2006 Thailand: Klong San Sap

A photo essay on Bangkok’s little known water taxis.


Click above to see the set.


I spent two days doing close to nothing, so today I rode the klong san sap water taxis for about 10 hours, putting myself “on assigment.” It was great!


But let me start at the start. Good flight, the seat next to me was vacant, so had room to stretch out a bit. Horrendous food, but brought my own, thus saving the day. Easy getting through customs and to hotel, so smooth the whole way.


I like that I picked up where I had left off in BKK (Bangkok), so i felt much more comfortable and had to do some shopping on Koh San Road (big tourist area). I did not have the urge to go to wats and do other tourist things, which is nice, not only have I done that (see website for photos), but I have 3 months so a few days of nothing are okay. I love the opportunity to live in the moment and find I do a lot of free-form thinking that way. I’m no Jack Handy, but don’t you think it’s an oximoron for lung surgeons to say they are “holding their breath” after performing a lung transplant? And this Valarie Plame thing. What’s with the loophole that Rove, Inc. didn’t identify her by name, but instead referred to her as Joseph Wilson’s wife. So, what’s this guy a mormon? Unless he’s affliated with Joseph Smith, well…you do the math.


I digest. (No, really, I just had very sumptous green curry and rice and free internet!) I like the behinds of the Thai. Not like that you klong dwellers, I mean all the activity that happens behind the facade of bright lights and good times most of the farang (tourists, usually white) see. Behind all that are living and working Thai, many of whom live in what most of you might consider squaller. I have walked through a small portion of these areas, though I do not photograph out of respect and I don’t want to flash the D70 given I’m enough of an alien with the bald head and fancy backpack. That’s why I gave myself the assignment of the Klong San Sap. After two days of idle I wanted to get some good shots of the taxi service in the fetid Klong San Sap canal.


[I’m going to try and upload images, bare with me. If they make it, they are totally untouched and small, a proper set will be up sooner or later.]


The Klong San Sap was originally built in the mid 1800s to help Thai’s move supplies during the war with Cambodia. The water is putrid, like, Katrina putrid, but on a permanent basis. The smell is bad, but not the worst I’ve smelled in BKK. You don’t want the water to get on you, thus the blue tarps on the taxis. I wondered if they had a cleaning crew at all — yesterday I saw a dead dog floating in the water — and you’ll be relieved to know they do have a boat that goes out with baskets to pick up such debris.


So, I rode the damn things for eight hours today (ten hours on assignment, but I had to take a two hour air con break seeing as I over heated). I made a friend in An, a guy who was friendly about having his picture take and then lead me to a backway lunch spot. I bought him a Coke and made a friend.


The others weren’t sure what to make of the crazy white guy taking pictures of them. Imagine a tourist, let’s say a Japanese tourist just for the predictability of it, enthusiastically riding BART and taking pictures of the conductors. All day, back and forth, waving, shooting, riding. They must have thought me ding dong for sure. Regardless. What’s as interesting as the taxis and the fare takers and the riders, is the life that goes on along the fetid canal. Children play, people live, work, love?, along the canal, it’s as if we all lived next to a recycling station.


I’m not sure why I’m attracted to such a thing. I just know that it facinates me, that such a bustling hub of behind BKK life takes place along a putrid waterway. That and the fact that the service is good damn on time, convenient and good. It wouldn’t fly in the states, too many suits (law and wool) to worry about, but I wish we would take a page from them and open up a little more public transit in areas like the bay, or maybe dig a big fucking canal straight down the middle of Okaland.


Shawn, I eat pad thai three times the first day i was here. =)