Friday, February 27, 2015

Lots to see along Chao Phraya River

This morning we went for a boat cruise down the Chao Phraya River. The streets were already busy with people at outdoor food stalls, which are everywhere. Since many people living in Bangkok have small apartments with limited cooking space, and because they may also have long commutes into the city, they choose to eat street food. It is delicious and you can buy breakfast for fifty cents.

The river was incredibly choppy with the wash from other boats. This was going to be a welcome relief from all the crowds we had encountered as there were only eight of us on a "James Bond" boat. They have had this name ever since they were used in a chase scene in "The Man with the Golden Gun." We were very pleased that the boat was much more stable than it first appeared.

We travelled down the river, passing by the Flower Market, and then by Buddhist temples. In front of the temples were tall hemispherical buildings called stupas containing cremated ashes. King Rama IX, who is much revered by his people, is in a hospital that was pointed out to us. Rama IX is the longest reigning monarch in the world but has been in ill health for some time. His picture is seen everywhere you go, on buildings, banners and billboards. His son is very unpopular and his now divorced wife's family has been involved in a corruption scandal.

We headed up a smaller canal passing a mixture of housing from old tin shacks to some lovely waterfront homes. Rice barges plied the river. Little skiff-like boats loaded with food were selling to larger James Bond boats. One of the highlights was passing an old building that held nine of the royal barges used by the royal family on ceremonial occasions. A flotilla of over fifty Royal barges are used at those times.

Then we were each given a loaf of bread so that we could feed giant catfish. It was a feeding frenzy as the huge fish vied with each other for the bread. As we moved upstream we spotted a large river monitor sunning himself on some steps. Apparently they don't bother people as they are content with their diet of catfish. Sometimes people swim in the river and we did notice some children splashing about. It wouldn't be for the faint of heart.



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