Scenes along the way, the river and Bangkok Skyline

Bangkok and the River of Kings, here I am! Half tourist and half Bangkokian. I still got it in me somehow to navigate around the city without a car to drive which is really good because Bangkok’s traffic is so bad, you’ll end up with nothing to talk about other than your frustration being in traffic.

Taxi drivers refuse to pick me up when I tell them where I’m going. Rot tid (bad traffic) they say and you’re left to flag down another one who says the same or even worse, rot tid maak maak. Song roy Baht. (it’s very bad traffic. Two hundred Baht) No, thank you. I wouldn’t pay that much to be driven less than ten kilometers to the nearest Sky Train station. So what better way to travel than taking the boat. No traffic and the scenery along the way is beautiful!

And so begins the scenic boat rides to the Sky Train that takes me into the city centre for the duration of my vacation, and I am actually enjoying it. There’s the big blue sky above me, the murky water lapping underneath me and the warm breeze that always lulls me half sleep.

I chose to come at the height of the hottest period of the year in the months of March & April because I’d rather sweat it out than come during the monsoon months of July-September and walk in flooded streets like the last time I was here.

The landscape along the banks of the river have dramatically changed since I saw it last. Many high-rise condominiums and hotel buildings have been erected adding a variety to the beautiful temples, houses on stilts, old buildings and bridges. I only wish the government should not allow too many sky scrapers to mushroom around the river so they won’t swallow up the old Chao Phraya that we still want to preserve.

The abandoned Colonial Style old Custom House stands proudly beside tall buildings. This was where all foreign ships had to report to pay taxes. King Rama V built this Custom House in 1888 and was designed in Neo Renaissance style by an Italian architect. In 1949 this building was converted to a fire station after the Custom House moved to Khlong Toey port. This artistic building has been the backdrop of films like Killing Fields and In Mood For Love but I guess it will soon be converted into another mall or hotel.

Now that I discovered that taking the boat is not only a fun experience, it is the easiest way to reach many of the touristic places that I have always put off visiting when I used to live here. Each pier takes you to a lot of places to discover. If you stop at the Memorial Bridge/Saphan Phut, here’s what you will discover:

Saphan Phut Night Market, King Rama I Monument, Pak Khlong Talad, Bangkok’s biggest 24-hour flower/fruit market (turn left out of pier, walk for 10 minutes), Sampeng Lane, a narrow old alley lined with cheap clothes, food and household items, Pahurat Road/Little India, the Indian enclave famed for its Hindu iconography and fabrics.

Memorial Bridge (Saphan Put), one of the earliest bridges linking Bangkok to the other side of the river.

If you decide to stop at Maharaj Pier, here’s what you will see:

The iconic Grand Palace ‘s most venerable temples, including Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Mahathat National Museum, Sanam Luang, the old, oval-shaped Royal park. Make sure you wear respectable clothes. For women, no sleeveless and no shorts or mini skirts.

The Grand Palace , view from the river.

There is so much to discover while cruising along the Chao Phraya. Here’s a replica of the first Thai Post Office called, Praisaneeyakan, originally erected near the area of Pak Khlong Talat (flower market), right on the south of Memorial Bridge.

Praisaniyakarn (original spelling, same pronunciation) was abolished in 1982 for the construction of Phra Pok Klao Bridge on the occasion of the 200th anniversary celebration of Rattanakosin Kingdom (Bangkok), which parallels Memorial Bridge on the south side. The current building is a replica built on the plot of land nearest to the original site in order to use as the Thailand’s postal museum. It was built in 2003 by the Department of Highways with a budget of six million baht completed in 2010 – wikipedia

Replica of Thailand’s first postal office. My photo from the boat along Chao Phraya.
Replica of Thailand’s first post office. Photo: trungydang , wiki user.

There’s so much to say about the scenic route along the river but for now, these photos should give an inspiring glimpse how much one can see that there’s another side of Bangkok which is not just congested streets, but a breath of history amidst Bangkok’s transformation to a mega metropolis and ultra modernity.

Chao Phraya Express Boat. A hop-on/hop-off boat and advertising the latest mega mall along the river, ICONSIAM.
Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)
Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) after sunset
Houses on stilts
River South Tower (L), 6th tallest building in Thailand
Millennium Hilton (far left) & new high-rise condominiums
View from the lobby of ICONSIAM facing the river & the many skyscrapers across the water.
The ICONSIAM shopping mall and its hotels & residences beside.
Magnolia’s Waterfront Residences (L) current tallest building in Thailand & The Residences Mandarin Oriental Bangkok (5th tallest).

A bit of information on the Royal Barge Procession along the Chao Phraya:

The Chao Phraya has always been Bangkok’s special feature. It’s called The River of Kings because its monarchs, past and present, have used the river to travel to visit parts of the kingdom when road travel was not very convenient. In modern times, the monarch mainly travel the river during the Royal Barge Ceremony, a grand spectacle of religious and royal ceremony displaying the very best of Traditional Thai art craftsmanship on 52 barges manned by 2,082 oarsmen. The Royal and main barge called the Narai Song Suban, which King Rama IX (King Bhumiphol Adulyadej) built in 1994, is the only barge built during his reign. All the rest are historical barges.

In October this year as part of the final rite of the coronation of Rama X, about 2,300 oarsmen, paddling to rhythmic barge-rowing songs, will accmpany the king on one of the ornate royal barges, to present robes to Buddhist monks at Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn), one of the most famous of many temples along the Chao Phraya River. See photos I have added here.

The late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX, on board the Narai Song Suban Barge or Golden Swan. Photo: Mark Jochim, 2006.
The then Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn who is now Rama X, rides the Supphanahongse Royal Barge representing King Rama IX, commemorating His Majesty’s 85th birthday on Dec. 5, 2012. Photo: Chanat Katanyu for the Bangkok Post, 10 Nov. 2012.
Oarsmen. Photo: Mick Shippen, Travel photographer & writer.
One of the historical barges, The Suphannahongse Royal State Barge . Photo: Lerdsuwa at a dress rehearsal 2007.
Bow of the Royal Barge, Narai Song Suban. Photo: Lerdsuwa  at a dress rehearsal 2007.

A collection of some of the Thai barges can be seen at the National Museum of Royal Barges in the Bangkok Noi District. The present fleet of barges was restored during the reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, as some had suffered damage in bombing raids on Bangkok during World War II.  Only eight important barges, including all four royal barges, are displayed in the museum due to limited space.  The remainder are kept at Wasukri Pier, next to the National Library of Thailand. All are stored out of the water to prevent deterioration. They return to the Chao Phraya River only for a Royal Barge Procession.

ICONSIAM is the latest addition to Bangkok’s luxurious shopping malls. It is so huge and opulent, you have to come back many times to see and experience everything on offer. For more interesting information, check out wikipedia. Somehow, WordPress does not allow me to add the info.

7 thoughts on “Scenes along the way, the river and Bangkok Skyline

  1. I haven’t been to Bangkok, and I’ll keep these scenic boat rides in mind! A lot of the taxi drivers in Manila can be frustrating to deal with too, so I can definitely relate to your plight whenever I’m back there. :p

    Liked by 1 person

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