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               The Chao Phraya River, often translated as "River of Kings", flows through the heart of Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. Regarded as the principal artery of the nation, it plays an important role in the lives of Thai people. Much of Thai history can be traced along the banks of the Chao Phraya River. It begins at Nakhon Sawan province (237 km. north of Bangkok) and flows south through the central plains to Bangkok and the Gulf of Thailand. Thus one of the best ways to explore Bangkok, always overlooked by many tourists, is cruising along the Chao Phraya River. And the easiest way is by taking a ferry boat of Chao Phraya Express Boat which provides cruise services every day and all day.
               Besides the regular ferries, the company also provides the special tourist boat service for sightseeing along the river. It takes tourists to 8 major piers providing access to many famous attractions of Bangkok, such as the Grand Palace, Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Chinatown, Khaosan Road etc.
               The tourist boat service is available daily from 9.30 to 16.00 hours, departing every 30 minutes from Sathorn pier. The boat route, connected to BTS Skytrain at Taksin Bridge station, starts from Sathorn Pier and proceeds up the river to Phra Arthit Pier (near Khaosan Road) and then returns on the same route. Tourists can easily travel from pier to pier without worrying about purchasing boat tickets or getting lost. Moreover, they can freely get on and off at any pier to visit many tourist sites located in the surrounding areas. A guide is provided on board and the boat is not crowded as the normal express boat.

               One day river pass is available for unlimited trips at 150 baht which includes a Chao Phraya River Guidebook. Tickets are sold at Sathorn, Maharaj, and Phra Arthit piers and the BTS Tourist Information Centers at Siam, Nana and Taksin Bridge BTS Stations.
               Cruising along the River of Kings, visitors can enjoy the views of the beautiful old temples, churches, shrines, old wooden houses, modern hotels and get a glimpse of serene and simple lifestyle of riverbank dwellers. This picturesque view is what earned Bangkok the title "Venice of the East."

Attractions along the River of Kings

               If you take the Chao Phraya tourist boat which starts the journey at Sathorn Pier and travel the whole route to Phra Arthit pier, you will pass many interesting places along the river as follows. The first outstanding place next to Sathorn pier is Oriental Hotel on the right hand side, which is called the Bangkok bank by the locals. This world-renowned luxury hotel is the oldest hotel in Bangkok, founded by two Danish captains in 1865 during the reign of King Rama IV. A few minutes later the boat passes Holy Rosary Church on the same side. The Portuguese built this church in 1786 on the land granted by King Rama I, four years after Bangkok was established as the capital. The present cream-colored structure has a high facade topped with a towering spire, and a statue of Virgin Mary stands above the high arches.

               Just close to the church is the classic pale yellow building of Siam Commercial Bank, the first bank in Thailand, built in 1908 by an Italian architect. After this, keep your eyes on the left side which is the Thon Buri bank, so you will not miss a remarkable Chinese shrine. It is Guan Yu Shrine, one of the oldest Chinese temples in Bangkok built in the early Rattanakosin Period by a Hokkian millionaire. A little distance from this, the boat will pass under the twin bridges overhead - Phra Pokklao Bridge and Memorial Bridge (called Saphan Phut by Thais). The latter, built in 1932 by King Prajadhipok (Rama VII), is the first bridge over the Chao Phraya River. After passing this bridge, on your left hand you will see another church. Santa Cruz Church, one of the many old Catholic churches in Bangkok, was built by the Portuguese in 1770 during the reign of King Taksin (1867 - 1782). In 1916 the third and present version of Santa Cruz Church was built during the reign of King Rama VI (1910 - 1925). The two renowned Italian architects Annibale Rigotti and MarioTamagno took on this task. The reddish dome of this old church is a prominent landmark on the Chao Phraya River. Then the boat passes Kanlayanamit Temple, built in the reign of King Rama III (1824-1851).

               The next place you will see is one of the most famous landmarks on the Chao Phraya River, Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn, built in Ayutthaya period. The prang is not only unique in its design, which is a blend of Khmer and Thai styles, but also in decoration. Over the brick core, a layer of plaster was applied and then decorated with bits of Chinese porcelain and glazed ceramic tiles. On the opposite side are Tha Tien pier and Wat Pho, an old 17th century temple. This temple is famous for its huge reclining Buddha and the leading center for learning traditional Thai massage.
               A little further from this point, you can catch a nice distant glimpse of the Grand Palace and the Temple of Emerald Buddha, the most famous attractions and must-see places of Bangkok. The next pier, Tha Chang, is a major pier where you may disembark to visit these two famous places and also Wat Pho. But if you travel further in the boat, turn your eyes to the left and you'll see another beautiful old temple on the bank; that is Wat Rakhang (the Bell temple). Originally built in the Ayutthaya period, the temple got this name during the reign of King Rama I, when an ancient bell was found in the temple compound.

               A few minutes later, still on the same side you'll see a group of tall buildings. It is Siriraj Hospital, the oldest and largest hospital in Thailand, founded in 1888 during the reign of King Rama V. Just opposite to the hospital is Thammasat University, whose famous Dome Building can be seen clearly from the river. Founded in 1934, it is the second oldest university in Thailand. After this point, the boat will go under Phra Pin Klao Bridge and moor at Phra Arthit pier where the route ends. From this pier, you can take a walk to Khaosan Road, a mecca for backpackers, about 1 kilometer away. Santichaiprakan Park next to the pier is also worth visiting. Local people come to relax, exercise and enjoy the river view here in the evening. You shall plan your trip carefully to ensure that you arrive at Phra Arthit pier around 5 or 6 o'clock, so you can take a leisurely stroll in the park for some time before walking to the vibrant Khaosan Road looking for a place for dinner.
               However, if the trip is a bit too exhausting and you want to opt for a more comfortable and relaxing river cruise, we recommend you to take a dinner cruise on a luxurious, modern cruise liner. There are several riverside hotels providing dinner cruises. But we'd like to recommend The Riverside Bangkok Hotel, which offers a wonderful dinner cruise that will surely give you a memorable experience of Bangkok.

Riverside Buffet Dinner Cruise

               You can enjoy beautiful night scenery along the Chao Phraya River while dining on delicious international buffet dinner with your beloved ones on the Riverside 2 cruise ship, operated by the Riverside Bangkok Hotel. Consisting of two decks, this modern ship can accommodate up to 800 passengers. The lower deck is a large, comfortable air-conditioned dining room, while the open-air upper deck provides an uninterrupted view of the Chao Phraya river. The ship has plenty of space for you to walk around and take photos. Male and female toilets are available on the upper deck.

               The 'all-you-can-eat' buffet comprises over 30 delicious dishes from Thai and international cuisine and also seafood to satisfy every appetite. Besides, there are desserts, ice creams, fresh fruits, tea and coffee, and unlimited soft drinks. While enjoying your food, you will be entertained by live music and Thai dance show.

               During the journey, you can delight in the refreshing evening breeze on the upper deck, while admiring the scenery of the river which is more beautiful and romantic on a moonlit night. And you will find that the views of the temples and buildings illuminated with lights are much more breathtaking. Thus, it provides a unique opportunity for you to take snapshots of these places. Two highlights of the cruise that you should not miss are the Rama VIII Bridge, one of the world's largest asymmetric cable-stayed bridges, and Wat Arun which are beautifully adorned with lights. The illuminated Rama VIII Bridge looks especially magnificent against the dark night sky.
               The two-hour cruise begins at Riverside Bangkok Hotel and heads to Rama 9 Bridge before returning to the hotel. The ship departs from the Riverside Hotel near Krung Thon Bridge at 7.30 p.m., but you can board the ship from 6.30 p.m. onwards.
               For more information and reservations, contact the Riverside Bangkok, Tel. (+66) 0-2883-1588, www.riversidebangkok.com.

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