A little splurging was in order during our recent trip to Bangkok. It was Tiernan’s first visit to the city so I decided to help it make a fancy first impression. What could be more romantic than gently bobbing up the Chao Phraya River at sunset as courses of delicious Thai food are bestowed upon your table?
The Chao Phraya River is the heart of Bangkok city. Its gentle meander flows from Nakhon Sawan and out into the Gulf of Thailand, passing by the postcard perfect temples of Wat Arun, Wat Pho and the Grand Palace. A cruise is a great way to take in those breathtaking views in style.
// Choosing a Cruise
There are two options for dinner cruises on the Chao Phraya. The first option involves a buffet comprising of modern and Thai cuisine which you help yourself to as you slide across the water on a modern boat. Expect two decks of seating and a meal accompanied by live popular music or jazz. The price per person is in the range of ฿1,100-1,500 (€29-40).
Chao Phraya Princess Cruises
This fleet of floating restaurants have a consistently good reputation on Trip Advisor. They gear their cuisine and entertainment to the clientele, which could be a double-edged sword. If you’re looking for a mix of food options, or something a little closer to home (say continental or Indian) then this may suit you. Bring your dancing shoes. Cruise lasts upwards of 3 hours.
Alternatively, you can board a traditional rice barge to enjoy a set menu with table service. The per head price can range from ฿1,400-฿2,400 (€37-64) or more.
Apsara Dinner Cruise by Banyan Tree
Banyan Tree Resorts provide a tasteful, well-presented version of the rice barge dinner cruise. Like other rice barge cruises, this service is waited on. A little pricier, but by all accounts worth it for the service and intimate atmosphere. Cruise lasts 2 hours.
We chose to go with Loy Nava for our first every Chao Phraya dinner cruise. They have a range of convenient, riverside pick up option, produce a delicious spread of traditional Thai dishes (perfect for sharing), all the while you are serenaded with live music and dancing (also in a traditional style). There are different price brackets depending if you want to pre-purchase drinks. Cruise lasts a maximum of 2 hrs.
// What to expect from a Rice Barge cruise
We stepped on the Loy Nava rice barge at Taskin pier and were immediately greeted by smiles and flowers. Our table, positioned right behind the driver, was covered in a beautiful red, embroidered tablecloth and lit with tea candles. An array of hors d’oeuvres including Gai Satay (chicken skewers) and Nok Grata Num Chim Yam (quail egg) was already waiting for us, temptingly presented. Naturally, we were delighted.
From Taskin pier we motored off to Sri Phraya pier to pick up the rest of the guests. We had booked at the lower end of the price bracket so drinks were not included. No sooner had we picked a glass of New Zealand white from the wine list when it was presented to us (at an additional cost of ฿600).
The dishes began to fly thick and fast. Once everyone was on the boat and hors d’oeuvres dishes cleared away, a vegetable soup was served. This was followed by the five entree-sized main courses with both white and brown rice (trust me, entree size was more than enough). I was enraptured with the Gaeng Kee-aow Wahn Gai (green curry) – my favourite dish in the world.
All the while, traditional music was being played at the front of the boat. It actually took us a while to notice it was live because it was so calming and unintrusive. Likewise, inconspicuous dancers made their way down the aisle between tables. This was all very much the background noise to the lovely dinner and conversation amongst ourselves. One of the main criticisms we had heard for this cruise was that the music and dancing was all a bit bland, but we never felt it was the main focus. The focus was very much the food and the atmosphere of being on the floodlit river.
It’s not a guided tour. The only thing they pointed out was the Grand Palace which seemed to be more out of respect – something the Thai people are full of. Particularly in light of the recent passing of King Bhumibol Adulyadej Rama IX who is actively commemorated in memorials throughout Thailand as part of recent Month of Mourning.
Unfortunately, they were not able to drop us at the same pier they had collected us from. However they did offer a free shuttle, but we chose to take a short walk back to our hostel.
// How to get to the Loy Nava cruise
Loy Nava provides multiple embarkation options.
- Complimentary pick up/drop off service to select hotels
- Sri Phraya Express Boat Pier (next to the Sheraton Royal Orchid hotel)
- Pier pickups from the Millenium and Peninsula hotels
- Taskin Bridge Hotel Shuttle Boat Pier
Staying in a hostel, we fell into pick-up option number 4. In the early evening, we took the BTS (Skytrain) to Saphan Taskin, which disembarks right above the pier Loy Nava will collect you from – marked Central Pier/Sathon (Taskin) on the map. Descending the stairs from the Skytrain, looking towards the river, you will see the public boat pier on the right of the bridge and a series of piers to the left of it.
The pier you want is immediately before you. A small sign with the Sheraton hotel logo denotes it as the Hotel Shuttle Boat Pier and the rapid comings and goings of boats flagged as Millenium, Peninsula, and other big name hotels, gives it away as the right pier. A blue ATM/money exchange kiosk stands before it. Wait there for a man in white shirt and burnt orange silk trousers to appear, check you in and lead you on to the boat.
If you’ve been on a dinner cruise before let us know about it in the comment section below? Did you enjoy the experience? Would you recommend it to a friend? Feel free to leave links to your own posts.
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Last updated: 4 January 2017 – We are unable to regularly update pricing. Please confirm with your cruise provider. We weren’t paid for this post or asked for a review. It’s just an anecdote from our own experience 🙂