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There are few places in the world that make it possible for visitors to see its urban areas via boat. Vancouver, Canada has ferries available that allow passengers to see its surrounding islands. Hong Kong has a ferry that allows riders to see the city skyline, but only for a brief five minutes or so. What makes Bangkok’s canals so unique? Bangkok’s canals have a rich history. These canals are often referred to as the main artery of the nation. Find out why these canals are so important and why you should spend a day exploring them. Here, the ultimate guide to navigating Bangkok’s canals.
The Chao Phraya River is also known as the River of Kings. It is formed by four major tributaries, including the Ping, Wang, Yom, and Nan Rivers. It was, and still is, a very important waterway for the people of central Thailand. Many people call the banks of the Chao Phraya River home. Others use the river to get to and from work almost every day. For others, it is a way of life and, ultimately, their main source of income.
Some of Bangkok’s most note-worthy attractions are on the banks of the mighty Chao Phraya River. The four must-see attractions that are easily accessible from the river are Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha), the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), and Wat Arun. Be warned, however, that these are tourist hot spots. Many ‘friendly’ strangers will try to get you to pay upwards of ฿500 (about $15) for a cruise on the river. Politely decline these offers and stick to our guide.
There are four different express boats. Look for those with an orange, green, or yellow flag. Only the orange boat is open every day. Otherwise, these boats operate Monday through Friday, from about 6 am to 10pm (some boats depart earlier, but not all). Depending on the boat you take, tickets will cost you ฿10-40, which is very cheap in compared to most public transportation around the city. You can buy your tickets at the pier or once you are on board. Keep this ticket with you. Some boats leave every five minutes, while others leave every 25 minutes. Be sure to check the timetable of your boat before arriving. There are also many ferries on either side of the river. They run frequently from about 6am to 9pm.
Tourists also have the option of purchasing the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat pass. It is similar to the one-day pass your can purchase for the BTS Skytrain. For ฿150 (about $4), visitors have unlimited access to this boat. There are eight piers where visitors can get on and off. The earliest boat is at 9:30am. Plan your day accordingly, as this boat does not operate past 7pm.
Another great way to see these canals, though a bit on the pricier side, is to go on a dinner cruise. You do not have to get on and off a boat, and you have the option to sit inside with air conditioning if you can not handle the heat. A few options include the Chao Phraya Princess Cruise, Loy Nava Dinner Cruises, and the Grand Pearl Luxury River Cruise & Dining Experience. Most cruises start at about 6pm and last for a few hours. The prices vary depending on the company you book through, but we found that you should expect dinners to start at about ฿1,400 (about $40) for a romantic evening spent on the Chao Phraya River.
You can get to the Chao Phraya River by taking the BTS Skytrain to Saphan Taskin on the Silom line. Take exit two and head towards the Central Pier or the Sathorn Bridge Pier. It is here that you will start your journey on the Chao Phraya River.