Here is a picture of a sunset in Bangkok, at the Chao Phraya river. This river divides Bangkok in two halves, and most people never make it to the western side of the river, except for the Wat Arun temple or a hotel by the river maybe. There are some nice places to explore there though if you are looking for a more mellow pace, or just want to experience a Bangkok that isn’t as touristified as the hot spots like Sukhumvit, Khaosan Road and so on.
It’s a nice ride to take one of the longtail boats for a ride just before the sun sets – this way, you get a great Bangkok sightseeing experience from the river.
A river cruise in Bangkok gives a look to the community life about the Chao Phraya River and also the legacies on this river of kings, a picture of stark contrasts.
It needn’t have to be a more sophisticated affair; you are able to cut the frills and expenses. Plan the river cruise yourself for a more meaningful Bangkok sightseeing tour in the Chao Phraya River.
The Chao Phraya River may be the longest river in Thailand stretching 370 km from Nakhon Sawan, a lot more than 200 km north of Bangkok. The river continues past Bangkok to flow to the Gulf of Thailand in Samut Prakan to the south.
Chao Phraya can also be the greatest title in ancient Thai nobility, similar to the Duke in British nobility. The title is not being used.
Attractions, landmarks and views inside a river cruise in Bangkok
Start the river cruise in the Sathorn Pier close to the Taksin Bridge; five minutes walk from the Taksin Bridge skytrain station, the terminal station for trains in the city center.
Proceed northwards passing the scenic water front hotels such as the old Oriental Bangkok where famous writers like Joseph Conrad and Somerset Maugham left their mark.
The very first recommended stopover, in a river cruise in Bangkok, is the Ratchawong Pier which leads to Yaowarat Chinatown, Soi Sampheng where Chinatown started and Soi Sun Yat Sen named after the father of the Chinese Revolution.
The Memorial Bridge, the following stop, is dedicated to King Rama I, the founder of Bangkok. His monument, near the bridge, depicts King Rama I on a throne gazing in the bustling city he founded more than 220 years ago. Pahurat, the Indian community in Bangkok is further inland.
Historical aspects of the Chao Phraya
Further upriver about the Thonburi bank, near the mouth of the Bangkok Yai Canal, the white ramparts of Fort Vichai Prasit enter into view. This was an old Ayutthaya fort built in 1688. King Taksin’s Palace is here in the complex that’s now the Royal Thai Navy HQ.
Alongside this old citadel, stands the glittering Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn, a temple built-in the Ayutthaya era.
The Bangkok Yai Canal and the Bangkok Noi Canal, further upriver, used to be the original course from the Chao Phraya River.
This long meander was straightened out with a canal in 1542 to shorten sailing time for you to Ayutthaya. The new canal subsequently became the present course of the Chao Phraya River.
The river cruise in Bangkok will now pass probably the most majestic sight across the Chao Phraya River, the Grand Palace and also the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in old Rattanakosin, the historical center, which is the origin of modern Bangkok.
The Thonburi bank, across from the Grand Palace, is how old communities have lived well before Bangkok was established as the capital. The Bangkok Noi Museum, further inland, preserves a brief history of those communities.
The Royal Barge Museum is found in the Bangkok Noi Canal near the Phra Pin Klao Bridge.
The river cruise in Bangkok next passes Fort Phra Sumen, built in 1783 to fortify that old city. Located near the mouth from the Banglampoo Canal, the 2nd protective canal ring, it’s one of the two remaining forts left in the Bangkok era.
River life and scenes on the Chao Phraya
On the banks, rickety old wooden houses on stilts are visible in stark contrast to the spanking new houses and condominiums. The noodle vendor in a boat sells her food from property to property as restaurants provide riverside dining near the a few of the piers.
The most spectacular bridge over the Chao Phraya River encountered inside a river cruise in Bangkok may be the King Rama VIII Bridge, a suspension bridge that sticks out like a giant harp within the water. Bang Khun Phrom Palace, which houses the bank of Thailand Museum, is nearby.
Bridges over the Chao Phraya River serve as useful landmarks in a river cruise in Bangkok. Some piers, located near these bridges, are named after them. You’ll pass under eight bridges within the entire river cruise.
Further upriver life gets less touristy and much more rustic, particularly on the Thonburi bank. Many piers are named after wats (temples) located nearby, around which community every day life is built. A few of these temples, though less well known, are equally beautiful as their city counterparts.
Chao Phraya boat services for any river cruise of Bangkok
Chao Phraya River boats ply across the river during the day stopping at regular piers. These boats are an inexpensive and convenient way for any Bangkok sightseeing tour of the river.
A Chao Phraya tourist boat service can also be available for each day tour of selected areas and piers. Boat rental services can also be found for groups of 20 or more.
A total of 34 Chao Phraya river piers located along this 25 km winding stretch of river. It’s not necessary to go all the way though, simply take your pick and obtain off and on where you wish.
A river cruise in Bangkok supplies a very different perspective of life within the city about the banks from the Chao Phraya River, an aspect you can’t get from the usual Bangkok city tour.
This article, by Eric Lim, first appeared in Tour Bangkok Legacies, a historical travel site on people, places and events that shaped the landscape of Bangkok. Lim, a free-lance writer, lives in Bangkok Thailand.