I love boats. I don’t much like being in water but I love being on it. And I love that Bangkok provides ample boating opportunities. I take a boat down the klong (canal) each day to get to work. Not because it’s the most efficient way to get to work. It’s not the most convenient either. It might be the cheapest, but considering that the most expensive way to get to work (taxi) costs only a couple of dollars I can’t use that excuse either. When people ask me why I bother with the boat I tell them it’s reliable, which is kinda true, but a bit of a stretch.
It takes me 45 minutes to get from my house to office if I take this three-legged journey: the skytrain, then the boat down the klong and then walk another 10 minutes from the pier. I do like the reliability of this journey because traffic can’t interfere. In a taxi it might only take 20 minutes, but it might also take 1 hour. But in the last couple of days some of the worst protest-related road blocks have been cleared (linked to the funeral of the Princess, but I’m not sure why the blocks are cleared and if they will return on Monday) so people have been getting from my suburb to the office in 15 minutes. And yet I still take 45 minutes.
I just love riding in the boat. We burn down the skinny canal, swerving around other boats, occasionally lifting into the air when we hit a wave. On the sides of the boat there are tarpaulins you can raise with a pully and push down when its time to get out. They exist so the water splashing up the sides doesn’t drench the passengers dressed for work in suits, heals, pressed school uniforms. One morning a big wave took three of us on my bench seat by surprise and we copped faces full of dirty khlong water. The speed with which the guy next to me frantically dried himself off suggested that the water was even more putrid than I imagine. But as someone in my office said today “I’ve seen kids swimming in that water, so if doesn’t kill them then a commuter can probably handle a splash in the face”….But I’m not sure it wouldn’t kill a child with a weak constitution so I make sure to keep my mouth shut so the worst that happens is my hair gets wet and frizzy.
There’s another reason why I like my daily khlong ride. This afternoon we were released early from work because more traffic chaos was predicted as the funeral got underway. I reached the pier as I chatted to my friend on the phone about my surprise afternoon off. Dressed from head to toe in black (in recognition of the three day mourning period for the Princess), laptop in one hand, phone to ear, I jumped into the boat, grabbed the right amount of coins for the fare (8 baht) kept chatting to my friend. If anyone would have noticed, which no doubt they didn’t, I would have given the impression of having figured out this environment, a regular in Bangkok. This brings such joy! Because at all other times than this 10 minutes on the boat I am still completely lost in this city. I speak woefully little Thai for someone who’s been in the country for a month, and I still get lost every time I leave my suburb. It is pretty cool to have that little piece of regularity that I have all figured out.
Afterthought: The idea to write this post came into my head while I was on the boat this afternoon, and I was giggling about the title, which just kept getting funnier the more I thought about it. Because I was busy giggling and patting myself on the back for being a comic genius, I almost missed my stop and had to jump up and out of the boat as it pulled away from the pier. So I went back to looking like a silly lost farang (foreigner) again!