The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

Bangkok river transportation on the Chao Phraya

Written By: herbrunbridge - Jun• 02•10

Chao Phraya river taxi

There are plenty of ways to go here, from basic dock-to-dock transport, to dinner cruises at dusk. 

Basic transportation 

Chao Phraya River Taxis: These fast boats ply the many piers along the big river.  Consult your map for their locations.  A quick guide to a few of the high points along the river is at the bottom of this page.  Fares begin at 6 baht, and you simply get off at your numerically-designated pier (quickly, the boat touches the pier for mere seconds to take on new passengers).  All piers have maps that list other numbered piers, along with the fare, and schedules for all three levels of service.  Plan time for your trip.  Travel from Pier one to Pier 11, for example, takes at least twenty minutes on the local service river taxi.  Do save your ticket, and you may be asked to produce it at any point.  The river taxi stops at each pier every twenty minutes in both directions, and operates from 6 am to 7:45 pm only. 

There are three levels of river taxi service, as follows:

  • Boats flying yellow flag: express service to a limited number of piers.  Fare is 15-25 baht
  • Boats flying orange flag: express service to a limited number of piers.  Fare is 10 baht
  • Boats flying blue flag (or no flag): local service, to all piers.  Fare is 6, 8, or 10 baht

The river taxi connects with BTS Skytrain Saphan Taksin station, but it’s tricky getting to the correct pier from the BTS station.  Exit the station via the left stairs, facing the river.  At the bottom of the stairs, you’ll see three piers.  The left one is a hotel shuttle (Peninsula, Marriott, and Oriental), the pier on the right is for a specific ferry that crosses the river.  The river taxi pier is the one in the middle, Sathorn Pier.  GPS for Sathorn river taxi pier: N13°43.132  E100°30.776′ 

Chao Phraya Tourist Boat:  larger than the river taxi, the Tourist Boat sells a ticket good all day for 75 baht, and runs as far north as Phra Athit pier (#13).  The boat runs from  9:30 am to 3:00 pm, and stops at each pier every half hour. 

Cross-river ferries have their own piers, adjacent to virtually river taxi every pier, and depart every few minutes for a corresponding landing across the water.

Dinner cruises

Three leave from the River City Wharf, adjacent to the Royal Orchid Sheraton, and on the river side of the River City antiques plaza. 

The Grand Pearl leaves from River City Pier 1 at 7:30 pm, and returns at 9:30.  Price is 1,100 baht, including dinner.   The Pearl ships are essentially large cabin cruisers, and have several discrete dining areas, plus good jazz musicians to accompany your cruise. 

The Chao Phraya Princess leaves River city Pier Two at 7:45 pm, and returns at 9:45.   Price, at 850 baht, is lower than the Pearl, but we’ve witnessed a real cattle-call as everyone jammed onto the Princess, and the dining situation is anything but intimate.  Unless you’re really counting money, we think the Pearl is a better value, even though you’ll pay 250 baht more.  

The Wan-Fah, which leaves River City Pier Two at 7 pm, is a luxury-style wooden boat that includes classical music along with your dinner.  Its price is 1,200 baht, and it returns at 9 pm.  Seating is less-hectic, and perhaps more intimate, than on the other two boats. 

River tours 

There are many day-only tours, here are but three: 

Bang Pa-In (Royal Summer palace) cruise (Sundays only)
Departing from Maharaj pier (near the Grand Palace) at 8 am, the Chao Phraya Express boat takes you to a crafts center, then to the elaborately decorated palace of the Chakri Dynasty.  On the return, you’ll visit an ancient Wat.  Please dress appropriately, i.e., no sleeveless tops, shorts, or sandals.  The tour ends at 6 pm. Adults 350 baht, children 250 baht.   (02) 623-6001. 

Koh Kred cruise (Sundays only)
Departing from Sathorn pier (near Taksin BTS station) at 9 am, and the Maharaj pier (near the Grand Palace) at 9:30 am, the Chao Phraya Express boat takes you to Koh Kred island, where you’ll visit a 200 year old Mon temple with exceptional plasterwork.  On the return, you’ll visit a floating market, and cruise along a khlong, viewing traditional khlong culture.  The tour ends at 3:30 pm. Adults 300 baht, children 250 baht.   (02) 623-6001. 

Ayutthaya Temples cruise
Grand Pearl offers a one-day excursion that buses you to see Ayutthaya in the cooler morning hours, then boats back to Bangkok in the afternoon, arriving at 4:30.  Price is approximately 1600 baht.  Book through your hotel or call (02) 688-6222. 

High points along the river, accessible by river taxi 

There’s lots to see, so here’s a short list of a few places that many visitors end up gravitating toward.  We’ll begin at the Taksin Bridge BTS Skytrain stop, and proceed north.  The given pier is in bold face. 

Tha Ratchawong is the gateway to Chinatown, Bangkok’s oldest shopping district, and home to over 100 gold shops (all of which close at 6 pm).  The Thai word for pier is “tha.” 

Tha Sapan Phut (Memorial Bridge) is adjacecent to Phak Khlong Talad, a market famous for colorful flower stalls, which opens at dawn.  Locals feel the best time to see the market is late at night, from 10pm to midnight, well after the river taxi has stopped, which means you’ll take a taxi or tuk-tuk.  The colors are magnificent, the scents and colors extraordinary, and you can buy a bundle of 50 roses wrapped in newspaper will cost you 30 baht (under $1).  

Tha Tien is across the river from the magnificent Wat Arun, crafted from a pastiche of mosaic and gold.  After landing at the pier, take the ferry or a longtail boat across.  On the eastern side from which you came, you may also want to visit Wat Pho, the oldest and largest temple in Bangkok, home to over 1000 Buddha images, most salvaged from the ruins of Ayutthaya and Sukhotai. 

Tha Chang Wang Luang is where you’ll find Wat Phra Kaeo and the Grand Palace, two of the more outstanding sites in Thailand.  If you have only one day in Bangkok, this is the place to spend it. 

Tha Phrannok is the departure point for Siriraj Hospital’s not-for-the-fainthearted Museum of Forensic Medicine

Tha Phra Chan is where you’ll find the National Museum.  Open W-Sun 9 am to 4 pm. 

Tha Bangkok Noi (Tha Rot Fai) is fairly close to the Royal Barges Museum, which sits in a small nook on the northern side of Khlong Bangkok Noi.  You can either take a 5 baht boat from the pier, or walk along the khlong, parallel to the railroad tracks, cross over the khlong, then meander over.  We’ll take the boat.  The Barges Museum is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm 

Tha Phra Athit is a few short blocks from Banglampoo’s Khao San Road.  Khao San is a haven for backpackers, with cheap lodgings and several excellent streetside clothing shops boasting good quality merchandise at exceptional prices.

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