There’s more by the river than just shimmering temples and high-rise hotels
Known as the ‘River of Kings’, the Chao Phraya River has been used for centuries as a means of transportation to and from the Thai capital. There has always been a hustle and bustle surrounding the river, but in more recent years the riverside has attracted hordes of tourists, as well as locals, with its majestic temples, 5-star hotels, and scenic restaurants and bars popping up. Following in their wake, shopping malls have flocked to the river too—offering retail therapy with a view.
From the Central Pier by BTS Saphan Taksin, hop on the free shuttle boat and head south down the river to Asiatique, The Riverfront. Built on what was once Thailand’s first international port—known as the Port of East Asiatic—Asiatique embraces history while avoiding the cultural clichés and traditional symbols.
Split into four districts, Asiatique is Bangkok’s first large-scale riverside development combining shopping, dining, sightseeing, activities, and events all under one roof. In the Charoenkrung District, you’ll find both traditional and modern Thai culture through the performing arts, Thai puppet shows by the Joe Louis Theatre, the Calypso Cabaret, the exciting Muay Thai Live stage show, as well as massage shops and over 100 retailers selling Thai handicrafts, souvenirs, and home décor. The Town Square District blends Thai and Western ways of life, with an international dining scene and sports bars. The Factory District showcases all kinds of design products, from clothing to gadgets, while the Waterfront District boasts the city’s current longest public boardwalk (300m) and is lined with restaurants and event venues. All districts are open daily from 4pm to midnight.
Back at the Central Pier, if you head north up the river, just across from Si Phraya Pier, you’ll find The Jam Factory. What used to be an old factory, is now a creative space, restaurant, café, and bookshop. Brainchild of local starchitect Duangrit Bunnag (who also has his company offices at The Jam Factory), the glass-walled building has a modern industrial finish, while outside an enormous Bodhi tree provides welcome shade to a large grassed area—a frequent weekend hangout spot for students and local hipsters.
Regular markets are held outside, as well as art exhibitions and installations in the gallery, so be sure to check out their Facebook page for more information about their latest events. Through November 12th, they’re hosting an exhibition by local artist Orn Suebsanguan entitled ‘Liquify’. Both the complex and the gallery are open daily from 11am to 8pm.
Across from The Jam Factory on the east side of the river, directly accessible from the Si Phraya Pier, is River City Bangkok. With an eye-catching mirror-like façade, you can’t miss it, and the offerings inside the mall are just as spectacular as its exterior. In 2016 the five-storey shopping complex underwent a 280-million-baht renovation to feature glass panels, high ceilings, an elegant black, white, and gold colour scheme, plus over 100 stores selling rare artworks and antiques.
Highly regarded for its collection of valuable art and antiques, River City Bangkok has become known as Asia’s premier art and antiques hub and the largest in Southeast Asia. Its popular monthly auction—which has been held continuously for the past 32 years—has also been certified by the Association for the Propagation and Promotion of objets d’art. Art exhibitions, film screenings, and workshops are also arranged all year round.
Amongst the art and antique retailers, you’ll also find bespoke tailors, luxurious silks, beautiful jewellery, leather goods, and furniture design stores. On the lower floors, several restaurants and cafés, such as Viva Aviv and La Grande Perle, offer local and international fare, many which feature outdoor terraces overlooking the Chao Phraya River. The mall is open daily from 10am to 10pm, while the restaurants and cafés each have independent opening hours.
Further up the river, at the Yodpiman Pier, the colonial style Yodpiman River Walk is a community mall inspired by Thailand’s rich history and diverse eras of capital cities. Period fixtures are fitted throughout the mall, yet the mall retains a calm, laid-back atmosphere—very much befitting of the Old Town, in which it is located.
The complex is open daily from 10am to 1am and is filled with mainly restaurants and cafés (serving both Thai and international cuisines), as well as boutiques, spas and massage parlours, and several souvenir shops. Its main attraction, however, is its unobstructed views of Wat Arun, Wat Kalayanamit, and the Rama I Memorial Bridge. The views are best seen from the promenade on the second floor, but can also be enjoyed from any of the restaurants and cafés situated next to the river.
If you fancy a stroll around the area, Yodpiman River Walk is also in close proximity to the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew, and Wat Pho; while directly behind the shopping complex, you’ll find the famous Yodpiman Flower Market—the biggest flower market in the country and the fourth biggest in the world.
Also located in Bangkok’s Old Town, Tha Maharaj Mall was transformed from a string of traditional shop houses into a pavilion-styled community mall with over 60 restaurants and retail shops, a riverside promenade, and community garden, all spread across seven buildings.
Also within walking distance of the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew, and Wat Pho, Tha Maharaj is easily accessible from Maharaj Pier and is open daily from 10am to 10pm. During the week you’ll find it filled with students from nearby Thammasat University, while weekends are packed with families from the surrounding Phra Athit community.
By Kelly Harvey