accessories and crafts
We spent only an hour or so in Chinatown since we were in a rush to go back, and to me, that wasn’t enough! There’s still so much more to see and experience there, especially the temple (Wat Traimit) and the BBQ skewers. This area is so alive and vibrant, it makes one feel happy just being a part of it.
The crowded boat taxi
*Note: Read the rest of my Bangkok Escapade here!