BANGKOK
CHAO-PRAYA RIVER

Rivers used to be the main lifelines of cities all over the world, the axis of commerce, the points where new knowledge would come from afar, where new face, new languages found their gateway into the local story.

Rivers used to be important, they used to be worshiped. There used to be respect, even fear, knowing water is a force for good but also for destruction and chaos. We used to remember the power of nature, but that was a long time ago.
These days what is left of our appreciation of most rivers is a blooming real estate market with riverview condominiums and hotels blocking the view to those of us who still prefer going through life on foot. The chaopraya is a bit of an exception and that is its charm.

You do have the fancy hotels, and you do have the condos, but thanks to the old fashioned stuburness of some of the citizens of the city of angels, most of the river banks are still local residence and mangroves, traditional wooden houses on long thin wooden insect legs, defying gravity and proper engineering .

There is something surprising in seeing the scenes of small children jumping to a river from their house porch  in the middle of one of the most modern cities in asia, and in this day and age when we already forgot children were not born with their face stuck in a screen.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Most of these photos were taking on a nice boat trip we took in a friends restored river boat, and were able to stop and take in the better parts of the view, but even in the normal longtail boat tours that go up and down the river you can get the magic aspect of this river, reminding us of what rivers are supposed to mean to us humans.

My favorite part along the river are those parts where the local huts meet the glass and steel of the huge office buildings of the thai telecom. That short stretch of riverside tale is full of character and different types of houses and river living, it is like a summation of what this river is, a junction between the traditional and the modern, a juxtaposition of cultures , of rhythms, of  what Bangkok is all about.
There are rivers which have a romantic atmosphere, some are wild and celebrating the force of nature. There are rivers which are still full of boats bringing merchandise and people from all over the world, some are pristine in picturesque subtle hues.

The chaopraya is none of these, and is in a category all of its own. It is nothing but a manifestation of life, a snapshot of the human race, the thai people, and all of us in some way or another. It is an experience, a lesson, a guide. I am full of hope it will manage to keep its magic while the rest of us change.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
                     
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