Bangkok goes by a few nick names, City of Angels, City of Life, Krung Thepp as the Thai’s call it, but Bangkok has also long been known as the Venice of the East because of its former extensive canal system. The rapid urbanization and economic development which took place since the late 1970’s saw many canals being filled in, paved over and turned into roadwayss. The loss of canals and the addition of new roads lessened Bangkok’s charm and added to traffic congestion. So, it was encouraging to read in the Bangkok Post today (Nov 24, 2012) that Bangkok has announced a 20 year plan to revive and restore many of the canals or Khlongs as the Thais call them.
The glory of the canal days may be long gone but City Hall is moving ahead with modernizing 5 communities on the city’s 3 main canals, Khlong Saen Saeb, Khlong Prawet Burirom and Khlong Bang Kapi. Funds have been provided to these 5 communities to restore the canals with a focus on improving their use as viable transportation with improved pier access, and landscaping. The city has announced a 20 year plan to modernize 28 main canals and to make them integral to transportation all around Bangkok.
The impetus driving this change stems from last years floods, Thai officials realized that the filled in canals was a key factor in not allowing flood waters to effectively drain. This revitalization development plan will go a long way to restoring much of the former charm of Bangkok and lessen the need for driving cars in the city. This writer believes Bangkok will achieve success as the recent additions of the Skytrain, the MRT subway system and the elevated Airport Link rail system have resulted in much less car traffic in and around Bangkok. Long live the Venice of the East!