Living on Water: the Era of the Thai Khlongs



Living on Water: the Era of the Thai Khlongs

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Ayutthaya and Bangkok, both on the flood plain of the Chao Phraya River, were cities that grew along countless little canals and streams known as khlongs. Bangkok was once a floating city. In the 1840s all but about 10 percent of its population of 400,000 lived on the khlongs. Houses built on rafts could be moored wherever there was space.

Stilt houses lining the banks of the khlongs provided a somewhat more stable habitat. Although roads now cover most of Bangkok’s eastern waterways, many still exist in Thon Buri, where life still largely revolves around the khlongs. Children splashing in the water are a common sight, and early each morning waterborne vendors cruise up and down, selling everything from Chinese pastries and coffee to fruit, vegetables, and cooking utensils. The favored khlong vessel today is the long-tailed powerboat – one was memorably commandeered by Roger Moore as James Bond in the movie The Man with the Golden Gun. Visitors can easily charter their own from Chang pier to explore the Thon Buri khlongs.

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