KL-SIAM Road Trip Day 10 // Chao Phraya & Chinatown.
The second-last day of my never-ending road trip series and by far my favourite day, a good part of which was spent on the Chao Phraya River.
To be honest, I hadn’t gone to Bangkok with the intention of even visiting the river. We had an extra day as we had decided to take a flight back home and I was surfing online to see what other activities we could possibly engage in. I chanced upon a recommendation by some tourists regarding river tours.
Upon closer inspection, I realised that getting to the river bank is quite easy via train and there are a number of ferries that you can take to get to your destination of choice. I was sold in 5 minutes.
Best. Decision. Ever.
To reach Chao Phraya River, hop on the BTS Skytrain to Saphan Taksin Station. From there, the river is just a short walk away. There’s a little booth in front which sells tickets to the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat, which is 150Baht for unlimited journeys within a day. The only caveat is that it services piers 1 to 13. If you wish to travel further north or south on the river, there is the Chao Phraya Express Boat Services, which services up to Pier 33 up north and 4 down south. Prices vary depending on your destination and you’ll have to be discerning to get on the right boat, which bear colour coded flags.
We opted for the tourist boat as we wanted our very first experience on the river to be a relatively conservative one. We aren’t really fond of touristy undertakings, preferring to be left alone to explore at our own pace, but the guide was very helpful as he talked us through the landmarks near each pier. You are free to alight wherever you want.
And yes, there are plenty of tourists on this boat.
The Chao Phraya isn’t just a tourist attraction. It’s also a place where trade happens. Tugboats pull barges in and out, goods are delivered and the Thai people live by the river. It’s a bustling waterway.
I’m not quite sure why the river is milk tea coloured, but don’t worry, it doesn’t smell strange.
We alighted at Rachawongs (Pier 5) for Chinatown as we weren’t dressed well enough for the Grand Palace and we weren’t interested in visiting any temples. The museums are fairly expensive, so they were relatively out of our budget for this trip.
We weren’t disappointed in the slightest by Chinatown, though! There are tons of cheap souvenirs to be had for a fraction of the price compared to those sold at Chatuchak! This is also where merchants come for various goods that need to be bought in bulk (e.g. various forms of retail packaging).
I walked away with a pair of “Ray Bans” from one of the many sunglasses shops here.
Traffic as a pedestrian in Chinatown is a little daunting if you’re not used to it. Despite the fact that there are traffic lights and pedestrian crossings, motorists are usually in a ridiculous hurry. It seems like there is no good time to cross the road.
This isn’t true though, but you do need to make a decision swiftly and be gung-ho about it. Cross, and the motorists are skilful enough to avoid you. Be wise, nonetheless. If at all possible, try to stick to overhead pedestrian walkways. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any of that in Chinatown. Of course, the good stuff lines the streets.
Food here is also a lot cheaper. The bowl of fish ball beehoon soup above cost just 35Baht. It would have gone for 50Baht in the heart of town. Of course, it’s still not steep by any means, but if you’re very budget conscious, it’s a good place to go.
I would have loved to explore the river a little more, except that we didn’t pay our first visit early enough in our trip to allow for a second and third visit. It’s definitely on my list the next time I head to Bangkok!
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