Bangkok, with a population of over eleven million inhabitants is a large city of high-rise buildings, very heavy traffic congestion and intense heat. It is one of Asia's most cosmopolitan cities with magnificent temples and palaces, authentic canals, busy markets and a vibrant nightlife that has something for everyone.
For years, it was only a small trading post at the banks of the Chao Phraya River, until King Rama I, the first monarch of the present Chakri dynasty, turned it into the capital of Siam in 1782, after the burning of Ayutthaya by Burmese invaders.
The Chao Phraya, called the River of the Kings, flows through the heart of Bangkok and bustles with activity from ferries, long-tail speed boats, sightseeing cruises, tugs pulling heavy loads and night-time dinner cruises. Unfortunately, the public ferries stop at 8pm so if you are staying in a hotel along the river, you need to make alternative travel arrangements. Some of the klongs (canals) have local passenger ferry services that cease at 8pm too.
We took a long-tail boat ride across the busy Chao Phraya River into the quieter klongs of Thonburi. Many of Bangkok’s traditional canals have been replaced by roads but in the historic Thonburi area you can still enjoy the passing scenery of weathered teak houses, stilted shacks and colonial mansions as you cruise by. There is a canal lock as you enter and leave the klong of Thornburi as the water level is below that of the Chao Phraya River to prevent flooding the houses.
Besides the water taxis on the main river, Chao Phraya, there are river taxis operating on two klongs in the heart of Bangkok. They are incredibly cheap and a quick way to travel through Bangkok. The petrol tanks are simply two exposed oil drums full of petrol!
Ocean World and Siam Centre
This is one of the largest underground aquariums in Southeast Asia, with over 30,000 curious looking creatures from various depths and aquatic regions across the globe. The displays are excellent and there are many additional activities. A Value Pack(Baht 1100) includes Aquarium, Behind the scenes tour, Glass Bottom Boat, 5D theatre, a Pepsi and popcorn (no food/drink allowed in the 5D theatre). (Take Exit 5 from the BTS Siam Station, which provides direct access to Siam Paragon.)
Riva Surya Hotel
Excellent, well decorated large rooms with excellent service and very friendly, helpful staff. The restaurant food and service was excellent. We ate there most nights. A great location on the river - we enjoyed a river view suite that overlooked the river and we spent hours during the evenings sitting on the balcony watching the boats go by - it was so interesting and relaxing. It’s a short walk to Khao San Road with its many bars/restaurants/shops. Although it is close to the ferry boat they stop at 8pm so its not very central to get to other areas in the evenings. However, it suited us much better than the skyscraper ‘chain’ hotels in the south.
Moon Bar, Banyan Tree Hotel
59th floor, open air, rooftop bar and restaurant with stunning views across Bangkok. It opens at 5pm so you can enjoy a drink whilst watching the sunset.