If you’re traveling as a family, you want to get the most out of your travel budget. This means making lots of decisions on how and what to spend money on. You want to enjoy your trip to the fullest, yet save money wherever you can to splurge on great experiences when you come across them.
Sightseeing along the river in Bangkok is one activity which won’t require a lot of money. You’ll have a great time seeing all the world famous sights without breaking the bank. After all, the sights look just as impressive from a public water taxi as they do from a privately-hired tour boat. And while a private tour boat shows you the sights of Bangkok that suit their allocated time and agenda, with a public water taxi, your family is in charge of your route.
The Bangkok government has made it easy for visitors to save money on a riverside tour by supplying a specific line of water taxis, featuring special all-day fares. You can spend from sun-up to sunset exploring the many sights along the river for THB 100, or about US three dollars each.
We’ll tell you how to find these water taxis and suggest some sights you shouldn’t miss in your day’s sightseeing adventure along the Chao Phraya River.
Starting Your Adventure
The Silom and Sathorn areas of Bangkok are popular hotel destinations for tourists as they’re well-connected with lots of public transportation options. So, let’s start our riverside tour at the busy pier near the Silom and Sathorn areas, at the foot of Sathorn Road. It’s called Sathorn Pier and it’s the gateway to your day’s adventure.
You can reach it by taking the BTS Skytrain a couple of stops to the Saphan Taksin station and walking downstairs. The pier is just a minute’s walk from the station. You’ll notice some ticket booths at the entrance to the pier. Tell the ticket seller you want the tourist’s all-day fare for the Blue Flag line. They’ll then direct you where to go to catch the boat, as they stop at several areas along the pier.
Blue Flag Tourist Water Taxis
When you first arrive at the pier, you’ll be thankful you know what you’re looking for. There are five different public water taxi lines, as well as boats from numerous hotels, and long-tail boats that have been hired privately.
All these boats pull into the piers as passengers embark and disembark, then they all speed off to various destinations along the river. The scene is fast, noisy and chaotic if you don’t know which water taxi you should board. But just look at the flags the public water taxis are flying. The four water taxi lines all have their own designated colors (the fifth line doesn’t fly a flag). You want to board the blue flag line heading upriver, or to your right as you face the river. This will get you heading towards the “big three” sights along the river: the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and the Temple of the Dawn.
Sightseeing Along the River
Of course, this is just a suggestion. After all, you’re in charge of your day. Feel free to get off at any pier along the river. One great feature of the tourist water taxis is that the crew member announcing the stops speaks English and can name attractions that can be accessed from the various piers. This takes all the guesswork out of it and saves you wasting time getting off at the wrong pier.
Be sure to indicate beforehand if you want to get off at the upcoming pier. The crew member will announce the stop, but if no one indicates they want to get off, the boat will skip the stop and carry on.
The “Big Three”, Plus One
The three most iconic sights in Bangkok can all be accessed from the same pier. Tha Tien pier is also known as pier N8. It’s a short walk to both the Grand Palace and the popular Wat Pho with its giant reclining Buddha statue.
From this pier you can also catch a small ferry that will take you across the river to the Temple of the Dawn. It’s best to visit all three of these major tourist attractions as early in the morning as possible as they can get hot and very crowded. The Grand Palace is open from 8:30 AM. Wat Pho is open from 8 AM, and the Temple of the Dawn (Wat Arun) is also open from 8 AM.
To see an amazing part of the history of the Royal Family, take the water taxi to Tha Phra Pinklao (N12) and follow the signs to the National Museum of Royal Barges. In a nondescript, warehouse-type structure you’ll find some of the most ornate and graceful watercraft you’ve ever seen.
The largest and most impressive is the King’s personal barge. It was built in 1911, is 46 meters long, and was carved from a single tree. It’s rowed by 54 oarsmen. If you’re in Bangkok during the Tod Kathin Buddhist Festival (usually held in May), you may even get a chance to see these magnificent barges out on the river.