Bangkok's canals are as old as the city itself and although they are used much less than when they were originally constructed, have proved important to residents down the years. Since 1782 they have been used as a means of transporting food and water around the city, as well as people.
They have been a vital means of defending the city against the attacks of several civilizations and are an important part of cultural life. Swimming, boating, bathing and religious festivals have all been carried out on the canals, which were prominent up until 1851 when the street system was introduced.
The Thonburi area
Over the years many of Bangkok's khlongs have disappeared to make way for roads or as a response to cholera outbreaks. Not all of them have been lost, however, and it is the Thonburi area of the city where most of the canals can still be found.
Taking a tour of the khlongs here makes for a pleasant experience and while there are high-speed boats offering rides it is better to explore at a slower pace. This means a longboat or the traditional sampan.
You will find yourself going past houses on stilts, crumbling bridges and colonial mansions, but these are the contrasting sights of the khlongs. Everyday life can be seen as floating kitchens go by and mobile shops.
When holidaying anywhere it is always good to visit some of the tourist attractions and Bangkok is no different. In fact the Thai capital has a large number of fascinating sights and conveniently, some of them are located near canals.
This means you can use your exploration of the canals as a sort of water-based sightseeing bus, so jump off and visit some of Bangkok's best-loved places.
These should include Wat Arun, otherwise known as the Temple of Dawn, which you will immediately recognise due to its stunning exterior. It consists of a central prang with several other spires surrounding it and is very different to all other temples in Thailand.
Reaching 70 metres into the air and ornately decorated in lavish colours it is a sight to behold and one best experienced coming from the water. Sculptures of Chinese soldiers and animals line the base. Do not miss this opportunity to climb the prang, but be warned that it is harder to descend than ascend the stairs.
Also en route down the canal you will spot the Royal Barges Museum, where you are bound to get boat envy. This is where the eight longboats used in the Royal Barge Procession are housed. As you would expect, these vessels are intricately and ornately decorated, with every inch covered in fine patterns.
Keep your eyes peeled for other landmarks, such as the Rattanakosin-style Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, as you float past. This latter attraction is the temple which contains the magnificent Emerald Buddha.
(Photos via ThinkStock - iStockphoto)