Have you thought about taking a Chao Phraya River cruise in Bangkok?
It is many years since I was on the river in Bangkok and a lot of things have changed. For something to do on a quiet Sunday it seemed a good idea to explore the Chao Phraya River and see what was going on.
For those of you not familiar, the Chao Phraya River is the main river that runs through the old part of Bangkok.
It is a massive snaking river and it has its origins 372 kms to the North in Nakhon Sawan province.
For any tourist visiting Bangkok then a day spent on the Chao Phraya River is usually on the agenda and if you fancy a self directed Bangkok river cruise, that is relatively inexpensive then you might consider taking the following trip for less than 300 baht per person.
It is a mix of a river cruise in Bangkok and walking tour around some of the historic Bangkok Buddhist temples and will get you to see some different areas of the city.
Sure you can do it cheaper, but this is a simple safe way to get to see the sights of Bangkok and you shouldn't get lost.
Leave your hotel from anywhere in Bangkok and hop on the BTS train and travel to the Saphan Taksin terminal station.
If you are not sure where this is, then check out this map of the Bangkok BTS to get your bearings first.
Exit the Saphan Taksin station by going down the first flight of stairs and walking left towards the river. Keep walking past the small travel agency shops until you see a set of stairs on the right hand side.
As you go down the second flight of stairs there is a small park with nicely laid out gardens on the left with toilets that are open every day, except the day I went when I wanted to use them.
Although not part of this day trip, if you go around to your right, then you can walk to the entrance of the Shangri-La Hotel where in a river-front setting you will find the very popular Sala Thip restaurant, which is just ideal for evening dining on that special occasion.
Mark this one in your diary as it is a lovely location for a very special evening.
At certain times of the year there are firework displays held on the river and the the Sala Thip restaurant makes a great vantage point to watch the proceedings.
But I digress, so let’s continue with the details of the river cruise in Bangkok which is going to comprise this exciting day trip.
As you get closer to the Chao Phraya River you can start to hear the sound of the outboard motors and the creaking of the piers as they rise up on the wash from the Bangkok River boats as the plastic rollers screech against the metal poles.
This place is just a hive of activity with all sorts of watercraft coming and going every few minutes.
Around this area there are all sorts of touts who will try and convince you to take their tour along the khlongs, join a Bangkok dinner cruise or just go up and down the river in their boat.
If you would like to book accommodation at the Shangri-La Hotel or just want to read the guest reviews then visit the Agoda website for more information.
You should ignore all the guys trying to sell you boat tours, because today you are going to take the economy tour of the Chao Phraya River.
In fact you are taking your very own river cruise in Bangkok for less than USD $5 each.
Once you have done the economy tour of the river as described here, then by all means come back and take one of the specialised tours.
Or if you are feeling adventurous, use the local ferries that go up and down the river and cost about 12 – 40 baht, depending upon the distance travelled.
Of course, if you can’t speak Thai it may be a bit of hit and miss as to where you end up, but you are sure to have fun if you want to just explore the Bangkok river area.
So long as you have a little map indicating Central Pier, you will be able to find someone who will point you to the right ferry to get you back to the BTS.
English is very common in the tourist areas of Bangkok, so you are unlikely to have a problem in returning to the Saphan Taksin BTS station.
Just in front of the Sathorn (Central) pier is a small ticket office for the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat.
Here you can purchase a ticket for 150 baht for the day that entitles you to board the boat that travels up and down the river, getting on and off as many times as you like until you are tired.
Well, that's what they told me anyway.
Included in the ticket price, is a guide book describing all the attractions at each stopping off point, so keep a hold of this.
Sit yourself down behind the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat ticket office while you wait for the boat to arrive and plan out where you want to go on your river cruise in Bangkok, by taking a moment to read the provided guide book.
The tourist boats run every 30 minutes, so you won’t have long to wait and the guide has a timetable inside, so you can check on the times of the next boat.
Currently the boats run from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm, but don’t worry if you stay longer than this at any point, as you can easily get a regular ferry back to your starting point at Central Pier.
After about 15 minutes the Chao Phraya Tourist boat arrived at the pier and the passengers started to board the boat.
There was only a short wait after the last passenger boarded before we set off up the river.
Just getting on the boat brought back many memories of a previous Bangkok river cruise to Ayutthaya that I took before.
The last time I was on the Chao Phraya River was for a dinner cruise and it had been many years since I had been on the river in the daytime so it was all very exciting.
This is the start of your river cruise in Bangkok, so hold on to your hat as it can get quite breezy on the river once the boat gets out to the middle.
As the boat pulled out of Central Pier and picked up speed the cooling breeze was very welcoming.
Once the boat gets going you get the feeling of how busy the river is, as there are long tail boats speeding by, ferry boats from the hotels shuttling people to the other side and then as you get to the middle of the river there are massive barges carrying sugar from the up-country area, being pulled along by small tug boats.
The whole river seems to be teeming with all sorts of Bangkok river boats all going in different directions.
Some of the river barges are so low in the water that they look like they could easily sink.
As you sit in your seat looking at the boats and buildings along the Chao Phraya River the guide announces in English which pier you arrive at next and what tourist attractions are there at that location.
Take note of what he is saying and go to the rear of the boat in plenty of time to disembark.
The boat does not stop long at each pier and it seems that they are keeping to a very strict timetable, so you have to be quick getting off.
Just be careful you don't lose your footing when you disembark the boat.
The first stop on your Bangkok river cruise is Oriental Pier No. 1 right outside the Oriental Hotel.
Built in 1880 and renowned as one of the world’s great hotels, the Oriental Hotel is now part of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group.
It has an absolutely prime spot on the Chao Phraya River, with many of the rooms having views over the river.
You wouldn't think so with all its history, but it is surprisingly affordable, some rooms even come with your own Butler.
Even though this is a world class 5 star hotel it is cheaper than many hotels in Singapore that I have stayed at.
If you do want to have a really special hotel experience as part of your Bangkok vacation, then check out the prices at Agoda for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and surprise your significant other.
It is not going to break the bank and your partner will really appreciate the thought.
The next stop is Si Phraya Pier No. 3.
To be honest there is not much here in the way of tourist attractions, but if you want to go to the River City shopping mall then jump off here.
The River City shopping mall houses antiques and collectibles as well as monthly auctions and so if you are interested in this sort of thing, get off here.
One word of caution, there are restrictions on certain types of Buddha images and artifacts that can be taken out of Thailand, so just be aware of what you are buying as there could be additional costs or permits involved.
The third stop on your Chaophraya River cruise in Bangkok is Ratchawong Pier No. 5, which is the entrance to China Town.
Bangkok has a very large Chinese community and here you can wander the markets and small alleyways looking for that special gift.
China Town is also the place in Bangkok to purchase gold. Not something the average tourist is looking to do, but maybe it is on your holiday list.
Each time the boat approaches the next pier the guide announces the next stop and summarizes the tourist sights, giving you plenty of time to move to the back of the boat ready to disembark.
The guides have good English and the inbuilt speaker system makes it very easy to know exactly where you are.
The fourth stop on this river cruise in Bangkok is Tha Tien Pier No. 8 and this is where a lot of people are headed. Both Wat Pho and Wat Arun are located near this pier.
These two Buddhist temples are amongst the major tourist attractions of Bangkok and are visited by millions of people annually.
If you come to Bangkok, then you need to have these two Buddhist temples on your sightseeing list for sure.
After Pier No. 8, the next pier is a tourist pier and does not have a number; Maharaj Pier leads to the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Phra Kaew.
This area is probably the most popular of all attractions for tourists visiting Bangkok and if you have never visited these temples then you need to get off here.
The sixth pier is Wang Lang (Siriraj) Pier No. 10 where you will find the Siriraj Hospital and Medical Museum as well as the Supatra River House and Wat Rakhang Khositaram.
To get to the latter you will need to take another ferry to the other side of the river.
The seventh pier is Phra Pin Klao Pier No. 12 which is the home to the Royal Barge Museum.
There are around 50 handcrafted and ornate barges kept in this museum and amongst them are the eight Royal barges that are only placed into the water on special occasions.
This river cruise in Bangkok will finally arrive at Phra Arthit Pier No. 13.
Here you will find the famous Khaosan Road backpacker area in Banglamphu as well as Phra Sumane Fort.
On this particular day we took the tourist boat all the way to the end of the route and got off at Phra Arthit Pier No. 13.
This pier is close to Khaosan Road; a place I have heard a lot about but never visited.
Khaosan Road is located in the Rattanakosin area and area that was once home to many members of the Royal family.
So ended the first part of the river cruise in Bangkok and now we return to dry land.
Continue this river cruise in Bangkok by proceeding to Khaosan Road on the next page.