Exploring the Chao Phraya River

  • Posted onMay 6th, 2015

Chao Phraya RiverExploring Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River is an amazing way to get a feel for the exotic charm and colorful vibe of the Thai capital. Along this vast stretch of water you’ll witness stunning views of the city past and present, passing by the luxury hotels, epic monuments, ultra modern sky scrapers, and ancient temples, all of which will be fighting for your attention on both banks of the river.

The river itself has played a central role in the development and history of Bangkok. Snaking along the financial and business districts of the city, and winding through the Old Town, this is a river literally at the heart of the capital. The old capital, Ayutthaya, was built around the Chao Phraya due to its rich fishing and fertility, soon making it one of the largest trade points in Southeast Asia. When the capital was overrun by the Burmese army the city was relocated further down the river to Thonburi, and what is now known as Bangkok.

Often referred to as being the lifeblood of Bangkok, it is still busy today with many locals using it’s ferries to commute and travel through the city, away from the often horrendous road traffic, slow barges travel along its banks transporting goods and materials, and more extravagant boats carry tourists, romantic dinners, and hotel guests.

Chao Phraya Taxi BoatRiver Boats and Ferries

For a foreign attempting to travel along the Chao Phraya for the first time it can be a little confusing. There are several piers and travel points with a number of different ferries travelling along different routes. However, there are detailed maps and assistant staff at some of the bigger piers and once you get to grips with the system it will be fairly simple.

You want to look for the Chao Phraya Express Boat company, which operate five routes. These are: the local line, orange ling, yellow line, blue line, and green line. There are maps available for each line and the boats, which operate from 6 am to 7.30 pm, each have a coloured flag hanging from its rear, to signify which route they are running.

The ‘local line’ stops at all 34 piers but only runs during rush hour, while each of the coloured lines stop at selected piers. The most popular is the orange line which stops at the main piers and carries a fix charge of 15 baht. Boats generally run around every 15 to 20 minutes, so you should never have to wait long.

Alternatively there are ‘tourist boats’ which stop at the nine main piers (most popular piers for tourist attractions). These cost 150 baht for a ticket but it does include unlimited stops, allowing you to jump on and off throughout the day. It runs from 9.30 am to 3 pm, with one boat coming every 30 minutes.

Chao Phraya Wat ArunDon’t miss..

Wat Po and Wat Arun are perhaps the tourist highlight of the Chao Phraya. The steep ancient towers of Wat Arun, also known as the temple of Dawn, can be seen as you approach along the river; it is an iconic image of Bangkok and Thailand. Exit at the Tha Tien Pier and walk through the small market and you will find Wat Po and the famous giant reclining buddah. The Grand Palace is also just a short walk from here. Return back to the pier and take one of the cross river ferries for 3 baht, which will take you to Wat Arun.

Phra Arthit Road is one of Bangkok’s best loved streets. Running parallel to the Chao Phraya, it is known for its unique shops, cozy restaurants, and artsy bars and cafes. In the day it’s a great place to relax and soak up the cool vibe, while in the evenings you’ll find lots of live music and a fun atmosphere. You can also walk to Khao San Road from here, where you’ll find lots of nightlife and market stalls. Exit Phra Arthit Pier to start exploring.

The Pak Khlong Flower Market is one of the most colourful marketplaces in the city and a must for any budding gardeners. Here you’ll find lots of fresh plants and flowers, as well as fruits and vegetables, and everything you’ll need to start your own garden, with most goods sold at wholesale prices. To find the Pak Khloing Flower Market exit at Rajinee Pier.

Exit at Oriental Pier and you’ll find the old Westerner Quarter. It really is a fascinating site with lots of crumbling European architecture and faded décor, perfect for an afternoon stroll. You’ll also find plenty of antique shops to browse and the stunning Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

Chao Phraya Teak BoatRiver Cruises

If you’d rather spend your time cruising along the river taking in the sites your best bet might be to take an organized tour. These tour boats are a lot more pricey than the inexpensive riverboats but also much more stylish.

The dinner boat cruises are particularly popular and are a great way to really soak up the naturally romantic vibe. Most of the riverboat cruises start around the River City Shopping Complex, boarding at around 7 pm. Most cruises tour all the major sites of Bangkok but there are also some cruises which will take you all the way into Ayutthaya, the old capital.


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