Exploring Bangkok Along The Chao Phraya River
Whenever I stay at Lub d Silom, backpackers will often ask me what they should do or see in Bangkok (I think it’s because I know most of the staff, and at this point, people assume I work at the hostel), my first answer is, ‘Spend a day on the Chao Phraya River!‘.
The Chao Phraya (Maenam Chao Phraya) is a major river which flows through Bangkok before emptying into the Gulf of Thailand. One of the busiest rivers in Thailand, on any given day one can see everything from local ferries (used for commuting) to long boats to barges to hotel ferry boats to tourist ferries and more.
Not nearly as crowded as the streets of Bangkok, the Chao Phraya River is calming, and one of my favourite ways to get around Bangkok. Why spend time stuck in traffic trying to get to Chinatown or the Grand Palace or Wat Pho when I can board a ferry and get there by boat ––feeling the warm breeze on my face and getting a different glimpse of local life in Bangkok. It is another way to relax amidst the chaos of life in BKK.
BOATS/FERRIES YOU CAN RIDE ON CHAO PHRAYA RIVER
There are three local ferry routes (Orange, Green and Yellow), as well as a tourist ferry which operates on a daily basis on the Chao Phraya River. The orange line is the only one which stops at every pier along the river. Knowing where you want to go ahead of time will help you decide which boat is right for you.
Here is a list of piers along the Chao Phraya River and which lines stop at each of them.
- Central Pier (Sathorn) – ALL lines
- N1 Oriental – Orange & Tourist
- N3 Si Phraya – Orange, Yellow & Green
- River City Bangkok – Tourist
- N4 Marine Dept – Orange
- N5 Rachawongse (Chinatown) – ALL lines
- N6 Memorial Bridge – Orange
- N6/1 Yodpiman (Pakklong Taladd/Flower Market) – Orange
- Wat Arun Ratchawararam – Orange & Tourist
- N8 Tha Tien (Wat Pho) – Orange & Tourist
- N9 Tha Chang (Grand Palace) – Orange & Green
- Maharaj (Grand Palace) – Tourist
- N10 Wang Lang – Orange, Yellow & Green
- N11 Thonburi Railway (Royal Barge National Museum) – ALL lines
- N12 Phra Pinklao Bridge – Orange, Yellow & Green
- N13 Phra Athit (Khao San Road) – Orange & Tourist
- N15 Thewet – Orange, Yellow, Green
- N15 Krung Thon Bridge – Orange & Green
- N18 Payap – Orange
- N21 Klak Kai – Orange, Yellow & Green
- N22 Bang Po – Orange, Yellow, Green
- N23 Wat Soi Thong – Orange
- N24 Rama VII Bridge – Orange, Yellow, Green
- N28 Wat Kien – Orange
- N29/1 Rama V Bridge – Orange & Green
- N30 Nonthaburi – Orange, Yellow & Green
- Phra Nang Klao – Green
- N31 Ministry of Commerce – Green
- N32 Wat Klangkret – Green
- N33 Pakkret – Green
RIDING THE TOURIST FERRY
While some have commented that the tourist ferry is too expensive, I disagree, especially when you consider the inconvenience (and sometimes expense) of Bangkok traffic. The best part about the tourist line is that it hits all of the major sites along the Chao Phraya River –– Chinatown, Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Grand Palace and Khao San Road; as well as a few off-the-tourist-track areas.
A fabulous way to visit these popular sites which can be a pain to get to via other modes of transportation.
The tourist line runs from 9 am – 5:30 pm, giving you 8.5 hours to explore the sites along the river. If you want to have a mixture of major sites as well as local markets and temples, take the tourist line as far as it will go, then switch to the orange line and ride it up to N30 Nonthaburi to visit the market and enjoy some tasty streetside noodles before heading back down the river (plus, the orange line runs later than the tourist line, so you don’t need to feel rushed).
Tip: Urban Adventures does a really good food tour of Chinatown.
- Phra Arthit (N13) – This is the pier closest to Khao San Road, and the National Art Gallery, as well as the Banglampoo Clothing market.
- Wang Lang (N10) – Wang Lang has a great local market, but there are also a couple of cool Wats (Wat Rakhang Khositaram) nearby. As well as the Patravadi Theatre, and the odd medical museum at Siriraj Hospital.
- Maharaj Pier (Tourist boat only) – This is the pier for the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew. The Grand Palace is quite vast, so be sure to give yourself a few hours to explore!
- Tha Tien (N8) – This stop is MANDATORY (in my opinion). Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) is one of the most beautiful temples in Bangkok (and the first Thai massage school). Tha Tien is also the stop for Wat Arun, just take a small boat across the river.
- Yodpiman (N6/1) – Only accessible via the Orange line, Yodpiman is the closest stop to Pak Klong Taladd, Bangkok’s 24-hour flower market. Visit any time of day, but if you really want to see the market come alive, visit between 3 am – 4 am. Of course, the boats don’t run then so you’ll need to take a taxi.
- Rachawongs (N5) – Chinatown, anyone? This is the stop for those of you who are dying to explore and get lost in the markets of Chinatown.
HOW TO GET TO THE CHAO PHRAYA RIVER
If you’re staying in a hostel near Sukhumvit or Silom, take the Silom BTS line to Saphan Taksin and you’ll find yourself very close to Sathorn pier on the Chao Phraya River. If your hostel is near Khao San Road, walk to Rambuttri and follow it until you see Chana Songkran Alley (it can be a little hidden), walk down the alley to Phra Athit Road and turn right. The first little road on the left should take you to Phra Athit Pier (N13).
HOW MUCH DO TICKETS COST?
- Orange: 15 THB ($0.58 CAD).
- Yellow: 20 THB – 29 THB ($0.77 – $1.12 CAD).
- Green: 13 THB – 32 THB ($0.50 – $1.23 CAD).
- Tourist: 180 THB ($7 CAD) for an all-day pass, 50 THB ($2 CAD) for single journey ticket.