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Downtown Bangkok is fun, exciting and there's always something going on. At the same time it's noisy, polluted, chaotic and even for those of us who love it, there are times when it all gets a bit much.
Sometimes you just feel the need to get away from it all and go somewhere that is everything downtown Bangkok isn't, somewhere quiet, laid back, somewhere peaceful. Just about anywhere in rural Thailand would fit the bill but often you don't have time to venture that far.
When I want to escape the city, where better to venture than Nonthaburi, technically the province north of Bangkok, but actually still very much part of Greater Bangkok. It might still be Bangkok, but it's nothing like downtown. The boat ride from downtown Bangkok up the Chao Praya to Nonthaburi is still the best deal in town. To get to Nonthaburi on the river, you need to take the regular Chao Praya Express boat.
Upon arrival at Nonthaburi, the slower pace and relaxed atmosphere are immediate. Old ladies sell stale bread to feed the huge fish swimming around the pier while their husbands sit on long-tail boats with gaudy, colourful paint jobs and huge V8 engines which bob in the water. Just beyond the pier is the area's landmark, the Nonthaburi clock tower and traditional Thai-style buildings line the waterfront.
Just a few metres away laid-back samlor riders wait for their next fare. Few foreigners are to be seen. It's relaxed and peaceful, the Thai equivalent of small-town Farangland. Many foreigners take the river boat but surprisingly few take it all the way to the end.