BANGKOK RIVERSIDE

The Chao Phraya is the major river in Thailand, with its low alluvial plain forming the centre of the country. It flows through Bangkok and then into the Gulf of Thailand.

On many old European maps, the river is named Menam or Mae Nam (Thai: แม่น้ำ), Thai for “river”. James McCarthy, F.R.G.S., who served as Director-General of the Siamese Government Surveys prior to establishment of the Royal Survey Department, wrote in his account, “Me Nam is a generic term, me signifying “mother” and Nam “water,” and the epithet Chao P’ia signifies that it is the chief river in the kingdom of Siam.”

H. Warington Smyth, who served as Director of the Department of Mines in Siam from 1891 to 1896, refers to it in his book first published in 1898 as “the Me Nam Chao Phraya”.

In the English-language media in Thailand, the name Chao Phraya River is often translated as river of kings.

The Chao Phraya begins at the confluence of the Ping and Nan rivers at Nakhon Sawan (also called Pak Nam Pho) in Nakhon Sawan Province. After this it flows south for 372 kilometres (231 mi) from the central plains to Bangkok and the Gulf of Thailand. In Chai Nat, the river then splits into the main course and the Tha Chin River, which then flows parallel to the main river and exits in the Gulf of Thailand about 35 kilometres (22 mi) west of Bangkok in Samut Sakhon. In the low alluvial plain which begins below the Chainat Dam, there are many small canals (khlong) which split off from the main river. The khlongs are used for the irrigation of the region’s rice paddies.

The rough coordinates of the river are 13 N, 100 E. This area has a wet monsoon climate, with over 1,400 millimetres (55 in) of rainfall per year. Temperatures range from 24 to 33 °C (75 to 91 °F) in Bangkok.

Asiatique is on Charoen Krung Road in Bangkok’s Bang Kho Laem District, facing the Chao Phraya River. It occupies 30 rai (4.8 hectares (12 acres)) of land, with plans for future expansion to include a total of 72 rai (11.52 hectares (28.5 acres)) of mixed-use development. The mall, featuring a historical theme from the period of King Chulalongkorn‘s reign (1868–1910), operates as an open-air night market. It features 1,500 shops and stalls and 40 restaurants, most of which are housed in the former warehouses. Other historical buildings and objects include an old sawmill and a World War II bomb shelter. There is an parking lot tram designed to look like a car from Bangkok’s former tram system, and the site is decorated with bronze statues representing maritime activity.

The mall’s layout is divided into four thematic sections, called districts. Chareonkrung [sic] District is named after Charoen Krung Road, and contains performing venues for the Joe Louis Traditional Thai Puppet Theatre, the Calypso Cabaret show and live Muay Thai performances, as well as shops selling handicrafts and souvenirs. Town Square District features foreign restaurants and sports bars, and includes a small event space. Factory District focuses on trendy fashions, products and restaurants. Waterfront District lies along Asiatique’s waterfront promenade—claimed to be Bangkok’s longest at 300 metres (980 ft)—and includes several riverside restaurants, a large event space used for concerts, festivals and New Year celebrations, and Asiatique Sky, the tallest Ferris wheel in Bangkok at 60 metres (200 ft).

Asiatique opened on 27 April 2012, and has been observed to fulfil a replacement role for the previously popular Suan Lum Night Bazaar, which had closed down in 2010. Access is by road (with a parking capacity of 2,000 cars) or by boat, with shuttle services from Sathon Pier. It is managed by Riverside Masterplan Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of TCC Land

Bangkok’s Riverside is home to some of the best restaurants in town, many of which take advantage of the cool breezes, sumptuous views across the water and sit in ideal spots next to the Chao Phraya River’s many piers and luxury hotels. The stretch of the river really offers a great escape from Bangkok’s often oppressive traffic and inner-city stuffiness. Hugging the banks of the Chao Phraya River you’ll find old temples, wooden houses and old buildings and warehouses as well as a whole host of stunning hotels offering great river views.

With its non-descript entrance and out-of-the-way location tucked away beside the Chao Phraya River, Steve Cafe and Cuisine well and truly fell into Bangkok’s list of ‘hidden gems’ when it first opened in 2012. But it seems like anything that has the label ‘hidden gem’ slapped on it in Bangkok can only remain hidden for so long, especially when word of mouth spreads and quality of food remains consistent. Now, with Steve Cafe gets packed out most nights drawing in locals, expats and tourists with their delightful views, tasty Thai menu and quaint little dining space.  This riverside restaurant of course delivers on the picturesque views, but the crowds don’t just flock for that reason alone. All dishes are fresh, and the menu has an emphasis on both classic Thai as well as some more unusual offerings from around The Kingdom.

To find it, take a boat to Dhevet Pier and walk towards Thevarakunchong Temple

Opening Hours: 11:30 – 23:00

Address: 68 Sri Ayudhaya Road, Soi Sri Ayudhaya 21, Bangkok Tel: +66 (0) 81 868 0744

Fine Cantonese food and a refined dining atmosphere are the real hallmarks of renowned Mei Jiang Restaurant, which sits on the ground floor of The Peninsula Hotel next to Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River. Just like the whole hotel, this restaurant presents some rather stylish surroundings and you’ll rarely hear a bad word said about their delectable signature dim sum dishes. Although set inside, the large full-length windows looking out over a garden and the majestic Chao Phraya River offer a spectacular view to enjoy whilst tucking into your lunch or dinner. Aside from their dim sum, other tantalising offerings include roast duck, deep fried snow fish with salt and chilli, and the tenderloin beef with pepper paste.

Opening Hours: 12:00 – 14:30, 18:30 – 22:30

Address: 333 Charoennakorn Road
 Tel: +66 (0) 2 861 2888

Situated in the Garden Wing of The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, its full a la carte French menu specialises in exemplary seafood and meat dishes, although there’s always an alternative but no less exquisite set menu, both at lunchtime and dinner. Not cheap but well worth splashing out for a special occasion.

Opening Hours: Lunch 12:00 – 14:00; Dinner 19:00 – 22:00 (Closed Sunday)

Address: Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, 48 Oriental Avenue Tel: +66 (0)2 659 9000 ext 7390-4

The Sky Bar at the Lebua State Tower is more than another rooftop bar in Bangkok. It is a holiday experience in itself, an iconic building (helped in no small part by the popular Hangover II movie) and a Bangkok must-see attraction etched firmly into the travel itinerates of visitors from all over the world.  Whilst now a little overcrowded – and in the opinion of some – over commercialised, the Sky Bar at Lebua State is still consistently named as one of the top-10 rooftop bars, not just in Thailand or Asia, but in the whole world. So what sets it apart from the rest? Perched 63 storeys up, the views over downtown Bangkok, the Chao Phraya River and across to the suburbs are hard to beat. You’ll also find a stunning central dome, a luxurious menu prepared by some of the most recognised chefs in town and a sumptuous range of cocktails and wines. Expect a hefty price tag and don’t forget to dress smart.

Opening Hours: 18:00 – 00:00

Location: The Dome at Lebua, Silom Road, Bangrak, Bangkok, Thailand, 10500 Tel: +66 (0)2 624 9555

Most visitors to Bangkok have heard that the iconic Wat Arun on the riverside is also known as ‘The temple of Dawn’, but the best time to capture its beauty is at sunset. And the best place to witness the sun disappearing precisely behind the monument is from the balcony of ‘Arun Residence’, a great restaurant located right across the Chao Phraya River. For this exact reason, the hard to find Arun Residence is now an increasingly popular restaurant and reserving a table has become necessary. Serving an excellent Thai food, it’s the perfect place to dine with friends on a trip to Bangkok, or even for a romantic tete a tete. The restaurant is quite narrow but there is plenty of space over the three floors and wooden terrace. Unfortunately, a large boat often parks in front and although it doesn’t really obstruct the view, it doesn’t looks very good in a photo.

Luckily there is a way to get that irresistible sunset photo. The secret is to climb to the top floor bar and enjoy a drink before dinner. Open entirely on the side facing the temple of dawn, the bar is very cosy and the view from up there is simply breathtaking. As the sun slowly drifts down right behind Wat Arun, creating a gigantic shadow play, everyone suddenly becomes quiet and all cameras get busy. Once the sun has disappeared, don’t go yet as the best is still to come. Order a second drink and take the time to enjoy the declining light between twilight and dusk as the sky displays an ever-changing palette of colours as drifting dinner cruise boats adding their festive lights to the exotic atmosphere. When sky becomes dark it’s time for dinner and you can move to the table you wisely booked in advance. At this point the view is not as important as the idea of a nice dinner and the breeze adds a nice touch to the riverside ambiance.

Food at Arun Residence is prominently Thai, elaborate without being too sophisticated, it definitely keeps an authentic Thai flavour and some dishes can be spicy. As we did on one of our many visits, you can start with some fried frog legs with peppercorn, it is always more fun to order unusual things and experience a different taste of Thailand. Try also their great pomelo salad, (an overgrown grapefruit) an interesting combination of sour, spicy and delicately sweet. Follow with a nice mushroom salad and duck confit with green apple, but make sure you keep some space for the famous mango sticky rice. Found at the end of a small soi (a lane) in the old city, Arun Residence is not easily accessible; the only way is by car or better by taxi as parking can be scarce. Since it is located precisely behind the famous Grand Palace, it is the perfect way to end an afternoon spent exploring Wat Prakaew and Wat Pho.

Opening Hours: Mon – Thurs 11:00 am 10:00 pm, Fri – Sun 11:00 am 11:00 pm (top floor bar opens 5.30pm)
Location: 36-38 Soi Pratoo Nok Yoong, Maharat Road
Tel: 02 221 9158
How to get there: There are no BTS in this area so to get there, taxi is the best way.

The 360 bar at Millennium Hilton is my point of view possibly one of the best rooftop bars in Bangkok but surprisingly one of the least known about. 31 floors might not be as high as some famous buildings in the city, but what the Hilton lacks in stature, it more than makes up with a view that surpasses almost all other rooftops. The bar consists of two distinct areas: One is a large rectangular open air space covering the entire middle part of this tall riverside building, and the other part, as the name suggests, is an amazing 360 degrees cupola balanced one floor above. It really looks like a gigantic flying saucer has landed on the edge of the Millennium Hilton tower and the views from this indoor panoramic bar are fantastic.

Surprisingly the 360 panoramic bar is often quite empty. People seem to be intimidated by the luxury of the Hilton, which they often associate with expensive drinks. Interestingly many would flock and pack with no hesitation at the Sky Bar at Lebua across the river where prices are very similar if not higher than the Hilton. Millennium Hilton is laid back yet feels sophisticated and the easiest way to enjoy the early evening is to first sit at one of the comfortable sofas on the open rooftop and contemplate the views on each side of the tower… It’s a great feeling to relax above a frantic city while enjoying some great wines and soft music, getting a childish satisfaction in being on top of the world.

The sun sets in the back of the building and doesn’t offer a great photo opportunity in itself, but the ever-changing colors of the sky are a fascinating spectacle. The wines and cocktails complement the mood and with a drinks list as long as your arm, there is plenty to pick from. If price appears high, don’t worry, the servings are generous, meaning you’ll only need one or two to enjoy an evening here. On certain days you can even treat your loved one to a luxury rooftop picnic with a picnic hamper full of treats prepared by a chef, using great ingredients, fois gras and imported meats and cold cuts (1,800 baht ++). This is of course should be accompanied with Champagne, perfect to surprise your partner with a very unusual evening. On special days such as Valentine’s, it is even a unique spot to admire the fireworks on the river, just pretend you are the one who organized it. Never fails to impress.

Opening Hours: 17:00 – 01:00
Address: Millennium Hilton Bangkok, 32nd floor, 123 Charoennakorn Road, Klongsan
Tel: +66 (0)2 442 2000
Dress Code: Smart Casual