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Exploring Bangkok's Chao Phraya River

Destination(s): Bangkok

Remember the "muddy old river" and a reclining Buddha from the song "One Night in Bangkok"? That river's the Chao Phraya and there's much more to see along its banks than just the famously relaxed giant Buddha. Even just a water churning ride on one of the public river ferries is a worthwhile excursion or a way to skip a bit of jamming traffic when you want to get around. The attractions in this guide can be easily reached by boat and are either right on the river or a short walk away from a pier. The list starts south at Central Pier (under Saphan Taksin BTS SkyTrain station) and moves north. Happy sailing! read more about Exploring Bangkok's Chao Phraya River

Arun Residence

Arun Residence

  • 36-38 Soi Pratoo Nok Yoong, Maharat Road
  • Rattanakosin Island
  • tel:66 0 2 221 9158
  • Visit website
  • Bangkok, 10200

Overlooking the Chao Praya River, this chic, Sino-Portuguese-style guesthouse has a view that can't be beat. Across the water is Wat Arun which enjoys stunning sunsets and lights up at night for some great romantic ambience. Four standard rooms are named for flowers and there are also three suites. Minibars, safes, down pillows, robes and slippers, hair dryers, and large screen LCD TVs are standard. The onsite restaurant The Deck and the bar above are worth a visit by themselves. From here it is a short walk to the Grand Palance, Wat Pho and the flower market. read more about Arun Residence

Wat Pho

Wat Pho

  • 2 Sanamchai Road
  • Phra Borommaharatchawang Sub-District
  • tel:+66 2 222 5910 / +66 2 226 2942 / +66 2 226 1743 / +66 2 225 9595
  • Visit website
  • Bangkok, 10200

Over 200 years old, Wat Pho is one of Bangkok's largest and oldest temple complexes. For an entry fee of 50 baht, visitors can roam the grounds with or without a guide, stopping along the way at numerous notable temples and sites. The most famous of Wat Pho's relics is the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, wherein lies an impressive 46 meter-long gold-plated image of a reclining Buddha. A first grade royal monastery, Wat Pho is also Thailand's oldest learning center and the birthplace of traditional Thai massage. Take a Chao Phraya River ferry to Tha Thien (pier). The Grand Palace is a short walk from Wat Pho. You can also cross the river from the pier to see Wat Arun. Beware that scam artists (often tuk-tuk drivers) will try to claim that the temple is closed for the day. Don't believe it.

[Note: Pho is pronounced with a P like Paul not an F like a Vietnamese noodle soup]
read more about Wat Pho

Grand Palace

Grand Palace

  • Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang
  • East of the river, on Na Phra Lan Rd., near Sanam Luang
  • tel:+66 2 694 1222 (Tourism Authority of Thailand)
  • Visit website
  • Bangkok, 10500

Bangkok's Grand Palace served as the official residence of Thailand's kings from the time it was built in 1782 until midway through the 20th Century. Although the entry fee is considerably higher than most at 300 baht, the grounds are gorgeous and provide an unforgettable glimpse at Thai history and architecture. Sitting on over 215,000 square meters, the Grand Palace houses government offices, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and royal residences. A trip to the Grand Palace is worth combining with Wat Pho, its next-door neighbor of equal cultural importance. read more about Grand Palace

Vimanmek Palace

Vimanmek Palace

  • 16 Rajavithi Road
  • Dusit
  • tel:+66 2 628 6300
  • Visit website
  • Bangkok, 10300

Long used only as a storage place, Vimanmek Palace was converted into a museum in 1982 to commemorate King Rama V and has since become one of the biggest tourist attractions in Bangkok. The world's largest teakwood mansion, the interior of Vimanmek Palace is breathtaking and displays Rama V's personal photographs, art and handicrafts. The expansive grounds of the palace also house a number of other restored structures turned museums, each important to Thailand's cultural and national heritage. Admission is 100 baht for adults who wish to escape into a sanctuary of history and beauty. read more about Vimanmek Palace

Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)

Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)

  • 34 Arun Amarin Road
  • West bank of the Chao Phraya, opposite Tha Thien Pier
  • tel:+66 2 225 7612 (Tourist Information)
  • Visit website
  • Bangkok, 10600
Wat Phra Kaew (Emerald Buddha)

Wat Phra Kaew (Emerald Buddha)

  • Na Phralan Road
  • Phra Borommaharatchawong
  • tel:+66 2 222 0094 / +66 2 222 6889 / +66 2 222 2208
  • Visit website
  • Bangkok, 10200

Call it the holy of the holies. This 45-centimeter tall statue of the sitting Buddha is carved from jasper and is only "emerald" in color. Nevertheless its importance is such that only the King of Thailand may go near it and he does so three times a year to change its golden clothing. The temple is right next to the Grand Palace and both are part of a sprawling 1.5 square kilometer collection of buildings. Murals adorn the temple's walls with scenes from the Ramakian, what in India would be the Ramayana. Visitors must cover up -- no bare shoulders or legs -- and some rental clothing is available for anyone who didn't plan ahead. Audio tours can be rented.

read more about Wat Phra Kaew (Emerald Buddha)

Siriraj Medical Museum (Forensics Museum)

Siriraj Medical Museum (Forensics Museum)

  • Siriraj Hospital, 2 Phrannok Road
  • tel:02-419-7000 ext 6363
  • Bangkok, 10100

Housed in two buildings of Bangkok's Siriraj Hospital this is the all-encapsulating name of six distinct museums: Ellis Pathological Museum, Songkran Niyomsane Forensic Medicine Museum, Ouay Ketusingh Museum of History of Thai Medicine, Parasitology Museum, Congdon Anatomical Museum, and Sood Sangvichien Prehistoric Museum and Laboratory. Most of these exhibits are not for the weak of heart or stomach but the whole project is a fascinating, unblinking look at the subjects. A macabre and yet educational experience, the Forensic Museum may give visitors the shivers if not a few bad dreams. An entire modern exhibit with an accompanying video (with English subtitles) is dedicated to the 2004 tsunami and the work forensics played in identifying the rapidly decomposing victims. A variety of preserved skulls and other body parts and a few graphic photos show the results of trauma on the human body. Serial killer Si Quey (Ouei), the source of nightmares for Thai parents back in the 1950s, is preserved here in paraffin along with a few others. Seamlessly attached to this section is a brief historical section about Thai medicine and next to that is the pathology museum with its displays of afflicted human organs and tissues. The parasitology section in the room next door exhibits tapeworms and the like as well as the massive preserved testicle of an elephantiasis victim. This room will make you think twice about eating improperly prepared food or going without mosquito repellent. Siriraj Medical Museum is located in the Adulyadaejvikrom Building and is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and charges a nominal fee of 40 baht. Photos are not allowed. An audio tour is available for 100 baht plus a 200 baht deposit. Despite the lack of much English on exhibits and its dated appearance, the anatomy museum is also worth checking out. Founded by a visiting professor in 1927, it displays various dissections and a whole range of fetuses and infants in jars including conjoined twins. This is housed in the Anatomy building and admission is free. Take a river ferry on the Chao Phraya and get off at Pier 10 (Tha Wang Lang). Enter the hospital on the right outside the pier and follow the road straight back into the complex following green museum signs and arrows.
read more about Siriraj Medical Museum (Forensics Museum)

National Museum of the Royal Barges Exhibit

National Museum of the Royal Barges Exhibit

  • 80/1 Rim Klong Bangkok Noi, Arun Amarin Road
  • iriraj Sub-District, Bangkok Noi
  • tel:+66 2 424 0004
  • Visit website
  • Bangkok, 10700
Wat Bukkhalo

Wat Bukkhalo

  • Charoen Nakhon Soi 63, Dao Khanong
  • tel:+66-(0)-2476-2584
  • Visit website
  • Thonburi

Wat Bukkhalo was founded in 1767 during the Ayutthaya Period. Tourists rarely get here despite its proximity to the Chao Phraya River. Steps up the outside of the three-story building take visitors to the rooftop where several Buddha images are shaded from the sun by small sala structures. Enjoy the breeze from the river and an impressive view while sharing the shade with the Buddha. A couple of food vendors are usually on the temple grounds. Merit making in the form of feeding the river fish is quite common thanks to the riverside access and kids typically get a kick out of this. Cross the Rama III Bridge to Thonburi to get here and go left at the other side to find Soi 63 on the riverside and the entrance marked by an ornate arch. Taxi is an easy option but the BRT bus crosses Rama III Bridge putting you in walking distance.
read more about Wat Bukkhalo

Silver Spoon

Silver Spoon

  • 2/1 Krung Kasem Road
  • Thewet Pier
  • tel:+66 2 281 2900
  • Bangkok, 10200
The Deck

The Deck

  • 36-38 Soi Pratoo Nok Yoong, Maharat Road,
  • Rattanakosin Island
  • tel:66 0 2 221 9158
  • Visit website
  • Bangkok, 10200

Located just a short walk from Wat Pho, this restaurant serves refined Thai food and Italian pastas with outdoor seating that overlooks the Chao Phraya River. Opposite the river is Wat Arun which when lit up at night creates an ambiance for this eatery like no other. The upstairs bar Amorosa enjoys the same view. The hot spices are backed off a bit to accommodate the foreign palate; you might request extra spice if you prefer. There is also indoor seating available but it sacrifices the view. Reservations are highly recommended. If you are just going for the sunset be sure to at least order a drink at the bar. The place is cozy and romantic, so the management frowns on tourists who merely tromp through for the photo opp.
read more about The Deck

Supatra River House

Supatra River House

  • 266 Soi Wat Rakhang, Arunamarin Road
  • Siriraj, Bangkoknoi
  • tel:+66 2 411 0305
  • Visit website
  • Bangkok, 10700
Manohra Cruises

Manohra Cruises

  • 257/1-3 Charoen Nakorn Road
  • At the Krunghtep Bridge
  • tel:+66 2 477 0770
  • Visit website
  • Bangkok, 10600

Dining while sailing on a restored rice barge is certainly a memorable Bangkok experience. Although there are multiple companies that run these types of cruises, Manohra is one of Bangkok's most respected and reputable. Their gorgeously crafted boats can accommodate between 40 and 70 people, depending on the model, and float down the Chao Phraya river in style. Manohra offers cruises for dinner and sunset cocktails, as well as overnight voyages, including one that sails to Ayutthaya, and a Thai cooking class cruise. As if the beauty of the boat is not enough, the route guides guests past some of Bangkok's most important temples and barges. Prices start at 1,990 baht per person. read more about Manohra Cruises