I have lived in Bangkok for several years and like to think that I’ve sampled most of what the city has to offer. I’m usually among the first to visit a new bar or restaurant and the person my friends turn to for travel advice.
So when my family visited during my birthday and told me they were going to show me a new side of the city, I was more than slightly skeptical. For the past few days I had been playing tour guide to these Thailand newbies, and now it was their turn to take the lead. They were, however, completely right. On the evening of my birthday we took a taxi to River City Pier No.2 next to the Phra Pinklao bridge on the far side of the river.
My father disappeared into the River City Shopping Complex and reappeared a few minutes later with tickets and a triumphant smile on his face. Taking my arm, he ushered me down to the waters edge, where the Chaophraya Princess cruise ship was waiting. I had often seen this boat and others like it gliding along the Chaopraya River in the evenings, but it had never occurred to me to go on a trip. It was just for tourists, surely.
Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I stepped aboard the cruise ship not knowing quite what to expect and was immediately soothed by the light saxophone music playing in the background. This ship was elegantly decorated in oriental and occidental styles and felt slick and sophisticated.
We were led to the top deck, which was large and had a large number of tables and chairs placed around the edge. After being seated we were each presented with a ‘welcome drink’ fruit cocktail and told that the cruise would start in just a few minutes.
There are many other families and couples on the deck and the air is charged with excitement and expectation.
At 8pm we began our journey, gliding down the Chaophraya River towards Taxin bridge. On the way we pass the famous sites of Wat Arun, The Grand Palace, Bang Khunprom Palace and the Kanlayanamitr temple. Although quite familiar sights for me by now, I have never seen them from the middle of the river at night. All the sites are illuminated, giving them a magical quality.
Cruising serenely down the river has an enchantingly relaxing effect. Gone are the heat and crowds that can make this trip somewhat stressful during the daytime and there is a cool breeze coming from the river.
Before long it is announced that the international buffet is open. Everyone grabs a plate and charges to the center of the deck, where there are dozens of dishes to choose from; anything from fresh seafood and sushi to spicy Thai curries and steaks cooked to order. Everything is presented stylishly in large silver tureens and both looks and tastes wonderful. It’s not often that I get the chance to combine my favorite Thai and western dishes and we all dine happily while a beautiful female vocalist sings in the background.
Just as we are finishing our meal the boat turns around and makes its way back along the river. Now knives and forks are replaced with cameras as people snap away at the unique views of some of Thailand’s most beloved sites.
Once again I am encouraged to play tour guide and reveal some interesting ‘facts’ about the things we pass, although this time it is pure parody. Unless, that is, Wat Arun really is the birthplace of Indiana Jones and also Thailand’s oldest radio tower.
After two hours we return to the River City Pier. Our journey is at an end. My father turns to me, grinning expectantly and I have to admit that he’s done it. For those of us who think we know the city well take note: there is always some wise guy with a guidebook and a fresh perspective ready to make us eat our words. All with the best of intentions, of course.
Trips on the Chaophraya Princess Cruise cost 1,350 baht for adults and 1,000 baht for children under ten. The fee includes a welcome drink, international buffet, live band and a two hour boat trip.
For more information and booking visit www.thairivercruise.com.
About the author:
Kirsty Turner (Kay) is currently living in Bangkok where she teaches English at Rajabhat Suan Dusit. Kay has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!