It’s easy to fall in love with the mighty Chao Phraya River — that major, massive rushing river that splits the city in two.
From there you can get incredible views of Wat Arun, The Grand Palace, and the stately Shangri-La and Peninsula Hotels. Or look behind you and check out the ferris wheel at Asiatique mall. Life along the river’s banks is fascinating as well. Tourists love to see seniors watering their plants on the porches of stilt houses and the restaurants and cafes that dot the banks where the city’s wealthy play.
One thing many things visitors hope to do in Bangkok is to see the city by river, which — take it from us — is much more enjoyable to take in in quiet observation, rather than be herded on to the tourist ferry, where voices shout over a loudspeaker offering (mostly unintelligible) information about the city and its culture, before being unceremoniously dumped at Wat Arun or near tourist vortex Khaosan Road.
However, to charter a longtail boat on the Chao Phraya, you often need to haggle at the piers, and many riders report having been charged anywhere from THB700 (US$21) to THB2,500 (US$75) per person. If you stay at a riverside hotel, they can arrange a boat for you at a commissioned rate, which typically works out to be around THB2,000 (US$60) for two hours. A company we found online offers one hour rides for THB600 (US$18) per person, and two-hour family rides for THB2,700 (US$81).
However, we recently discovered a little hack that just might get you a 20 minute private ride down the river for just THB100 (US$3). This worked for us on a recent afternoon but will depend on how many people are out on any given day.
On a recent Tuesday morning, we found ourselves on the notoriously hard-to-get-to Rattanakosin Island, home to the Grand Palace and Wat Po, racking our brains about how to get back downtown. There was a pier nearby, the private Riva Arun pier, but it isn’t served by public boat or ferry.
However, when we approached, a man at a desk said we could get a longtail boat ride to Sathorn Pier (the main hub that connects to BTS Saphan Taksin station) for THB100 (US$3) for groups of 6 people. Since few other options were available, we handed over THB100 (US$3) and thought we were in for a long wait as we figured at least a few other people would have to show up for the boat to leave.
Not so! A longtail pulled up a minute later and took us on a solo, 20-minute trip to Sathorn Pier. As we got in the boat, we noticed other longtails approaching the pier with just one or two people on board as well.
It’s our guess that, if you try this on a weekend, when loads of people are near the pier eating at restaurants and visiting Wat Pho and the Grand Palace, then you most certainly won’t end up getting a boat to yourself. If you can do it during a weekday, though — your chances are pretty darn good, since the river isn’t teeming with would-be riders on those days.
We felt pretty baller on that 20 minute trip, being ferried all by our lonesome up the glorious, sunny river at 10am on a Tuesday. We even almost forgot we were actually commuting to work.
Riva Arun Pier
392/25-28 Maharaj Road
THB100 per rider