Traveling by boat on the Chao Phraya River

There are several ways to take a river cruise in Bangkok. The cheapest is to take the Orange Flag line commuter boat which starts from the suburb of Nonthaburi and ends at Rat Burana pier in Bangkok. There are at least 20 stops on this route where one can get on/off. Tourists normally get on at Phra Athit pier as it is the closest to Khao San Road the main area where backpackers stay for cheap accommodation, shopping and sightseeing. Since I lived in the Sam Sen district of Bangkok, the nearest pier to my apartment was Phayap which is only a 10 minute walk away. The one way boat fare is 15 baht which is about 50 US cents, whether you travel the whole route or in parts. In other words, the same fare applies even if you get off after a couple of stops, or go the whole way. As this is a cheap and quick mode of transportation the boats are always crowded with passengers, particularly during rush hours. But of course in Bangkok, anytime can be rush hour! As far as I can remember, the operating hours of the Orange Line boats are from 6 am to 7:30 pm on weekdays, and 6 am to 6:30 pm on weekends and holidays.

If you want to take a boat exclusively for tourists, there is a small counter at the Phra Athit pier. This counter consists of a chair and a table with a sign saying 'Tourist Boat.' I have never taken it so can't say how much it costs, but I do know that it ends at the Sathon pier, and their number of boats/operating hours are also less than the local ones . However, it does cover the same route as the Orange Flag boats, but with far fewer stops, and the seating on board is much more comfortable than the commuter boats.

If you're one of those types who prefer privacy and can afford it, you might want to hire a water taxi known as 'longtails' for an hour or so. I recommend this only if you're on an unlimited budget as it might cost you an arm and a leg! The luxury hotels along the river (of which there are many) also offer their guests a short cruise with the hotels' own boats. I have seen these boats as they have the name of the hotel written on them.

Lastly, several tour companies operate dinner cruises in the evening. I have been on them a couple of times when I had guests visiting me. You pay something like $30 for a set dinner which is not too bad, but does not include alcoholic beverages. There is usually some entertainment on board in the form of a cultural dance performance. The cruise itself lasts for about an hour and half, and as far as I know, both the boarding and getting off points are still at Pier N3 (Si Phraya) which is close to the Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel.

In case you're wondering why the Chao Phraya is referred to as 'The River of Kings,' it is because all the kings who formerly ruled Thailand (including the present monarch) traveled on this river in a Royal Barge procession with all its pomp and grandeur. I must admit though that I've never seen it in person, but have watched it on TV a couple of times.

This blog is written from my own personal experience of having lived in Bangkok, the 'City of Angels' (as in its Los Angeles counterpart) for five years, and I hope it will be useful information for future travelers to Thailand.

A lot of the city's top tourist attractions are easily accessible from the Chao Phraya River, such as the Grand Palace, the Emerald Buddha, Wat Po, Temple of Dawn, the flower market, Chinatown, etc., so you can choose any of the above mentioned boats.....WAY TO have a fun time in one of the most popular destinations in Asia, if not the world!