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Khlong San Sep - San Sep Canal, Bangkok - Also known as Khlong Saen Saeb or Khlong Saen Saep

The Saen Saep starts from the Mahanak canal or Khlong Mahanak adjacent to the old Mahakan Fortress, by the Temple of The Golden Mount and Wat Saket in Bangkok. In Chachoengsao it terminates at the Bang Pa Kong River.

The Phan Fa Lilat Bridge was built over what was the outer moat of Rattanakosin Island, Old Bangkok, now Khlong Bang Lamphu. The bridge linked Ratchadamnoen Klang and Ratchadamnoen Nok avenues. The bridge was originally an all metal structure but has been modified re-inforced with concrete beneath, to cope with modern traffic. The Balustrades are made of cast iron in a sunflower design. At the ends of the bridge are carved marble finials. The Phan Fa Lilat Bridge is registered as a National Heritage Site by the Thai Government Fine Arts Department - Khlong Bang LampuKhlong San Sep - Khlong Saen Saeb or also known as Saen Saep starts in Bangkok where it connects to the Chao Phraya River, via Khlong Bang Lamphu to the north west close to the Phan Fa Lilat Bridge, and a series of un-navigable locks and to south via Khlong On Ang, again with a 'tidal sea lock' at Phra Pok Klao Bridge. The Sam Sen Canal itself runs eastwards through urban and sub-urban Bangkok with water all the way and Chachoengsao, Prachin Buri. The first part of Khlong San Sep (Saen Saeb / Saen Saep) is used by a private company under licence from the Bangkok Transport Authority for a public express boat service.

We ventured onto the Khlong San Sep / Saen Saeb or Saep in March 2008.

The Khlong Saen Saep Express Boat service operates on the canal providing fast, basic, cheap transportation in and out of a heavily traffic-congested central areas of Bangkok. The service has had a bit of a checkered reputation, due to the condition of the water in the khlong.

Each of the many piers is clearly marked with the pier's name and the two adjacent piers.

Each of the many piers is clearly marked with the pier's name and the two adjacent piers. The length of the service runs to just under 20 km, with 50 or more boats to our knowledge, each with between 40 and 50 seats, plus standing room for another 20 or so! The service operates from 0530 to 2030 daily. Prices at the time we travelled were from 8 to 12 THB for the first section about 6 km and up to 18 THB depending on your journey distance to the furthest terminal. We were told that the service carries over 50,000 passengers daily.

There are two sections or 'lines' which meet at an interchange pier. Because of language difficulties we ended up buying two sets of tickets, one for each section of the canal. You will know when you arrive at the interchange pier as everyone gets off one boat and gets on the one in front! Just follow the throng.

Khlong Sam Sen express boat terminal, next to the narrow (white) bridge to the Golden MountIf you are going to take the trip, for the experience as we did, then we recommend that you find your way to the Khlong Sam Sen express boat terminal, next to the narrow (white) bridge to the Golden Mount, where the boat will be less crowded and you should get a seat.

You can only board the Sam Sen express boats via the gunwales and stepping straight into the seat row of your choice. You may find that the canvas tarp roof and side-screens are adjusted by the crew for boarding at the terminals. We found our boat to be clean and ship-shape.

If you board at any of the many piers along the khlong then just the side screens are lowered and you will have to duck in and out. We would recommend that once you have boarded, if you sit at either side 'for the view' then be prepared to raise your side screen to avoid being splashed when a boat passes in the opposite direction.

The water in the canal is a thick oily grey soup, probably the worst navigable water we have seen (and we live on a narrowboat in the UK from April to October each year). Occasionally at certain points along the khlong where the express boat disturbs sediment, it also brings up noxious gasses too! Phew - a smell as bad as any you will encounter anywhere, so we also recommend that you carry a face flannel (available for around 20 THB at any of the many Bangkok 7-Eleven convenience stores) and keep it handy!

Having said all that, the trip lasted about 40 minutes for us and you will see areas of Bangkok not normally on view in any other way. You will pass: hovels, and villas, construction sites and condominiums, thriving boutique businesses and tented vendor 'encampments', traditional teak Thai dwellings and colourful local tenements, wats, mosques and churches, dereliction and parks, schools and gardens - in fact Bangkok in a flash!

The construction of the Saen Saep canal was started in 1837 by the order of King Rama III during the conflict between Siam, as it was then, and Cambodia. The canal was intended to establish a transportation link with the front for soldiers and weaponry on their way to Cambodia. The Khlong San Sep and was completed in just three years, a great feat of navigation work.

The canal is spanned by many bridges some of them quite low, hence the crash helmets for the conductors. There are also many low telephone and power cables besides a number of small foot passenger ferries that cross the khlong 'by wire', more real hazards for the crews.

Hold on tight!Mosque in Bangkok

We can recommend the experience of a Khlong Saen Saep Express Boat trip.

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