Bangkok Walking Tour – Thong Lo and Khlong Saen Saep
This walking tour is a quick escape which starts in one of the busiest areas of Bangkok. This walk is about 7 km long and we leave at the BTS station Thong Lo. It takes us along the beautiful Khlong Saen Saep, its residential areas, Masjed Darulmuhsinin Mosque, the mansions near Sukhumvit Soi 39 and ends at Benchasiri Park.
From the BTS Thong Lo station walk down Sukhumvit Soi 55, also known as Thong Lo Road. Just walk along this road until you reach the Khlong (canal).
If you need a coffee to get your walk started, there are two options along Thong Lo Road: KOF has a branch at J Avenue, right at the entrance from Thong Lo Road. Right behind KOF, there is a small kiosk called Diamond Coffee. Both cafés have really nice coffee – KOF has a small indoor space to sit, while Diamond Coffee is outdoors.
Thong Lo Road is a preview of what you will see along the canal: the old and the new, modernity vs. tradition, quiet vs. bustling noise. This plot has been empty for a while. Only one tree survived. Soon, this plot will probably will be turned into a condominium, serviced apartments, a hotel, or a small mall – or, all of these in one.
Just before you reach the canal, you will notice a building with interesting architectural shapes. There is no specific name for this building. Because of the shapes, I started calling it the “Building in Bloom”.
At the end of the road, there is a small lane under the bridge. This is the entrance to the walkway along Khlong Saen Saep.
Once you reach the canal, it is hard to imagine that you are in one of the biggest cities in the world. Suddenly, it is quiet. You can hardly notice the noise from Thong Lo and Petchaburi Road.
One reminder that we are still in Bangkok is the big construction sites. Development companies have discovered the attractive plots next to the canals for their “luxury condominiums with a view”.
Khlong Saen Saep is one of Bangkok’s longest canals and connects the Chao Phraya river to many of its districts.
There are boat services on some sections of the canal. They start at 5.30 am and end at 8.30 pm (7 pm on weekends) and locals use the boats as an alternative to the traffic jams and the crowded trains.
The canal walkway is also a popular spot for street art. Throughout the walk, you will discover quite a few murals. Some may stay, others were painted on the temporary walls and fences of construction sites.
It is really beautiful to just walk along the canal and peek into the landed houses. Sometimes, you can spot cats or dogs. One family even has what I call “watchturtles”.
There are small shops and outdoor restaurants along the walkway as well.
An elderly lady sells Benjarong crockery (the intricate hand-painted Thai crockery style with lots of colours and gold). In front of her shop, there is a small pond (which looks like a bathtub) with a ceramic lizard.
Unfortunately, the Khlong has been heavily polluted. Residential buildings, hotels and hospitals have been using it to get rid of their sewage. There has been an initiative to clean up the canal which claims that improvements have been made.
Nevertheless, locals put a lot of effort into their houses, gardens and the walkway itself. There are beautiful flowers, wooden window shutters and you may even spot a traditional wooden parasol in the gardens.
Thais pay tribute to them by putting orchids on trees, in plant pots and even painting them on their walls.
The frangipani flowers are my favourites – from white, to pale pink, to yellow, to blush. They come in so many colours and always remind me of the beach and the tropics.
About halfway through, there is Masjed Darulmuhsinin Mosque. Before you arrive at this mosque, there is a cemetery on the left, which may be mistaken for a park. Unless you wear long trousers and cover your shoulders, please do not enter this cemetery.
Already before reaching Masjed Darulmuhsinin Mosque, you can tell that this is a Muslim neighbourhood. Some houses and buildings have Arabic inscriptions.
It is always worth walking up the bridges and enjoying the beautiful views.
Never forget to look up – mangoes, jackfruits, papayas and bananas are right above.
Despite its beauty, not many tourists make it to this part of Khlong Saen Saep. Hence, it has preserved its authentic charm. Every morning, I see two ladies having breakfast in front of their house. Another elderly lady is cleaning her porch and greeting me with a big smile.
I have done this walk many times and every time, I discovered something new. Pay attention while you admire the scenery – motorcycle drivers also use the walkway.
Every building in Thailand has a spirit house. Of course, there are many types in the gardens along the canal.
In some gardens, you will spot birdcages.
Others display their collection of number plates.
And some are true fans of plant pots.
You can turn left into Soi Prachan Khadi (right after the bridge). But I recommend to keep walking until the end of the walkway, which is another 500 metres.
I do not know what these plants are called, but their pink “curtain” is the perfect frame for any picture of the canal.
Luxurious mansions and low-income housing side-by-side.
The laundry hanging outside to dry always reminds me of Italy.
Look up, but also look down. That way, I discovered a rose apple tree.
There are still some empty plots which have turned into an urban jungle. I hope these green oases survive.
The walkway ends shorty after Soi Petchaburi 38/1 (the extension of Sukhumvit Soi 39). You can cross the canal via a footbridge, walk around the Avani Atrium Hotel and then keep walking along until Prasrnmit (SWU) ferry station. From there, you can keep walking along the canal again.
But now, walk back to Soi Prachan Khadi (right behind the newly built Supalai Oriental Sukhumvit 39 condominium) and walk towards Sukhumvit Road.
The first section of this Soi is nothing special, but I found it really interesting to walk behind the huge construction sites and condominiums of Soi 39. Unfortunately, Soi Prachan Khadi is being turned into a copy of 39 with a lot of empty plots and constructions sites coming up.
If there still are empty plots, there are always interesting flowers to discover.
The closer you come towards Sukhumvit Road, the more mansions come up.
Many of the houses are not Thai or “Asian” at all. Some doors even look Mediterranean.
Even the dustbins are decorated with bougainvilleas.
Walk back to Soi 39. If you are in need for something sweet – have a croissant at Tiengna Viennoiserie in Soi Phrom Si 1.
Pay attention to the side lanes of Sukhumvit Soi 39. There are many interesting buildings to discover.
Walk towards Sukhumvit Road and end your walk at Benchasiri Park. (I will publish another article about the park itself soon, stay tuned!)
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Neighbourhood Walking Guides: Ari Neighbourhood and Khlong Ong Ang, Portuguese Quarter & Flower Market, Khlong Saen Saeb and Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem
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All information as of the date of publishing/updating and based on the information on the websites of the respective sights (listed above) and the information provided at the location. We cannot accept responsibility for the correctness or completeness of the data, or for ensuring that it is up to date. All recommendations are based on the personal experience of Elisabeth Steiger, no fees were received by the recommended places above.