There are many advantages to getting around by boat. It’s fun, there’s no traffic jam, food somewhat taste better when you eat on a boat, and on top of that, you get to sit and take in the beautiful sights. There are different ways to get around Bangkok— car, taxi, van, bus, sky train, subway, tuk-tuk, motorcycle. But have you ever tried exploring Bangkok by boat? A Bangkok boat tour is a good option for people who want to see different parts of Bangkok in an authentic way. You can enjoy a classy dinner cruise, shop for souvenirs at the floating market, and see beautiful temples and palaces along the river shore.
Bangkok ‘s main river, the Chao Phraya serves as a transportation route for people and goods. If you reside in Bangkok city center, the best way to reach the pier is to take the sky train to Saphan Taksin station. From there, go down the stairs and walk to the Sathorn Central Pier just up ahead. There are many sites to visit on a Bangkok river cruise, the four most popular being the Grand Palace with Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew), Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun), and Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Po).
There are four different types of express boats available at the Pier, each serving different routes. Each boat is differentiated by the color of the flag on it’s head. There are boats with no flags, boats with yellow flags, boats with an orange flags, and boats with green flags. More information about the different boat lines can be found here.
If it’s your first time taking the boat, the Sathorn Central Pier may seem a bit daunting because there are so many people waiting to get on different boats and the queues are not very organized. There are officers who will be there to answer your questions but because there are so many tourists probably asking the same repeated questions, some of these officers may get irritated and end up giving vague travel directions. Although there are several ways to visit the Grand Palace and major temples, here’s our tip on how to get there with the least hassle.
When you have reached the Sathorn Central Pier (‘Thaa-Saa-tawn’ in Thai), you have to wait in line for the boat with the orange flag. This boat will be heading right (when you stand facing the river). Remember that there will be boats with different flag colors and some boats might be going to the left direction and others to the right. Take the one with the orange flag that is heading right. The orange flag boat costs 14 baht no matter what pier you want to get off. Normally, you would pay money to the ticket collector when you are inside the boat and she will give you a ticket. However, if the line is very long and the boat has not yet arrived, the ticket collector might collect your 14 baht while you are queuing up at the pier.
If there are many passengers on board (as there usually are) you might have to stand inside the boat. Here’s a useful tip to do before you even go on the boat. Save this image (on the right) to your phone or print it out and take it with you. This is the map of the stops for this orange flag boat. At every pier that the boat stops, there will be a sign with the name of the pier. However, the signs are not clearly written and if the boat is packed with people and you are standing all crammed up in the middle of the walkway, you might not be able to see those signs when the boat stops at each pier. The best way is to have the map with you. To go to Wat Po get off at Tha Tien. According to the map, that will be the 8th pier from your starting point at Sathorn Central Pier. If the boat is very crowded and you are squished between people without being able to see the pier you are at, we suggest you count the number of times the boat stops at the pier starting from the first one. So, first stop, that’ll be pier number 1, second stop that’ll be pier number 2 and so forth. Tha Tien should be the 8th stop. When you have arrived at Tha Tien, walk straight until you come to Wat Po. Afterward, if you want to go to Wat Arun, take the river ferry at Tha Tien and cross to the other side of the river. River ferry costs only 3 baht and only goes across the river.
The Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha (Wat Pra Kaew) are two must-see places if you go on a Chao Phraya cruise. The Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha are located at the 9th pier Tha Chang. But since you already got off at the 8th pier Tha Tien to go see Wat Po and Wat Arun, the Grand Palace is next to it so you could continue there on foot. Also remember to dress appropriately when you go to any temples and palaces in Thailand. That means, no mini-skirts and short pants for women, no shorts for men either, shoulders should be covered, and if possible but not mandatory, do wear closed toe shoes.
Apart from temple visits you could also go for a dinner cruise on the Chao Phraya river. There are many dinner cruise options to choose from but we’ll just name one of them. The Manora Dinner Cruise brought to you by Anantara Bangkok Riverside Resort is a unique cruise that you should try. Unlike most dinner cruise boats which are modern looking and decorated with flashy colorful lights, Manora cruise boat is made from 100% exquisite woodwork that represents the boats of the old days. The boat takes you down the Chao Phraya and operates every evening at 7:30 p.m. You will get to see the lovely Grand Palace and Temple of Dawn while enjoying your delicious meal. Bangkok looks very different during the nighttime. As a matter of fact, this city looks better at night because you don’t have to see all the smog and old moldy buildings. At night, the city looks beautiful especially the temples and palaces because they are decorated with golden lights that illuminate in the dark.
Now, let’s travel out of the capital city. Although Ratchaburi is a province outside of Bangkok, but it is a place worth seeing because of its floating market. Thailand is one of the few countries in the world that has floating markets and your boat tour wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Ratchaburi. You can either take the bus at Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal or get a taxi. Ratchaburi is located southwest of Bangkok and it takes about two hours if not less to get there. Damnoen Saduak is a traditional old Thai-style floating market that is populated with vendors selling various foods and merchandises in their long tail boats. Be warned that this is a very touristy place and some things are not cheap.