The Ultimate Chao Phraya River Sightseeing Guide

September 08, 2020.
Tags: Bangkok

One of the highlights of any trip to Bangkok is seeing all the attractions along the river. But rather than having to deal with all the traffic congestion in the city, by far, the best way to travel to these iconic landmarks is to take a Chao Phraya River boat ride. There are many Bangkok river boats running up and down the river, and it can get confusing to try and figure out which boat, from which pier, will get you where you want to go. 

You can simply take the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat that offers a one-day fare for tourists and allows you to hop on and off the boat at any of the piers along the river. But this isn't the fastest way to travel if you've already shortlisted the attractions you want to see. 

There are two main piers along the Chao Phraya served by both the multi-coloured water taxi lines and some unique boats that offer more than the water taxis do. Knowing what's available in boat travel on the river can go a long way towards making your sightseeing more efficient and shortening your travel time. We’ll take a look at this, plus some of the piers that offer a gateway to special cultural sites that you shouldn’t miss. We’ll start at the most prominent pier along the river.

Pier Number 1: Tha Chang Pier (N9)

This is one of the busiest piers along the river. Not only is it a water taxi commute stop for the thousands of government civil servants who work in the buildings along Ratchadamnoen Avenue, but it’s also a major sightseeing pier for tourists. It’s located right in front of the number one tourist attraction in Bangkok, the Grand Palace.

- It’s the nearest pier to Sanam Luang, the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and the Amulet Market. Every water taxi and Chao Phraya tourist boat and shuttle boat always stops at Tha Chang pier, because it’s the gateway to all the highest profile tourist attractions in Bangkok.

- It’s also the pier where the shuttle boat across the river to the Temple of the Dawn picks up and drops off passengers. The shuttle boat runs several times an hour and provides direct access to this landmark along the river.

- Tourists who venture down to this pier may be wondering what all the long-tail boats are doing idly moored around such a busy pier.

These long-tail boats offer a special boat journey in Bangkok that’s way beyond any water taxi or shuttle service. They’ll take you on approximately an hour-long tour of the canals on the opposite side of the river from Tha Thang Pier. 

Walk up to one of the long-tails at the pier, and they'll quote you a price for the tour. Around 6-8 people can fit comfortably in the long-tail, most of which have awnings that protect you from the hot sun while you ride along the canals of old Bangkok. They’re also likely to have a cooler of drinks and snacks on board, which they’ll happily sell to you. If the driver doesn’t have refreshments, don’t worry, a boat is certain to come along that will. It's always a good idea to buy a drink for the driver as well. He may show you something special on your tour in return. 

The tour of the canals gives you a glimpse into what life used to be like for a lot of the residents of Bangkok until most of the canals in the city were filled in to make room for automobiles in the 1900s. Many of the canals served as the streets of the city, and a lot of the older homes you’ll see on your tour have front doors that open directly onto the canal. The tour is fascinating as it shows you a side of Bangkok that you would never have known existed just touring the city's streets. 

Pier Number 2: Tha Sathorn Pier (Central Pier)

Saphan Taksin Pier is special for two main reasons. First off, the pier offers easy access to the BTS Skytrain station located right overhead. You can leave your accommodation anywhere in the city and soon be right on the river by taking the rapid transit systems of Bangkok. Secondly, the pier offers a free boat shuttle service to three major attractions along the river, Asiatique, Iconsiam, and Lhong 1919.

- Iconsiam is the latest ultra-modern shopping mall in Bangkok. This one has the added cachet of being located right along the river. It's an upscale mall offering many brand-name stores and lots of dining and entertainment choices.

- Lhong 1919 is also a shopping and dining area, but with a major difference. Lhong 1919 was originally a port and warehouse that served ships from British Hong Kong and Malaya, and mainland China. The construction was finished in 1850 in the Chinese courtyard style of architecture, and it has since been lovingly restored to its former glory. Lhong 1919 offers cafes, but it also has a creative side with a co-working space, lots of arts and handicraft shops, and a history centre which explores the unique history of the Thai-Chinese.

- Another great, quick boat trip in Bangkok from the Saphan Taksin Pier is the free shuttle boat that delivers you directly to Asiatique. Asiatique is another old converted warehouse enjoying new life as a dining, shopping, and entertainment destination. It's a family-friendly destination that features a large Ferris Wheel and a theatre featuring a traditional Thai puppet show several times a day.

But the main draw of Asiatique is its wide selection of open-air restaurants overlooking the river. It’s the perfect place to end your day of sightseeing. Relax beside the water with a cold drink and an appetizer as you watch the city lights slowly grow brighter while the sun sets in the west. 

Not-So-Secret Chao Phraya Piers

None of the piers along the Chao Phraya are exactly secret, but some of them don't see many tourists unless the tourists know what they're looking for. We want to point out a couple of piers that have their own unique charms to encourage you to get off the beaten path and explore the Bangkok river by boat on your own.

- Wang Lang Pier (N10) is a pier on the west side of the river opposite Bangkok's central business district. One of the highlights of this pier is the nearby Wang Lang market that is incredibly popular with local food-lovers. It offers some of the best street food in the city.
Tourists might like to visit the nearby Wat Rakhang Khositaram, a beautiful community temple that features five large bells. The Patravadi Theatre is also near to the Wang Lang Pier. The theatre is the revered home of the Patravadi modern dance troupe and serves as an educational facility for the performing arts. It's become an institution in Bangkok.

- Thewet Pier (N15) is also worth making a stop at to walk around the pier area. Not only is it home to the picturesque Deves Palace, but it’s a favourite place for making merit by feeding the large catfish that gather under the pier. Numerous vendors sell fish to residents, who then release them into the river as well. Head to Thewet Pier if you’re experiencing some bad luck in your life, and turn your luck around by taking part in the practice of merit-making. 

Rental for the Holidays can help you make the most of your visit to Bangkok. They have spacious and modern apartments all across the city, so you can locate yourself in the area that most appeals to you. For your next holiday to Bangkok, contact Rental for the Holidays.