Bangkok: Venice of the East


There have been a string of cities in Asia that have been given the moniker Venice of the East, including Dhaka in Bangldesh, Suzhou in China, Udaipur in India, Srinagar in Kashmir, Osaka in Japan, Hanoi in Vietnam and Ayutthaya and Bangkok in Thailand, yet the origins of Bangkok’s canal network with its swampy surrounds, was drained, carved out and irrigated since the eighteenth century to form a system of canals, known as “khlongs”.

Over time much of what was regarded of this city of the east – that in some way resembled the north-eastern Italian city where its small islands are separated by canals – has been filled in to make room for the sois and roads that pervade today’s Bangkok. However, there is still an extensive network of waterways that navigate the blood vessels of the city and are used daily by commuters to travel in and out of work by motorised boats.

In 1782, when King Rama I moved the capital from Ayutthaya to avoid further incursions from the Burmese, he created Rattanakosin Island, built the Grand Palace, dug a moat and linked it to the Chao Praya River. At the time, many of the country’s cities were protected by these moats. Then, during the nineteenth century, the canals system was extended to cut travelling times by boat and became Bangkok’s primary form of transport, which stretched hundreds of kilometres in connecting houses and businesses and served as transport conduits for commercial trade.

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as European colonial powers became more involved in trading with Thailand, merchants demanded roads for horses and carriages and the capital changed from a waterways-based system to one of road and rail transport as Bangkok’s population expanded. This was at a time when Europeans travelled to Bangkok to discover how amazingly efficient the canal system was and eventually dubbed the city the “Venice of the East”.

The residents of Bangkok who live near these canals know how efficient and inexpensive the canal system is. One of the most convenient routes of the canal network stretches from Bangkapi through Ramkamhaeng, Sukhumvit and Phetchburi and then snakes its way past Siam before heading west to the Grand Palace. The network has many boats operating along it from about 6am to 7pm, transporting office workers and students to places of business and study to avoid the traffic jams that clog the city’s arteries every day.

Should you be interested in experiencing a calmer commute and live in Thonglor then Noble Solo is located only five minutes walk from the canal jetty. We have, for example, a 32sqm studio unit for rent in the building for Bt20,000 per month among many others. Further along in Silom we have a 25sqm studio apartment for rent in Silom at Bt19,000.