Bangkok: Taking a Dinner Cruise on the River of Kings

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Cruising the River of Kings aboard the Chao Phraya Princess.

Bangkok Nightlife

Cruising up and down the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, Thailand, is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend an evening in the Thai capital. A dinner cruise combines a  sumptuous buffet meal with live entertainment, dancing, and some spectacular shoreline scenery.

I take a dinner cruise on the Chao Phraya Princess on a balmy evening.

I vow to return later to explore the sites on foot.

Cosmopolitan Throng at the Pier

The River City Pier on the shores of the Chao Phraya River was a beehive of activity when we arrived on a balmy November evening in 2010. More people seemed to be speaking Arabic and Russian than English or Thai. It was a very cosmopolitan throng.

A seemingly endless parade of well lit vessels arrived and departed, with passengers disembarking and embarking on cruises up and down the fabled waterway, which bisects the city of Bangkok.

Because it was evening, the open air decks of the boats were laden with row after row of tables covered with white linen tablecloths. The effect was very sophisticated.

Buffet Dinner

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We set sail at 7.45 pm after taking our seats at a reserved table on the Chao Phraya Princess.

Lines quickly formed at the lengthy buffet tables located at the centre of the craft.

Since we weren’t among the first, we decided to be among the last. Our host from Tristar Floating Restaurant finally suggested that we head downstairs, where another buffet table was not so crowded. The fare was reminiscent of a hotel buffet, with both Thai and international favourites.

Live Music

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There was live entertainment on both decks. The singer on our deck serenaded us with what sounded like mostly Arabic and Russian hits.

This attracted a large gathering of mostly men, who danced and clapped their hands enthusiastically. Most of their presumed spouses remained seated, watching impassively.

Bangkok vs Guangzhou

Like Bangkok, the Southern Chinese city of Guangzhou is also bisected by a river – in this case, the Pearl River. It, too, has a fleet of boats sailing up and down the waterway. But that is where the similarity ends.

The boats in Guangzhou are much smaller, they are far less stylish, the food is not as plentiful – or yummy, and the overall ambiance in considerably more down market.

The bridges you pass under in Bangkok are subtly illuminated with white lights. In Guangzhou, they are ablaze with every colour in the rainbow.

Bangkok’s Key Tourist Attractions Along the Shore

And then there are the sites along the shore. With the exception of a few shop houses and a handful of attractive stone buildings on and near Sha Mian Island, there isn’t really much to see on the Pearl River cruise.

The cruise up and down the Chao Phraya River, however, takes you past most of Bangkok’s key attractions, and most of them are beautifully illuminated at night.

There is the Grand Palace, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, the National Museum, Chinatown, the Old Farang Quarter, the list goes on. I’m planning to return by day and see if I can take in all of these sites in a whirlwind tour on foot and by water taxi. I’m allotting myself three hours to do so. We’ll see how I do. 

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