Some Things to See and Do: Water Taxi
This turned out to be one of the unexpected way fun things that makes travel worth doing. Bangkok sits alongside a wide river, and is interlaced with canals. Many have been filled in over the years as cars outpaced boats, but water travel is still very much a real thing in the city.
For all of 8 baht (about 20 US cents in 2004) you can board a small boat, a river taxi, at any of dozens of stops in Bangkok and ride until the end; we went from Stop 1 near the terminus of the SkyTrain to the northern end of the line in about 90 minutes. Along the way you see Bangkok's temples and the National Palace, the Royal barges' dock and all sorts of local people's homes and businesses. There are plenty of other boats on the river, and kids can have a great time just waving at the workers on the slow moving barges and fast “long tailed” boats blasting by. Fellow passengers were about 80% local people commuting with a few tourists mixed in, giving you a chance to interact. You can hop off at any of the many stops along the way if you get tired, but you do have to pay again when you reboard.
By the way, once you do pay you are handed a tiny scrap of paper as a receipt. Hang on to it, as conductors climb on and off the boats and each one wants a look at your chit. There are plenty of seats and life preservers aboard. Downsides include noise, and occasional sprays of river water that aren't good for babies-keep them on the inside seats. The river taxis start sometime really early in the morning and stop running about 7pm or so, but try not to wait for the last boat. Many of the temples are lit up at night, and the ride is beautiful (and cooler) around sunset.
For those seeking a less, um, intense touring experience of Bangkok, there are tour boats that ply the same waters for more money. Any of the big hotels can set you up, and there are touts near the water taxi landings who will sell you a tour boat ride. You can also negotiate a rate with the independent boat operators who might be hanging around the dock, but not all of those boats looked safe and not everyone looked like the kinda guy I'd trust with my family on open water. Note that some of the tour boats offer booze and/or dinner cruises, which can be a good or bad thing for you.