The mighty Chao Phraya is perhaps Bangkok’s most diverse civic landmark
Alternatively known as ‘The River of Kings’, the Chao Phraya is 372 km in length, beginning at the confluence of the Ping and Nan rivers in Nakhon Sawan province, and flowing southward through Bangkok and eventually emptying into the Gulf of Thailand.
The expanse of the river and its tributaries is known as the Chao Phraya River System and, together with the land upon which falling rain drains into these bodies of water, it forms the Chao Phraya Watershed—the largest watershed in Thailand, covering approximately 35 percent of the nation’s land.
The Chao Phraya basin is home to around 280 species of fish, however the Thai Pollution Control Department (PCD) reports that the water quality has seriously deteriorated in the past decade, primarily due to discharge into the river from industry, agriculture, and households.
But despite the questionable quality of the water itself, this mighty river continues to be a major landmark and tourist draw within Bangkok. If you were to sail along just a small portion of the snaking expanse of this winding waterway—starting from The Siam hotel (just north of the Krung Thon Bridge), and ending at the Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort (just north of the Rama III Bridge)—you would make your way past some of the most iconic landmarks in the city, including Wat Pho, the Grand Palace, and Wat Arun. Small wonder that so many tourist cruises ply this stretch of the river (and beyond), making it one busy thoroughfare.
There’s also plenty of new development by the river, and one of the newest Old Town hotels nearby this majestic waterway is the recently opened Raweekanlaya Bangkok (164-172 Krung Kasem Rd). Originally built in the late 1800s as the residence of King Rama VI, this boutique hotel now features 38 rooms, each inspired by a poem from Thai literature. There’s also an on-site spa, a swimming pool and pool bar, and a restaurant—the Raweekanlaya Dining—which uses organically-sourced produce and features a garden where guests can pick their own ingredients. It makes the perfect riverside retreat for a sophisticated staycation.
CHOOSE YOUR CRUISE
The luxurious Anantara Riverside Bangkok Hotel offers a series of fascinating river-related trips, from single day excursions to overnight journeys.
1. Explore the cultural riches and observe local life along Bangkok’s fascinating maze of canals with Anantara’s Khlong Guru one-day excursion. The Chao Phraya River and its connecting maze of canals—known in Thai as khlongs—offer visitors a peek into the capital’s thriving age-old lifestyle and rich heritage. Based on his personal experience Waiyawit ‘Diamond’ Thongserm, the resort’s concierge, has created these special tours and accompanies guests as the khlong “guru”. The tour takes approximately four hours, with lunch being enjoyed at The Artist’s House, an intriguing gallery where guests can browse a collection of locally inspired artwork. The cost is B2,000 per person, and the daily tour leaves the pier at 11am.
2. Embark on a voyage of culinary discovery with Anantara’s Manohra Dining Cruise. The ship—a beautifully restored antique rice barge—leaves the Anantara Riverside Bangkok’s private pier at 7:30pm when the river is at its most romantic. Set sail at a gentle pace, and as you pass by the city’s illuminated landmarks you’ll be savouring the Kingdom’s most popular regional cuisine with a ‘Royal Thai Set Menu’ prepared by experienced master chefs. Enjoy elegant cocktails and digestifs, alongside memorable main dishes, appetizers, and desserts, made even more memorable by Manohra’s warm and gracious service. This set menu is priced at B2,300 net per person.
3. If you have both a taste for adventure, and a taste for the finer things in life, join the Anantara’s unforgettable two-night, three-day Ayutthaya Adventure cruise. Travel upriver aboard a Colonial-style, 20-metre, ultra-deluxe river boat. Passengers will make the Chao Phraya River their home, stopping off to explore exotic temples such as Wat Mongkhon Bophit along the way. The vessel is designed for two couples, and the two staterooms (20 and 25 sq.m) are fully air-conditioned, with elegantly tiled en-suite bathrooms (with a full shower), and comfortable super king-sized beds dressed with delicate linen. The price is B89,000 net per cabin (based on double occupancy), and inlcudes all meals and non-alcoholic beverages onboard, as well as tour programmes, private round-trip limousine transfers, and admission charges at designated places.
By Bruce Scott