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CHAO PHRAYA RIVIER SURROUNDINGS
On Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River it is always lively and crowded! Small longtail boats sail back and forth to the temples and other sights along the river. Also the efficient Chao Phraya River Express boats make full use of the river and bring Thai and tourists to shopping malls. markets, hotels, restaurants, family and work. In between there are large loaded cargo ships because the Chao Phraya River is the most important and largest river in Thailand, it flows right through Bangkok to the Gulf of Thailand.
Striking buildings along the Chao Phraya River
From the Chao Phraya River you can see many different types of buildings; towering flats, luxury hotels, authentic wooden houses, shopping malls, temples and even a huge ferris wheel called the eye of Bangkok. Sometimes you see buildings of which you think what is it, or what is its purpose for? We became curious and went looking for the story and function of these striking buildings.
Phra Sumen Fort
This ancient white defensive fortress was built in 1783 during the reign of King Rama I. The purpose of the fort was to protect the Chao Phraya River and the Rattanakosin Island (the old part of Bangkok) from a river invasion. It is one of the last remaining fortresses in the old part of Bangkok. The guns are still present. Near the fort is a small park where you can take a rest.
A few minutes walk from the Phra Athit Pier, near the backpacker street Khao San Road.
Wat Rakhang Kositaram / Temple of the Bell
What Rakhang, is a royal temple. The temple is also called the Temple of the Bell because a enormous old bell was discovered on the temple complex. The bell was moved to the temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew). In exchange, the temple complex received 5 new bells from King Rama I. These bells are still there. At this temple you can set the spirits right by ringing these bells, feed the pigeons and buy a live fish and release it into the river.
From the Chang Pier a ferry goes to Wat Rakhan | Entrance: Free
Grand Palace & Wat Phra Kaew
The Grand Palace used to be inhabited by the royal family of Siam/Thailand. The complex is huge and is frequently visited by tourists and the Thai population. On the grounds stands also the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew), the most important Buddha of Thailand.
Also read our full article about the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
Wat Arun / Temple of the Dawn
The Wat Arun is probably the most eye-catching temple on the Chao Phraya River. This is not surprising because the pagoda of this temple is 82 meters high and decorated with small pieces of porcelain and glass. In the evening the Wat Arun is beautifully lit. Restaurants overlooking the Wat Arun are very popular.
Read our full article about Wat Arun / Temple of the Dawn.
The Wat Kalayanamitr can be seen on the Thonburi (west) side of the river, it is a small temple complex. Inside the temple is a large sitting Buddha covered with gold. This temple complex is rarely visited by tourists. The name of the temple means “real friend”. The Thai people come here to ask for a blessing for good friends.
Next to the Rajinee Pier is a ferry crossing to the Waramhawhan pier for Wat Kalayanaitr | Entrance: Free of charge.
Gong Wu Shrine
This special temple was built more than 200 years ago. From the water you can already see that the woodcarving of this temple is very beautiful! The temple was built by a Hokkien Chinese who followed King Taksin to the then new capital Thon Buri. The temple worships the Goddess of Grace, Kuan Yin. The temple is located next to Wat Kalayanamitr.
There is a ferry from Rajchawong Pier to Din Daeng Cross River Ferry | Entrance: Free
Che Chin Khor Temple / Pagoda
This Chinese Taoist Pagoda of 8 floors is clearly visible from the river. From its top you have a beautiful view of the surroundings and the river. Next to the pagoda there is also a small temple. The temple and the pagoda belong to the Che Chin Khor Benediction Foundation. Besides spreading the faith, this foundation gives free rice, blankets and other necessities to the underprivileged.
There is a jetty, but as far as we know no ferry stops. By road the pagoda is probably easier to reach | Entrance: Free | Location : Google maps
Millennium Hilton Bangkok
On top of a high block of flats next to ICONSIAM you can see an ufo-shaped floor. This floor belongs to the Millennium Hilton Bangkok and is a bar / restaurant called ThreeSixty Rooftop Bar and ThreeSixty Jazz Lounge. From here you actually have a 360 degree view over Bangkok. There is also an open air sky bar where you have a view over the river from the lovely lounge sofas.
Read our full article about the ThreeSixty Rooftop Bar and ThreeSixty Jazz Lounge.
ICONSIAM is not a temple or building with a rich history. But it is the one of Bangkok’s latest shopping centers on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. The beautiful shopping mall sells many luxury products, you can also buy tasty snacks or dine at the replica indoor floating market. From the terrace you have a beautiful view over the river.
There are free shuttle boats from the Saphan Taksin Pier to ICONSIAM.
Old Customs House
This special and dilapidated building was once a customs office. It was designed in 1890 by an Italian architect, the western influences are clearly visible. After the office moved to Klong Toei it became vacant and fell into disrepair. Sometimes the building is still used for filming, the best known is the film, In The Mood for Love. It’s uninhabited now and you’re not allowed in anymore…
The Old Custom House is located almost exactly between the Oriental pier and the Wat Muang Kae pier in | Entrance: Prohibited
Find the differences
No this is not a double placed picture, what you see on this picture and what you don’t see on the previous picture, is the highest building of Bangkok (2018), King Power MahaNakhon! The building opened in 2018 and is almost 2 kilometers from the river as the crow flies, that you can still see it probably says enough! MahaNakhon is 314 meters high and all the way to the top is a viewpoint and a sky walk made of glass! Also read our full article about the Mahanakhon SkyWalk.
The nearest pier is Sathorn Taksin, from there it is a half hour walk or 2 stops with the BTS sky train | Entrance: 750 baht
Also read our full article about this amazing skyscraper in Bangkok!
Golden dome of the Lebua State Tower (Sirocco Sky Bar)
Especially in the evening, this golden dome on top of the tall building is clearly visible. The real fans will recognize it immediately of course, because this is where the movie The Hangover 2 was shot. The golden dome belongs to the Sirocco Sky Bar and is probably the most famous sky bar of Bangkok. The Sirocco Sky Bar belongs to the Lebua at State Tower Hotel below.
Read also our full article about the Sirocco Sky Bar @ Lebua.
Santa Cruz Church
This Portuguese Roman Catholic Church might not be very special for you to see. But the fact that this church stands next to a river in Bangkok is special. The piece of land on which Santa Cruz Church is built was donated by King Taksin to the Portuguese as a thank you for their help in the fight against the Burmese. Originally the church was built in 1835 and made of wood, later it was rebuilt into the present church.
You can reach the church by taking the ferry from the Rajinee Pier to the Kalayanamitr temple on the other side. Via a path along the water you reach the church. | Entrance: Free
Ferris wheel of ASIATIQUE The Riverfront
When you see the Eye of Bangkok for the first time you might think there is something to celebrate or that there is a fair. But no, this ferris wheel belongs to the modern ASIATIQUE The Riverfront and is always there. In the evening the ferris wheel is beautifully lit and you can see it from a great distance. At the market you can shop and eat to your heart’s content. You can also take a walk on the promenade by the river. The Ferris wheel (unintentionally) marks the last stop of the Chao Phraya River Express boats.
Read also our full article about ASIATIQUE The Riverfront.
GOOD PLACES TO SLEEP IN BANGKOK
Most bridges across the river of Bangkok are named after kings and important relatives of Thailand. The Rama VI bridge was the first of Bangkok and was opened in 1927. The newest bridge (2019), the Bhumibol Bridge I was opened in 2006. This bridge is named after the beloved and now deceased King Bhumibol Adulyadej and is also called the Mega Bridge because the total length is almost 1.3 kilometers and looks spectacular!
Rama IX Bridge | Image: Scott N (Flickr)
Another striking bridge over the Chao Phraya River is the Rama VIII Bridge. This bridge is named after the brother of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, King Ananda Mahidol, who died at the age of 20. The bridge is a striking appearance especially in the evening because of the beautiful lighting. There are pedestrian paths on two sides, so if you like you can cross on foot and admire the Chao Phraya River.
Rama VIII Bridge | Image: Scott N (Flickr)
Romantic evening at the Chao Phraya River
When evening sets and the beautiful palaces, temples and bridges are illuminated, the river area gets romantic and fairytale alike. On the river are beautifully lit dinner cruise boats where you can enjoy a buffet and musical performances. There are also waterfront restaurants and sky bars with stunning views of the river and/or the Royal Palace and the beautifully lit Wat Arun temple. And with the balmy evenings of Bangkok and (hopefully) a breeze, a walk along the river is of course super fun and romantic!
Going out at the Chao Phraya River of Bangkok
Going out near the Chao Phraya River is mainly enjoying good drinks and long dinners with good company and great views! The Flow restaurant of the Millennium Hilton Bangkok has a very nice terrace by the river and excellent service, perfect if you want to celebrate something, that you have holiday for example! And while you’re there visit the ThreeSixty Rooftop Bar and ThreeSixty Jazz Lounge on the 31st floor, you won’t find better views of the Bangkok River! But at least as good is the view from SEEN located on the roof of the Avani+ Riverside Bangkok Hotel. Here you can also enjoy great food and great cocktails!
SEEN @ Avani+ Riverside Bangkok | Image: ThailandMagazine.com
Most restaurants and hotels on the waterfront can be considered to be in the higher segment, but there are also some more casual settings. For example, Jack’s Bar and River View Guest House are affordable alternatives for a drink with a relaxed atmosphere and great views. Also popular are the dinner cruises such as those at Baan Khanitha or Supanniga that cruise the Chao Phraya River. If you prefer the hustle and bustle, Rambuttri and Khao San Road are not far from the river.
Transportation on the Chao Phraya River from Bangkok
The transport on the river is surprisingly well arranged and super cheap! All those fun activities you arrange yourself and do at your own pace. You really don’t need a travel agency for that if you want to! Along the river’s piers you can step on the boats of the Chao Phraya River and discover the surroundings of the river and the attractions of Bangkok. There is also a good connection to the BTS Sky Train so you can avoid the infamous traffic jams of Bangkok.
You can read all about using the boats on the river in our extensive article about the Chao Phraya River Express boats.
Do not book a tour over the klongs (canals) with a tuk tuk / taxi driver, the prices are often too high and the quality is disappointing. Always check the reviews before booking at a travel agency on the spot, unfortunately they don’t always do what they promise.
Sleeping along the Chao Phraya River
Along the river are beautiful large luxury hotel chains to find, often you look from your hotel room or pool on the river. The luxury hotels almost all have a free boat service to and from the hotel. Some famous top hotels along the Chao Phraya River are the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Avani+ Riverside Bangkok Hotel, Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok and the Millennium Hilton Bangkok. But sleeping by the river doesn’t have to cost a fortune, less known but more affordable options include V Varee Bangkok and the River View Guest House.
More information about sleeping near the river can be found in the InfoBox at the bottom of this article.
In the water of the Chao Phraya River many, always hungry catfish swim! Feeding these fish brings good luck the Thai say! At temples along the river you can often buy bread or bags of colourful nibbles for 10/20 baht.
In the vicinity of the Chao Phraya River
In the vicinity of Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River there is a lot to see and do! We have collected some great options in the area for you, such as well-appreciated places to sleep, restaurants, shopping malls and fun sights, you are so close now! We hope this will make your visit to Bangkok even easier and more fun!
The Chao Phraya River Express sails between Nonthaburi and Ratburana, the distance between these two lines is 21 km. There are currently a total of 28 piers on the Chao Phraya River.
Open: Monday to Friday from 06.00 – 20:00 (depending on which boat/flag) | Weekend from 06.00 – 19.00
Tourist Boat: Daily from 09:00 – 20:30| Online discounted day pass can be purchased here: Blue flag boat (tourist boat)
Route via BTS: Saphan Taksin