Friday, 24 September 2010

Interesting stops along the Chao Phraya River

Cruising along the Chao Phraya is one of the best ways to see Bangkok, it gives you a unique perspective of riverside life and the difference between the two sides of Bangkok, new and old. It also offers a welcome blast of air in a humid city and certainly beats being stuck in traffic!

Typcial river scene

You can access some of Bangkok’s major sights from the river as well as several smaller ones. If you are so inclined you can happily spend a day hopping on and off, with fares starting at just a few baht. Here’s a guide of what to expect nearby each of the piers along the main route.

Firstly a guide to the different services available:

Local line – no flag. This service stops at every single pier but only operates in the rush hours.

Orange flag – The most popular boats for the tourist stops, calling at most piers and all the major ones. Boats are roughly every 10-20 minutes depending on the time of day.

Yellow flag and Green and Yellow flag – Express service in rush hours only stopping at a few piers.

These days the Orange flag boat operates a flat fare policy of 13 baht per trip.

Sathorn – The busiest pier along the route due to its connection with the Skytrain at Saphan Taksin station. You can also charter boats from this pier.

Oriental – Connection with the world famous Oriental Hotel, dress smartly and they might just let you in for dinner!

Si Phraya – River City shopping centre, which is famous for its arts and antiques shops. Many river cruises depart from here.

Ratchavongse – Gateway into Chinatown. This area is a fascinating sprawl of narrow roads and alleys, Chinese temples, great food and garish gold shops.

Memorial Bridge – Pak Klong wet market, if you’re into local markets. The Old Siam shopping centre and Sampeng Lane offer an olde-world shopping experience.

An always over looked temple, Wat Pichai Yathikaram is a must for temple buffs. It is rarely visited by tourists and if you like the atmosphere of a grand building in decay, pay this place a visit.

Rajinee – Take a cross river ferry to Wat Arun, an iconic Bangkok landmark.

Wat arun seen from the river

Tha Tien – Gives you easy access to the Grand Palace/Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Pho. Arguably Bangkok’s two biggest sights.

Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Pho

Tha Chang – Also used to access the Grand Palace and Wat Pho.

Wang Lang – The first stop on the other side of the river. Most famous for the grisly forensic museum at Siriraj hospital.

Pra Arthit – Not on the main routes but I have included it anyway as it isn’t so far from the infamous Khao San Road, backpacker ghetto. Disembark at Phra Pinklao Bridge and cross over the river.

Also worth a look is the Phra Sumane Fort and some nice markets in the area.

Phra Pinklao Bridge – See above. Also it is the nearest stop to the Royal Barge Museum.

From this point on you’re starting to go out of the main city centre area so will only highlight a few points of interest, not every pier is included from now on.

Thewes – Is the closest pier to the historic Dusit area, containing Dusit Zoo, Vimanmek Mansion, Wat Benjamabophit, Wat Indrawihan and Chitrlada Palace. Although it’s a long walk, so taxi may be the better option.

Standing Buddha at Wat Indrawihan

Wat Poramai – A fair way up the river, this stop gets you onto the fascinating manmade island of Ko Kred. This is like stepping into the past, the island is famous for its earthenware goods.

Nonthaburi – The end of the line, famous only for the nearby notorious Klong Prem prison. Minibuses run here from the pier.

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