There is a saying that great cities always develop by a river and Bangkok is no exception. The Chao Phraya River is the soul of Bangkok, a truth that the best hotel chains understood from the very beginning staking a claim on the river’s banks very early on. The wide waters of the Chao Phraya carry life itself and just gazing at it can be a relaxing and meditative experience. The river in Bangkok is also the best way to explore the city without the traffic jams. The Express boats combined with the Sky trains will take you far and fast in comfort while you enjoy magnificent views on the river in Bangkok.
Bangkok the present capital of Siam or Thailand, as we know it now, was established in its present location by the river in the 18th century after three other settlements were erased by wars with the Burmese. So it is that all the iconic sites of Bangkok are placed on the banks of this powerful river or very nearby.
Iconic sites develop by popularity, by visitors voting with their feet and there is no complete visit to Bangkok without incorporating the sites by the river. Here are a few not to miss:
1- Riverside Bangkok – A massage at Wat Pho
Wat Pho, or the temple of the Reclining Buddha, is a remarkably peaceful place no matter how many visitors there are, due to its huge proportions.
This is not “just another temple”. Its main drawing card, the giant reclining Buddha statue built in 1832, is the second largest Buddha in the world.
Gold plated, the 46m long Buddha is as long as a train carriage but that’s where the comparison ends.
Beautifully crafted, this Buddha is the opposite of the gaudy, kitschy stuff found in contemporary built temples.
The exquisite painted walls that surround the reclining Buddha are worth a second look. It appears to be wallpaper but it is hand painted.
The soles of the Buddha’s feet are 4.5m long and carved with auspicious symbols.
The temple complex has a Thai Massage School (the original in Bangkok) and a herbal medicine centre. You can book a massage here to experience this ancient art.
The grounds are littered with gigantic stone figures from China representing snarling temple guardians and intriguing depictions of westerners (the first ones the Chinese encountered) wearing top hats. These giant figures came to the temple as ship ballast.
2- Bangko Riverside shopping at Tha Maharaj
Originally a group of unremarkable local shops, across the waters from Wat Pho, this site has been recently developed as a venue to commemorate river life.
Attractive architecture connects diverse eateries, trendy shops and a magnificent river-viewing promenade from where visitors can admire the river.
Whether it is for enjoying a drink at sunset when the buildings across the waters start to twinkle or just for seating in contemplation, locals and visitors alike mingle in harmony.
Tha Maharaj can be accessed by land, Chao Phraya Express Boat, Chao Phraya Tourist Boat, Ferry Crossing Boat, Long-Tail Boats and Private Boats.
3- Pandan juice at this Bangkok River Restaurant
Placed at the heart of the Tha Maharaj complex, this traditional Thai restaurant with a modern flair has the views and the food to celebrate Bangkok.
A particularly good selection of juices is available and they come in jam-jars, of course…
My favourite is the Kale and Pandan: green, refreshing and absolutely delicious, especially when it is very hot outside.
4- Eat sushi and drink beer at Hanaya
Not far from the river, in the Silom area, the Hanaya Japanese Restaurant is the oldest Japanese restaurant in Bangkok.
Its décor has not changed for nearly 60 years but don’t let that put you off.
The sushi and sashimi are traditional and good with a selection of local and imported seafood and beers.
683 Si Phraya Road, Bangkok 10500
5- A cocktail at a riverside hotel Bangkok
If you find yourself shopping in the Pratunam area – of ‘shop till you drop’ fame – the Centara Watergate Hotel has a trendy rooftop restaurant Chilli Hip and Walk, a rooftop bar. But of course, if you are a shopaholic then you are already staying at the Centara Watergate…
Maria Visconti travelled courtesy of TAT and Centara Hotels and Resorts.