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The Saffron Cruise cruises the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok with Asiatique's giant ferris wheel in the background
The Saffron Cruise cruises the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok with Asiatique's giant ferris wheel in the background

THE SAFFRON CRUISE - A SAILING MASTERPIECE WHERE AUTHENTIC THAI CUISINE PREVAILS

Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River is crossed by countless dinner cruises every day. Some with bright flashing lights and loud music, other ships, on the contrary, stand out because of their classic quiet appearance. As the name suggests, you can eat and drink on dinner cruises, usually in the form of a walking buffet. As such, this is often about quantity over quality, but fortunately there are some cruises where only the finest ingredients and exquisite service are at the top of the list. These are Chao Phraya cruise ships such as Baan Khanitha, and Banyan Tree Bangkok’s Apsara and Saffron Cruise

The Saffron Cruise is the very latest addition to the luxury five-star hotel Banyan Tree Bangkok. This culinary concept was launched in late 2019, just before Covid-19 made its appearance. We had to wait a long time for it, but in 2022, we could finally admire this sailing masterpiece for ourselves! 

The Saffron Cruise in the water
The Saffron Cruise cruises the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok with Asiatique's ferris wheel in the background

Banyan Tree Bangkok

Banyan Tree Bangkok is an exceptional five-star accommodation in Bangkok. In fact, the luxury hotel not only boasts plenty of beautiful suites and a renowned spa, but also plenty of restaurants and bars. Atop the 200-meter skyscraper is an insane rooftop restaurant (Vertigo) and the super cool sky-high bar (Moon Bar). Finally, there is Saffron, a well known restaurant on the 52nd floor of the hotel whis is also the Banyan Tree Group’s Contemporary Thai Signature restaurant, where guests can enjoy an insanely good lunch or dinner. Nowadays there is also a Saffron Cruise where we would love to hop aboard every week!

The imposing skyscraper of Banyan Tree Bangkok

ALSO READ
Want to read more about Banyan Tree Bangkok? Then check out our review. About Vertigo and Moon Bar we also wrote an extensive article.

Read our in-depth review of Banyan Tree Bangkok
Our extensive about Vertigo and Moon Bar on the roof of Banyan Tree Bangkok

Saffron, the brand

The award-winning Saffron is so much more than just a Thai restaurant. Saffron is a brand that represents the treasured Thai heritage by which we mean authentic Thai cuisine. From Saffron’s kitchen dishes with recipes from ancient Siam and modern Thailand are served. Dishes prepared with pure ingredients and passion, in a contemporary setting where guests will quickly feel at home. Saffron is synonymous with the delectable Thai cuisine!

DID YOU KNOW?
Of the fourteen Saffron restaurants that can be found in the world today, the first one opened in Banyan Tree Phuket. Saffron in Bang Tao has been around since 1995. In addition to Thailand, the Saffron team represents authentic Thai cuisine in nine countries including China, Mexico, Morocco and in neighboring Vietnam. 

What began as a simple curry house in Phuket in the mid-1990s has now become a valued restaurant for Banyan Tree hotels worldwide. Saffron is the flagship restaurant of this hotel group. Fortunately, there are still mouth-watering curries on the menu these days. However, these are interspersed with a wide range of other Thai delicacies. From appetizer to dessert and main course to little snacks, everything is conceived and created by corporate Thai Chef Renu Homsombat and her great team. She and her kitchen colleagues are also responsible for the dishes served at the Saffron Cruise.  

Where do the Saffron chefs actually get their inspiration? Everything fundamentally originates from the rich history of authentic Thai cuisine which, through history, has been influenced by Khmer, Indian and Chinese culinary traditions that have over time been preserved and passed down through generations. Thailand’s traditional cooking methods are diverse but there is also a lot of artistry to it, and the Saffron culinary brigade under the leadership of Chef Renu, continually translates this culinary heritage into an elegant, contemporary experience with only one goal: delicious honest food.

Saffron logo (Banyan Tree's Thai restaurant)

Image: Thailand Magazine

Chef Renu of Saffron restaurant

Chef Renu Homsombat and her amazing team

Thai Chef Renu has made her mark worldwide for quite a period now. Among others, she has worked with Germany’s Schwarzwaldstube, the longest-standing Michelin-starred restaurant in Europe with no less than 3 stars. She has also been a guest chef at culinary events such as Conde Nast in New York, Millesime in Mexico City as well as the much acclaimed St. Moritz Gourmet Festival, and Michelin starred restaurants like ECCO in Zurich. Fortunately, she still has enough time and energy to create new dishes for Saffron at Banyan Tree several times a year. Since our visit in July, for example, another new menu has already appeared on the Saffron Cruise site (September). 

Renu grew up in the kitchen of the family restaurant and  from an early age it was obvious… With such an inexhaustible love for Thai cuisine and ardent passion for the art of cooking, it could not be otherwise… Renu would go on to become a renowned Thai chef. Despite the fact that Khun Renu Homsombat can now rank among Thailand’s very best chefs, this friendly lady has remained very close to herself. She has absolutely no star power, but obviously we wish her and her Saffron team a Michelin star instead! 

Chef Renu at the Saffron Cruise

Cruising down the Chao Phraya River, the river of Kings

Dining on the Saffron Cruise is not just about the culinary journey. The Saffron cruise also partially takes a journey through Bangkok’s history. The beautifully designed ship sails in two hours past numerous landmarks built along the banks of the Chao Phraya River. The Chao Phraya River, also called the River of Kings, was formerly used as a “highway” by which the king traveled through the city and part of ancient Siam (old Thailand). For example, the river led to the ancient capital of Ayutthaya.

Monuments that can be admired from the Saffron Cruise include the Wat Arun and the Grand Palace complex. Contemporary structures you will see include the luxury shopping center ICONSIAM and the Millennium Hilton next door. Pay special attention to the roof of the Millennium Hilton on which a UFO-shaped sky bar has been built. Saffron Cruise offers a journey for young and old consisting of delectable food on a ship with insane architecture, both inside and out.

Wat Arun in Bangkok, Thailand
Read here all about the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand
Read all about the ThreeSixty Rooftop Bar & ThreeSixty Jazz Lounge in Bangkok

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The ship

The 38-meter-long ship consists of two floors, There is an upper and lower deck that can accommodate up to 150 happy guests. The 614 m2 of space is fantastically designed. The interior, the materials, the use of color, the shapes, everything just makes sense. The unique ship was specially designed for Banyan Tree Bangkok and no other dinner cruise in Bangkok compares to it. 

The Saffron Cruise with ICONSIAM in the background
The Saffron Cruise with the Wat Arun in the background

The Saffron Cruise upper deck

The upper deck, the “Moon Deck” of the Saffron Cruise, gets its name from the special sky-high bar called Moon Bar. Located on the roof of Banyan Tree Bangkok, the Moon Bar is, according to many visitors, one of the very best sky bars in Bangkok. At the back of the Saffron Cruise is a large oval bar that resembles the Moon Bar bar. Around the Moon Deck bar you can sit and watch the professional mixologist prepare your cocktail. There are also a number of tables placed here and there and at the very back you can sit on a very large lounges. The ideal place to sit if you are going to eat and/or drink outside. 

The remaining three-quarters of the deck consists of two long bar tables at which to stand or sit on stools. These places offer a good view of the banks of the Chao Phraya on either side. You can also see into the lower deck because of the beautifully designed glass curves that serve as the window of the lower deck (see photo). 

Saffron Cruise's aft deck with the arched windows
The beautiful lower deck of the Saffron Cruise in Bangkok

The Saffron Cruise lower deck

As you can see, the curved windows of the lower deck are offering amazingly beautiful views over the water and its surroundings. Not only the windows, but the whole style inside is really beautiful. A clever piece of design and architecture! For example, check out the beautiful ceiling or the many details all around when you have taken a seat at one of the many tables. By the way, the table arrangement downstairs can vary quite a bit. For example, we saw pictures where there was a large row of tables placed in the middle, but when we visited the Saffron Cruise there were tables placed here and there. In the middle they were mostly tables for four and on the sides tables for two. We, as a couple, got to sit at the very front left. This was a great place to take full advantage of the expansive view while enjoying the delectable four-course dinner including some superb cocktails.

The beautiful lower deck of the Saffron Cruise in Bangkok

Image: Thailand Magazine

Dining on the Saffron Cruise

The Saffron Cruise offers a four-course dinner set and children’s menu. The four-course costs about THB 2,000 and a cocktail can be ordered between THB 300 and 400. Since the menu changes every two months, we recommend you check it on Saffron Cruise’s site. Check the Saffron Cruise’s recent menu and drink menu.

The four-course menu now on the site consists of three appetizers including one with chicken, peanut and almond and another with crab. The soup is served hot. Literally and figuratively, as this is a spicy fish soup.

Dish at Saffron Cruise
Dish at Saffron Cruise

The main course consists of slow-cooked pork with quail eggs and a dish of grilled scallops. Two types of rice are served with the main course, the well-known jasmine rice and…. deliciously fragrant saffron rice. To conclude this fantastic four-course dinner, Chef Renu and her team offer a trio of desserts. The well-known mango sticky rice, sweet purple potato in coconut milk and a selection of fresh fruits,

The previous dessert consisted of a special scoop of ice cream, namely Miang Kham ice cream. As a dessert we have never tasted Miang Kham before, we are very curious and hope one day to taste it in Saffron!

YUMMY
Miang Kham is an authentic Thai appetizer and literally means one-bite pack. The most common ingredients for this wrap are; dried shrimp, roasted peanuts , finely chopped shallot, grated toasted coconut, fresh ginger and a piece of lime with zest. Wrap a little bit of these ingredients in a betel leaf and taste… We love Miang Kham and regularly order this appetizer when we see it on the menu. It is a tasty little treat with different textures and layered flavors!

Have you ever eaten Miang Kham (ice cream)? We are curious to know what you think. Let us know via our Thailand Magazine Facebook Group or in our Thailand WhatsApp Group.

Mango Sticky Rice at Saffron Cruise
Miang Kham at Saffron Cruise

Our own experience on the Saffron Cruise

In July 2022 at 6:45 p.m., we had to report to pier number 2 adjacent to the luxury shopping center ICONSIAM. We were kindly received at the service desk where we had to give our name. A little further on, the wonderful Saffron Cruise was already moored and after waiting for about 15 minutes the time had come. We boarded and were escorted to the upper deck. Here we were welcomed with a mocktail and friendly greeting.  

Several pictures of the guests were taken by a part of the kind staff. “Would you like me to take a picture of you two?” we were asked. A few pictures with ICONSIAM in the background later, we felt the ship slowly sail away from shore. A lovely breeze welcomed us not long after that we were asked to take a seat at the table below. We had been given a number during check-in, this is linked to a table downstairs we were told. 

Checking in to the Saffron Cruise at the ICONSIAM pier

Image: Thailand Magazine

Mocktail as a welcome drink at the Saffron Cruise

Image: Thailand Magazine

A staircase on the side of the ship led us to the picture-perfect lower deck. “The last table on the front left is reserved for you,” said Khun Kwang, our hostess for the evening. Once seated at the table and a little quiet from all the impressions all around, we were asked nicely if we had any particular food allergies. Thankfully, we didn’t. “Would you like to order something to drink?” the tidy lady asked. We were pointed to the cocktail menu and chose the Talk to the Palm and the Life’s A Beach cocktail. A great start to officially inaugurate this gastronomic journey. 

Our table right at the front downstairs in the Saffron Cruise

Image: Thailand Magazine

Cocktail at Saffron Cruise

Image: Thailand Magazine

Even before we were brought our cocktails, we were given a small wooden tray containing three small jars and two tightly folded paper bags. In these were two types of crackers on which to eat the various dips from the jars. A light, fun and especially tasty starter. After taking several heavenly sips of our cocktails, it was time for the official first course; A scallop with young thinly sliced lemongrass and a chili, lime, yuzu dressing. Very fresh and yummy. The winning appetizer in our opinion was the pomelo salad with crispy shrimp and a tamarind dressing. 

Appetizer at Saffron Cruise

Image: Thailand Magazine

Appetizer to the Cocktail at Saffron Cruise

After our first course we got a spicy soup with salmon flakes and meaty eryngii (mushrooms). Meanwhile, we looked out at numerous unusual structures that passed us by on the banks of the Chao Phraya. After approaching the Grand Palace grounds, we knew that the Rama VIII bridge was not far away. The bridge was illuminated golden yellow and is located near the backpacker street Khao San Road and the lively Rambuttri Road. Always nice to see this particularly beautiful bridge again, it brings back such good memories! There was a pause, we rushed outside to take a few nice pictures of our favorite bridge in Bangkok. After taking a few pictures on the outside deck and enjoying the cozy ambiance, it was time for the main course.

Soup during the four-course dinner of the Saffron Cruise

Image: Thailand Magazine

Rama VIII Bridge over de Chao Phraya River gezien vanaf de Saffron Cruise

Image: Thailand Magazine

Rama VIII Bridge over the Chao Phraya River as seen from the Saffron Cruise

Image: Thailand Magazine

Even though we’ve already had hundreds of curries, every now and then we’re still surprised by a new combination… A red curry with succulent marinated duck, pineapple and grilled banana that we’d prefer to eat again tomorrow and the day after, so damn de-li-cious!!! The second main course we shared was crispy fried pork belly with baby bok choy and a sauce made of chilies and holy basil (pad krapow anyone?). Very tasty, but maybe just a tad too salty. The creamy red curry was the winner, with flying colors!

Main course during the four-course dinner of the Saffron Cruise

Image: Thailand Magazine

Main course during the four-course dinner of the Saffron Cruise

Image: Thailand Magazine

Unfortunately, by now we had already started our journey home. We asked our hostess if it was possible to have our dessert served outside. “No problem sir, I will make sure we deliver it outside on the Moon Deck” was her reply. Fortunately for us there was a spot available on a very comfortable lounge in the back. There we were, almost stretched out, on one of the most beautiful dinner cruise ships of Bangkok. A good moment for our last cocktail, the Paloma Thai and Not From South.

Lounge sofas and bar on the Moon Deck of the Saffron Cruise with the Wat Arun in the background

Our last course consisted of not one, not two, but three small desserts. It arrived on a tray with a few small cold cubes of watermelon on a stick. Over it a topping of a little bit of dried fish and crispy fried shallots, bold, but fair is fair it was delicious! The second mini dessert was an inventive crème brûlée of almond cream and sweet pumpkin. Finally, an old favorite, a scoop of coconut ice cream served in half a coconut with some corn and puffed mung beans.

Dessert during the four-course dinner of the Saffron Cruise

Image: Thailand Magazine

Dessert during the four-course dinner of the Saffron Cruise

Image: Thailand Magazine

What a wonderful evening on the Saffron Cruise

Image: Thailand Magazine

Before we realized it, we were docked in front of ICONSIAM. Actually not wanting to go “home” yet, we looked around and saw that we were the last guests on board. We took a few more group photos with the amazing Saffron Cruise team and thanked them as we do again now. THANKS super nice Saffron (Cruise) team, it was FANTASTIC in every way! 

The Saffron Cruise team at Banyan Tree Bangkok

Regular information 

Boarding location: Pier 2 at ICONSIAM
Address ICONSIAM: 299 Charoen Nakhon Rd, Khlong Ton Sai, Khlong San, Bangkok 10600, Thailand
Address ICONSIAM in Thai: 299 ถ. เจริญนคร แขวง คลองต้นไทร เขตคลองสาน กรุงเทพมหานคร 10600
Cruise days: Thursday to Sunday
Cruise times: 18:45 – 21:00 hours
Contact: +66 2 679 1200
E-mail: hostesses-bangkok@banyantree.com
Website: https://www.banyantree.com/thailand/bangkok/dining/saffron-cruise 

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Photo with link to information Chinatown Yaowarat Road, one of Bangkok's popular neighborhoods in Thailand.
Here you can read all about ICONSIAM in Bangkok
See where you can have good eats in ICONSIAM, Bangkok

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