Acity of 9 million, Thailand’s capital is majestic, chaotic and intriguing. Once newcomers have recovered from the initial shock of the heat and the traffic, they discover an array of treasures, from spectacular temples huddling beneath glass skyscrapers to extraordinary cuisine. But perhaps the greatest pleasure is just sitting beside the Chao Phraya River, watching the endlessly fascinating life of this colorful waterway. Stately rice barges make their way down to the Gulf of Thailand alongside purple rafts of water hyacinth, while brightly painted “longtail” water taxis forge upstream in a welter of spray.
Manohra Cruises has assembled a fleet of old rice barges and transformed them into beautifully appointed ships that operate on the Chao Phraya River. The company offers both breakfast and dinner cruises, but we prefer the latter, in order to enjoy the sunset and the lights of the city glittering on the water.
Manohra Cruises, operated by Anantara, has assembled a fleet of old rice barges and transformed them into beautifully appointed deep-hulled hardwood ships that operate on the Chao Phraya River. The company offers both morning and evening “floating dining journeys.” Opt for the latter, in order to enjoy the sunset and the lights of the city glittering on the water. On Saturday evenings, Manohra serves a four-course dinner by the chef Thitid "Ton" Tassanakajohn of Michelin-starred Le Du restaurant. Private dinner-cruise charters are also available,
You will no doubt hear the name Jim Thompson while in Bangkok. You can visit his original shop and come away laden, as we did, with exquisite pillow covers, scarves and shirts. An architect by training, Thompson created a beautiful home that has now been converted into a museum housing the late James H.W. Thompson’s incredible Asian art collection. We also highly recommend braving the River City Mall in order to visit Darlene, a delightful handicraft shop with intricate woodcarvings, charming animal marionettes and lovely silk scarves in a rainbow of hues.
One of the great spectacles of the world is a Royal Barge Procession in Bangkok, held for auspicious ceremonies and on state occasions, when members of the royal family are transported on the Chao Phraya River. A string of 52 magnificent crafts shaped like swans and other mythical creatures and powered by more than 2,200 rowers take part in this display. Eight of the most striking are on exhibit at the Royal Barges Museum.