The Chao Phraya River (แม่น้ำเจ้าพระยา), which collects the Nan and Ping Rivers in Central Thailand and runs 372 kilometres south to empty into the Gulf of Thailand, is the life-blood of the City of Angels. When Bangkok was established as the Capital of Thailand in 1782, most activity was conducted along the Chao Phraya River and the network of canals that intersected the city. Many of these canals are still in use as transportation routes today, and warehouses and shophouses (which seem old enough to date from those early times!) often open onto the canals or the river rather than the streets. Day or night, there is no better way to see the life of the city than by boat.
I love being on the river. The regular ferry system joins neatly with our SkyTrain and provides convenient, fast and cheap access to points all along the river. Tourists can explore the klongs (canals) or travel up- or down-river by basic long-tail boat or fancy tour boat. Dinner cruises, whether on large ships or converted wooden rice barges, are a great way to enjoy the night lights of the city.
So, there could be no better way to ring in the New Year than by cruising in style on the “River of Kings” – where ancient shophouses rub shoulders with modern executive apartments; where modest boat piers and markets vie for space amongst the high-rise hotels and luxury shopping centres; where the gridlocked traffic is kept at bay, at an elegant distance, on one of the many bridges spanning the water.
Strictly speaking, “Chao Phraya” means “Noble General of High Rank”, but the river has been dubbed the “River of Kings”, and that has a much better ring to it! Certainly, it is a river fit for kings and all the Kings of the current Chakri dynasty have made extensive use of it, often via the ceremonial Royal Barges. Our somewhat more mundane transport was still a great place to launch 2011.
Wishing you and yours safe travels in 2011.