We hired a longboat and enjoyed a 3 1/2 hour cruise on the Chao Phraya River and the canals going off from there. It was a travel highlight for us. Stops included a snake farm and small zoo, an orchid nursery, the Royal Barges Museum, and Wat Arun, the Temple of The Dawn.
The best part of the tour, however, was simply cruising past houses ranging from shacks to mansions in a variety of neighborhoods, watching people living their everyday lives along the water, much the way they've been doing for centuries, other than the addition of such modern conveniences as satellite dishes.
Bangkok is a fabulously interesting city. There aren't too many places in the world where people actually live in houses (sometimes shacks) right over the rivers and canals. Everything revolves around the water - they fish from the stoop, fetch water in buckets and wash their laundry from the porch, hang their clothes outside under the eves. The poorer homes do not have windows, but a are simple structures either on floats or up on stilts while the better homes are made of wood with concrete supports and often have nice cars on the other side of the house. Even so, they seem to use small wooden boats for transportation since the roads are so congested as to be unuseable. There are markets set up on small boats, and a number of boats are set up for cooking and serve as floating restaurants for people to paddle up and eat. We have only taken a taxi once (last night to the Chinese New Year celebrations), and other than that have travelled by foot ferry and (yesterdays tour) by private long boat. We'll definitely put Bangkok on our list of cities to return to.