Written by: Jaii Fredregill
Destination: Bangkok, Thailand
Visited: May 2016
The Chao Phraya River begins just north of Bangkok in the Nakhon Sawan Province at the junction of the Ping and Nan rivers. From there it flows south to the Gulf of Thailand, serving as a major thoroughfare through the country’s capital city, Bangkok, along the way.
Like the rest of this energetic metropolis, the river attracts crowds of locals and tourists alike, providing transportation for residents and a glance at daily life around the khlongs for vacationers.
The piers can feel overwhelming when you first arrive, especially if insistent salespeople immediately approach you. This sometimes happens due to their competition with each other.
Don’t be afraid to tell them to chill out, but be sure to stay chill yourself when doing so. Then chalk it up as a cultural experience and talk to the calmest person, because there’s a lot to see along this river.
There is no shortage of floating markets in or around Bangkok. Two of the most popular are Amphawa and Damnoen Saduak.
Both are around 100 km outside of the Bangkok city center and, frankly, Damnoen Saduak is a real tourist trap with no shortage of hustlers competing for your baht. For those not up for the trek, or just looking for activities as they cruise the khlongs, consider paying a visit to Taling Chan Floating Market.
Located 12 km from downtown and easily accessible by boat. This smaller market floats alongside a larger one on shore. Both offer an assortment of produce and delicious Thai treats. Once ashore, you can even stop off for a beer and a foot massage if you like.
Other points of interest near this vivacious riverside that attract sightseers include the Grand Palace, Wat Arun, and Wat Pho. Foot traffic, buses, and tuk tuks zip in and out of the chaos from morning until night.
However, these sites can all be reached quite inexpensively by boat as well. The Chao Phraya Express Boat website is an excellent resource for up to date information http://www.chaophrayaexpressboat.com/en/home/
Blue Flag Tourist boats operate from 9:00am-7: 00 pm each day. These Hop-on Hop-off boats arrive frequently enough to wait for the next if the first to come is too crowded. Here is a link to the schedule and a map of the eight piers these convenient vessels stop at and the sites nearby.
Single-journey USD 1.50 /50 BAHT or a One-Day Pass USD 5.40/180 BAHT
Boats with orange, green or yellow flags are considered express and are used by locals and tourist to get around. Unflagged boats travel the local line. If you are just looking to take a journey along the river to see what’s there any of these are a good option for an affordable self-guided tour.
The fare is very reasonable at 9-35 BAHT depending on distance traveled. Express boats begin a bit earlier and make different stops than the tourist boat. Here is a link to their schedules and routes. http://www.chaophrayaexpressboat.com/en/services/
Ferries are available from most piers if you are just looking to get across to the other side. The cost is 2-4 BAHT for public ferries. Some hotels along the riverside, including the Bangkok Marriott & Spa and The Oriental, even offer free shuttle boats. If you are staying in this vicinity, be sure to check with your hotel.
A long boat can be hired for a private tour from any public pier. There is not really any set price as the tour can be as long or short as you like. Price is negotiable and should be agreed upon by all parties before you get into the boat. The first estimate you offered will almost always be too high, so you must be prepared to negotiate a fair price. My approach is to ask for half of what I think is fair and let them talk me up, or just give them the price I will pay and repeat it each time they counter bid, so they know that’s my final offer.
You can also book in advance through a third-party. The current going rate to book in advance for this seems to be about USD 40+ for 2-hrs with two passengers. If booking directly at the pier perhaps use this pricing as a guide or offer a little less per hour. Do note that you will need to let your guide know if you would like to stop along the way to eat, shop or explore.