A morning spin around the river of Kings
Yes, it’s probably about as touristy as it gets in Bangkok, but sometimes it’s just nice to pretend you’re like a first-timer and do things you might have done all those years ago on your first visit to Thailand and not done again since.
The Chao Phraya River is, of course, the central beating heart of the capital and taking a morning trip on a long-tail boat or even just ferry hopping is not a bad way to spend a few hours while in Bangkok.
Head down by the BTS to the Saphan Taksin stop, wander down to the pier and look around at the options for river travel. Yes, you’ll likely be approached by a tout or two who will try to get you to take a long-tail boat trip into the side canals. As a first-timer this would probably have been quite exciting and you wouldn’t have worried about the price; now, as a seasoned veteran, the price and the overall deal will be a factor and you know you’ll probably be able to bargain.
If you can’t strike a deal, then walk away and start thinking about the multitude of river boats that operate as commuter ferries, all of them well worth climbing aboard and seeing to what part of the river they go, at what really are very cheap prices. Most fares start from as little as 10 baht and rarely will you pay more than 35 or 40 baht.
Even without the aid of a proper tourist guide it should be possible, with the aid of a good camera, to pick out some or most of the sites of what used to be old Bangkok; well, old for a Southeast Asian city that was only turned from a basic fishing port into a national capital just over 230 years ago.
Apart from the usual array of temples, there are buildings such as the first Presbyterian Church and the Old Customs House and the Oriental Hotel to be glimpsed as you motor by. There’s the Royal Thai Navy Docks and the Thai Maritime Navigation Company, and other places that ooze character and a kind of misplaced Western charm in this riverine setting.
The advantage of the river ferries over a standard long tail boat guided tour is that you can decide to disembark at any stop along the way. Even if you’ve told the conductor you’ll go to the end of the line and paid full fare, and then decide to disembark a few stops in, the amount of the fare is so small you really shouldn’t consider yourself much out of pocket.
And when you have disembarked, who knows what you’ll find to keep you further entertained.