Ultimate Chao Phraya River Guide
Bangkok has always been a water-oriented city from its ancient past until present day and the mighty Chao Phraya River has been the main route of the city. The Chao Phraya River is known as the “Venice of the East” and is the main water thoroughfare where you can visit the fabulous monuments and temples of this magnificent city.
You’ll see a real juxtaposition of old and new, high rises and uber trendy hotels along with smaller water villages and wooden sampans selling inexpensive food to working locals along the riverfront area.
This is a fantastic way to enjoy Bangkok from a water view and really soak in the vibe of this vibrant and active river area.
A little history about the Chao Phraya River
In ancient times, the mighty Chao Phraya River was and is still a very important waterway for Central Thailand. Made up of four major tributaries of the Wang, Yom, Ping and Nan Rivers which come from the mountain areas of Northern Thailand. The river is significant to many who commute by river, live in local water-based communities and their livelihoods and way of life is still tied to the river.
The Chao Phraya also called the Maenam is the main river of Thailand. Flowing along the central plains over 225 miles into Bangkok and then out into the Gulf of Thailand, the river is vital to agriculture, commerce and also tourism.
The river has been used as a source of drainage, irrigation, water usage, fishing, recreation and transportation.
In 1782, King Rama I found the eastern parts of the river more desirable and created the major temples and the establishment of Modern-day Bangkok. He named the Chao Phraya the “River of Kings” due to its being the daily lifeblood of Bangkok and the surrounding areas.
Major Monuments along the Chao Phraya River
Many of Bangkok’s most important monuments and attractions lie on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, making a cruise down this river a photographers dream to see and capture the various monuments from a water vantage point.
The four most important attractions that you can see and visit along the banks of the river includes:
The Grand Palace, Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and Wat Arun. These major monuments are easy to get to with stops along the river to access the sites directly.
Check out this guided three temple tour of the main temples to visit in Bangkok here for more information and booking a tour.
How to get around the Chao Phraya River on their ferries
An extensive and inexpensive ferry system stops at the many concentrated areas of tourism and commercial centers around the river. You can easily find where the stops are with detailed signage in English to show where the stops are and prices.
There are five public boat lines operated by the Chao Phraya Express boat Company. They are the ‘Local line’, ‘Yellow’, ‘Blue’, ‘Orange’ and ‘Green – Yellow’.
The local line stops at every one of the 34 piers.
The Orange line is only 15 baht runs all day and weekends.
The other lines are express lines and you can view the stops from the main website calendar. These tend to just operate until 9am and start again after 4pm.
There are cross river ferries that you can also take inexpensively to cross to the next location across the river.
You can buy tickets directly at the pier or once you are on the boat. Here is a timetable that you can check to see what boats are arriving at your pier. There are many ferries and faster ferries that run regularly from 6am to 9pm.
Fun things to do on the Chao Phraya River
Cruise on the ferry systems
This inexpensive way of transport along the Chao Phraya is a great way to see and enjoy Bangkok from a water viewpoint.
The ferries are ongoing all day and easy to hop on and off depending on if you are looking to visit monuments, shopping or enjoy some of the unique coastal communities here.
Chao Phraya ‘Tourist Boats’
There is a hop on hop off type of tourist boats that ply the waters and run every 30 minutes to the 9 prominent piers on a flat daily rate. This is a better deal with less hassle if you plan on visiting many sites along the river and suited to your schedule.
Visit the historic Monuments along the Chao Phraya
You can travel inexpensively and check out the national monuments here and enjoy the fun views and visit these historic sites. All located on the eastern side of the river, the monuments have easy water access to each of these particular sites.
Check out this guided three temple tour of the main temples to visit in Bangkok here for more information and booking a tour.
The Grand Palace
The main Palace of Bangkok called the Grand Palace is open for the public to visit and the royal structure and compound is quite dazzling to visit. Built in 1782, the grand palace was the royal residence to many of the royal families of Thailand and visitors of heads of state to the palace.
For less hassle and an actual guided tour of the palace and Wat Phra Kaew close by, check out this half day tour of both sites here and other attractions that you will see along the way. You’ll learn so much more with this guided tour and the important things to see and understand about visiting both of these historic sites.
Location: Na Phra Lan Road, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon
Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)
Just south of the Grand palace is Wat Pho which is the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. The oldest temple in Bangkok, Wat Pho was built by Rama l and is considered a place of healing. The site is Thailand’s first university and also pharmacy and you can actually visit the site and also get a Thai or foot massage on the traditional medical school located on the premises.
The main attraction at Wat Pho is the Reclining Buddha with a golden statue that is long 45 meters long and 15 meters high. The soles of the Buddhas feet are inlaid with precious stone and the elongate ears that symbolize a noble birth.
Address: 2 Sanamchai Road, Grand Palace Subdistrict, Pranakorn District
Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha)
Wat Phra Kaew is known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha which is located on the grounds of the Grand Palace. Noted for being one of the most sacred temples in Thailand, this temples contains a carved out buddha made of bright green jade.
Sitting at this historic site, the jade buddha has been placed at this altar since 1784 and is the most visited relic with pilgrims and visitors to the site. The small sized buddha traveled all around Southeast Asia from India to Sri Lanka, Cambodia and then to Laos and eventually to Thailand as one of the spiritual treasures of Rama l who move it from Ayutthaya to Bangkok to build this temple and make a permanent home for the Emerald Buddha.
When the Kingdom of Ayutthaya fell from the Siamese invasions, General Taksim was forced to go south to the fertile lands of Bangkok known then as Thonburi. This temple was his pledge to create a Temple of Dawn and eventually where the new king built his royal palace, temple and compound.
Address: Arun Amarin Road, Bangkok
Visit to the Temple of the Golden Buddha
For a different spin on visiting the Temple of the Golden Buddha, why not add a culinary experience on this fun combo tour here for a guided food tour and visit to the famous temple.
Other cool places to visit along the Chao Phraya River
Go on a smaller canal cruise
You can explore the river areas by hiring a long-tail boat usually will take you on trips down the city’s canals and water communities. This is definitely the best way to travel and visit some of the unique and smaller river communities surrounding Bangkok and not as well known as a tourist destination.
Check out the details to doing a long tail boat experience through the canals here for more information and booking your trip.
Cruise all the way to the ancient capital of Ayutthaya
The ancient capital of Ayutthaya is more scenic via the Chao Phraya without the traffic. This is one of the easy and fun ways to explore the ancient temples and enjoy a cruise there at the same time.
Once you arrive to the ancient capital you note that many of the ancient temples are mostly ruined from the various wars but they are still significant to see in their ruined state. With this river cruise and tour of the temples, you’ll get a fantastic guide to show you some of the more historic and interesting temples to visit in the temple area.
Check out the details to doing a cruise to ancient Ayutthaya here for more information and booking your trip.
Visit the floating markets of Bangkok
The floating markets of Bangkok are very well known from the more touristy Damnoen Saduak market to several less known and more basic types of markets that are truly authentic. There are six floating markets around the Bangkok area to visit which are open all day long
Here are the different markets you can easily explore from taking the ferries on the Chao Phraya River.
Check out the details to doing a floating market tour here for more information and booking your trip.
Damnoen Saduak market
This is the longest running market in Bangkok and unfortunately very touristy. It is also located about 100km from Bangkok so not as easy to get to as the more local floating markets.
Check out the details to doing a Damnoen Saduak market tour here for more information and booking your trip.
Location: Damnoen Saduak, Ratchaburi 70130, Thailand
Ammphawa floating Market
Amphawa is a very popular floating market in Thailand but also further out and located 90 km south-west of Bangkok. You’ll find everything here from souvenirs, snacks and desserts, street food and local fruits and vegetables for sale. Just like Damnoen Saduak, it is also very far and busy at this market and quite touristy in general
Location: Amphawa, Samut Songkhram 75110, Thailand
Khlong Lat Mayhom
Located in the downtown general area this is really a local market that sells a variety of local food items, fruits and vegetables with a few floating vendors and most being sold on regular stalls in the market area. Because of the inland location, there’s no option to visit this market through a longtail boat but because of the area, it is relatively easier to get to .
Location: 15-30/1 Bang Ramat Rd, Bang Ramat, Taling Chan, Bangkok 10170, Thailand
Centrally located in Bangkok and about 12km from downtown Bangkok, this market is open all day long and a good combination of floating market and regular stall venors with a large attached market in the area. You can take a small longtail boat cruise to these Khlongs (canals) to get a glimpse of an actual working floating market in the area.
Location: Village No 15, 30/1 Bang Ramat Rd, Bang Ramat, Taling Chan, Bangkok 10170, Thailand
Tha Kha Floating Market
Located to the larger Damneon Saduak market, this market is smaller is size with not as many tourist visiting but the local vibe and authentic nature of this market definitely hit all the right marks. You’ll find Thais from all age groups in their rowboats selling vegetables, fruits, local foods and sweets to go and most of the visitors shopping are also local in their rowboats, making this a really unique and authentic floating market experience.
Location: Tha Kha, Amphawa, Samut Songkhram 75110, Thailand
Bang Nam Pheung floating market
A relatively small market but close to central Bangkok, this market is about 20 km from the central district. There are the usual fruits, vegetables and snacks and local foods to see and experience at this market, but the typical floating part of it is more limited to permanent land fixtures of the market itself.
Sunset and dinner cruises
You can enjoy a more relaxed river cruise with a dining experience. This is a fantastic way to cap off an active and fun day exploring Bangkok with dinner and sunset on the river.
Check out the details to doing a river dining cruise here for more information and booking your trip.
Other cool attractions accessed from Chao Phraya piers
You can visit these interesting neighborhoods or Soi from the Chao Phraya piers to these cool places to visit along the riverfront area or a close walk to these attractions.
The old Westerner Quarter of Bangkok houses European styled architecture, the stately Oriental Hotel and antique shops. You can get off at the Oriental pier
This fun area is where you will see people feed the catfish with scraps of bread. You can also visit Dusit and a fun wet market close by. You can get off at Thewet pier.
Pat Khlong Flower Market
This very colorful area is a fun place to explore in the morning. You’ll find an amazing array of vendors selling tropical flowers and other exotic plants, fruits, vegetable and other goods for sale.
Exit river pier at Rajinee.
Phra Arthit Road
Running parallel to the Chao Phraya River, this street is lined with cool shops, bars, restaurants and cool hang out spots. You’ll find a lot of entertainment venues, live music and the artsy vibe here to explore and enjoy.
The exit pier for this area is at Phra Arthit Pier.
More details to visiting along the Chao Phraya River
You can see a lot of cool things and attractions along the Chao Phraya River. Here are some more tips to traveling along the river area.
Avoid traveling by ferry during the rush hours
Try to avoid traveling during the busy rush hour periods in the morning before 9am and after 4pm. It will be very busy on the ferries.
Be aware of the crowds and your belongings
Be aware of people around you and take care of your possessions like in any big city environments.
Have a phone translation app handy
Make sure you have an app translator on your phone if you have any questions about places to visit along the way.
Check out these other cool posts on visiting Bangkok here
A visit to Bangkok’s Chinatown district
Conclusion to visiting the Chao Phraya River
Thanks for checking out this post on the Chao Phraya River, it really should be on your list of worthwhile places to visit here in Bangkok.
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I love Thailand and visited it a few times, and I also did a Chao Phraya River cruise, as it offers spectacular photo opportunities! You provide excellent tips on organizing such a trip and what to see and do! Your pictures are great!
I agree the views and attractions from a water view on the Chao Phraya River is one of the best ways to see the main sites around Bangkok
Thank you for all of the great tips. I have Thailand on my bucket list and will definitely use this as a reference.
Yes, you will love visiting Thailand and the Chao Phraya is definitely a must do in Bangkok.
I have never been to Thailand but would love to one day. I love the idea of visiting floating markets, this would be such an unforgettable experience! The cruise tours also are such a cool way to explore too. I’ll put Chao Phraya river on my list for when I visit the country.
The Chao Phraya is perfect for visiting floating markets and visiting the many attractions on the waterfront areas
Wow! The architecture that you see from the river looks fantastic. Thank you for adding another adventure to my list!
The Chao Phraya River along the Banks of Bangkok are rich with historic and cultural treasures worth seeing from a water viewpoint.
I love being on the water especially when visiting a new destination. It gives you an entirely different perspective. It’s great how they offer tourists boats that you can hop on and off of. I’m sure this would be a lot less crowed than navigating through the streets.
There’s lots of options to touring the Chao Phraya river and enjoying different perspectives with a water view.