Viewing sights from the river barges’ perspective is the perfect way to sightsee Bangkok in a nutshell. Nothing can compare to the experience of fresh air breezing on your skin while enjoying the unique oriental attractions of Bangkok. Or enjoying a sumptuous dinner while on a slow river cruise. Life in Bangkok has always centered around the Chao Phraya River. It is on these banks where life of the city is sprouting and blooming like the unstoppable flow of river. But it also on these river where the city’s major attraction are to be found.
|The Chao Phraya River and the mega-structure Bhumibol Bridge.|
Nineteenth-century Bangkok was laced with canals, giving the capital the designation ‘Venice of the East’ by European visitors. Surviving canals, and the Chao Phraya River provide memorable vignettes of traditional waterborne way-of-life that has remained essentially unchanged over the centuries. Nowadays, even though Bangkok has become a modern city, the Chao Phraya River as well as the canals are still charming for whoever wishes to seek the peaceful atmosphere amidst bustling Bangkok. The river and canals are now conveniently explored by chartered boat or cruise.
A Chao Phraya River cruise gives visitors an easy access to its major attractions. It offers some of the capital’s most arresting sights, particularly at night when the weather is cooler and light reflections bestow the river with flickering lights. A cruise along the legendary Chao Phraya River, and some canals on the Thonburi side is the most pleasant way to explore the city. The majestic charm of Chao Phraya is a must-experienced when in Bangkok. The Chao Phraya River makes a great way to get around, since many of the major tourist sites are easily accessible from the river. Chao Praya River Express operates a regular boat service up and down the river. They are like buses on the water. The fares are extremely cheap and you can get just about anywhere for 10 Baht or less.
One of those attractions is Wat Arun or Temple of the Dawn. Named after Aruna, the Indian God of Dawn, the Wat Arun is considered one of the most well known of Thailand's many landmarks. The temple is so named because the first light of the morning reflects off the surface of the temple with pearly iridescence. The monastery has existed for many years since the days when Ayutthaya was capital of Thailand. Walking around the temple gardens and looking at it from a distance is free, but if you want to enter the temple compound and climb the steep stairs, it costs a fee. The magnificent main prang (temple spire) is in Thai called the Phra Prang Wat Arun. Overlooking the Chao Phraya river, it is not only the symbol of Thonburi, but a world-famous landmark and one of the most photographed icons of Thailand. The prang was originally built during the Ayutthaya Period and is in a classic Ayutthayan style. It is easily accessible with a ferry boat from Wat Pho in Rattanakosin. Ferries take off about every 10 to 15 minutes and operates daily from 6:00 am to 10:00 in the evening.
|The Grand Palace of Bangkok.|
|Imitating the guarding demon Yakhas at Grand Palace.|
Another accessible attraction via river boat is River City. It is Bangkok's oldest antique mall, and still the best destination for serious Asian art lovers to go. It has a few souvenir shops and an absolutely stunning array of Asian art on display for sale. From old maps to Buddhist works to more recent everyday items from the last century, River City is a great place to browse Asian art. The easiest way to get there is to take their free boat from the Taksin Bridge pier, below the Skytrain station. Most riverside hotels will also take you to the mall in their boats.
The Royal Barges Museum is also accessible via Chao Phra River. On the mouth of the Bangkok Noi canal, this museum displays several Royal Barges used for state ceremonies on the Chao Phraya River. The ornately carved barges take the form of famous mythical creatures from the Ramayana epic. The most impressive is the Suppanahong (or Golden Swan), which was built in 1911 during the reign of King Rama IV. This 46-metre craft was carved from one single piece of teakwood. The bow resembles a mythical swan and is adorned with gold lacquer and glass jewels. The best way to get to the museum is by boat. If you take the regular Express Boat service, the nearest stop is Pinklao Bridge Pier, although this involves a long winding walk along a narrow concrete walkway over the swampy land.
|One of the Royal Barges in the museum.|
|Bhumibol Bridge over Chao Phraya River.|
Life is so alive in Chao Phraya River. It is in the river one will see Bangkok’s different side as a vibrant oriental city. It is in the banks of the river one will see how it plays a major role in urban and modern life of the city. Be it for for transportation or for livelihood. But for me, nothing beats the experience of the breeze of fresh air while enjoying the scenic sights of Bangkok on a river cruise. It could be romantic. Yes. But it can also be fun and way for discovery. The water of Chao Phraya may not be crystal clear or murky-free and sometimes it overflows causing floods in its surroundings but a lot of Thai and visitors benefit from its life-bringing tide and flow.
Bangkok by Boat is part of my Thailand's Amazing Smiles series where I share my wonderful trip to the land of amazing smiles last October 25-28, 2011. I made this article out of a vision of experiencing Chao Phraya River cruise because during my visit I haven't try a river cruise because of the flood in Chao Phraya that authorities suspend cruising on it for safety measures. For a helpful trip to Bangkok visit Bangkok for Visitors website for more information. You might also like the other parts of the series:
- Exploring Bangkok on a Tuktuk
- Everything is Gold in Bangkok
- Bangkok by Boat
- A Bowl of Thailand
- The Charming Canals of Ratchaburi
- The Royal Orchids of Thailand
- Siam Elephant Encounter made me Smile
- Pratunam's Irresistible Bargains
- 360 Degree of Bangkok from the Sky
- Suvarnabhumi Airport: Thailand's mega-structure