Bangkok Must-Do: Chao Phraya River Tour

A view of the soaring spires of the Grand Palace of Thailand from the Chao Phraya

A view of the soaring spires of the Grand Palace of Thailand from the Chao Phraya

Almost all of the major cities in the world trace their beginnings to settlements located along riverbanks or near bodies of water. The water served as means for transportation and a conduit for commerce. Water was and remains to be an important resource which is used for hygienic purposes, nourishment and also commercial ends. Parisians have the Seine, Londoners have the Thames, the Romans have the Tiber.

Grand edifices line the Chao Phraya as testament to its importance as a thoroughfare.

Grand edifices line the Chao Phraya as testament to its importance as a thoroughfare.

Government agencies, private individuals as in commercial establishments such as restaurants and hotels consider the Chao Phraya as a premium address.

Government agencies, private individuals as in commercial establishments such as restaurants and hotels consider the Chao Phraya as a premium address.

As such, a truly memorable visit to a historic city like Bangkok demands for time spent either traversing or at least seeing the Chao Phraya, the river that served as the lifeblood of the Siamese kingdom of centuries. Today, it continues to draw tourists and locals as a major thoroughfare that services commuter boats, tourist junks and commercial ships.

Shangri-La Hotel Bangkok as seen from the Chao Phraya

Shangri-La Hotel Bangkok as seen from the Chao Phraya

Last January (yes, this blog entry is way too delayed), I got the chance to insert a Chao Phraya river cruise into a packed itinerary. I went to Bangkok on the same weekend when the Pope came to the Philippines, and fortunately, I was able to see him as he drove past NAIA terminal 3. I, along with the other passengers waiting for the airport operations to reconvene, waited for him on the airport driveway, which had a good view of Andrews Avenue.

A classical-designed edifice probably from the late 1800s or early 1900s

A classical-designed edifice probably from the late 1800s or early 1900s

On my first day, I rode a commuter ferry from Sathorn Pier, which is underneath a highway bridge, going to the Grand Palace. The fare was only 20 Thai Baht, and it was a breezy, picturesque ride. There were locals and tourists alike on the same boat, which is different from the tourist barge (there is a different tourist barge, which gives you “unlimited” rides to and fro the different cultural/historic stops that line the Chao Phraya).

Different stately buildings line the river

Different stately buildings line the river

A view of the Grand Palace from the outside

A view of the Grand Palace from the outside

To get to the Grand Palace, I alighted at the Tha Chang stop (Pier N9). From the pier, I walked along a strip of retailers and hawkers. After my tour of the Grand Palace, I ate a delicious plate of pad thai in one of the stalls in that area.

This lady in full make-up and high heels cooked the pad thai, cleaned the tables and also served as cashier. Talk about effective multi-tasking...with elan!

This lady in full make-up and high heels cooked the pad thai, cleaned the tables and also served as cashier. Talk about effective multi-tasking…with elan!

Look at that pad thai! You can't get as legit as that!

Look at that pad thai! You can’t get as legit as that!

What was so noticeable with that pad thai kiosk was that the full made-up girl was the cook, the waitress and the cashier! Amazing! And take note, she was even wearing stilettos! According to the description of her stall, her family had been serving pad thai since 1965!

My chicken and shrimp pad thai

My chicken and shrimp pad thai

The following day, my tuktuk driver encouraged me to visit a small floating market, the name of which, sadly, I now forget. Unfortunately, I arrived too late and I wasn’t able to see the myriad of vendors and goods I was hoping to see. The trip, nonetheless, was a memorable trip. I was able to see old houses, temples and even noveau-riche looking mansions.

Temples dot the riverbanks

Temples dot the riverbanks

The inner estuaries have their own laid-back almost provincial charm

The inner estuaries have their own laid-back almost provincial charm

A view of a school beside the estuary

A view of a school beside the estuary

Coconut ice cream on the river!

Coconut ice cream on the river!

Wat Arum

Wat Arum

Going back to the pier, we passed by Wat Arum, which was being renovated that time. From the pier, I made my way to Chinatown, where I feasted on stir-fried noodles.

A temple near the pier where I alighted after my river boat cruise

A temple near the pier where I alighted after my river boat cruise

About hechoayer

Things made yesterday still influence us until today. Things made today will influence us tomorrow. Things of the essence such as faith, culture, food, music and values should never disappear nor eroded by the times. Instead, these must be recorded, lived and shared. Something made yesterday - hecho ayer - can be tomorrow's saving grace. Never ignore the past.
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