Thailand’s Enchanted Waterfront Destinations

For centuries, waterways have been the lifeblood of Thailand. They provide fertile land along river banks, essential irrigation sources for a myriad of crops including the staple of rice, essential transportation routes for people and food and are the cradle of many ancient cultural rituals. Today Thailand’s waterways continue their timeless roles, although with much larger towns and cities that draw both local and international tourists with an array of timeless historical and cultural attractions and a new vibrancy of boutique hotels, eateries and excursions that showcase local culture and traditions.

Bangkok and The River of Kings

The Chao Phraya River personifies the rich culture and heritage of central Thailand, a convergence of 4 rivers flowing from the north through 10 provinces of Thailand. The river winds through 372 kilometers in the central plains and continues to be the heart of Bangkok before reaching the Gulf of Thailand.

The Chao Phraya that meanders through Bangkok is spectacularly rich in history, tradition with its banks dotted by ancient temples, royal palaces, princely mansions and more recently Bangkok’s world famous riverside hotels and residences.

The Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and Wat Arun - The Temple of the Dawn are 3 of the capitals most stunning monuments. Wat Pho, The Temple of the Reclining Buddha adjacent to The Grand Palace, hosts the third largest reclining Buddha in Thailand and is the source of training for authentic Thai massage, one of the best ways to relax during a sightseeing tour.

The many canals that branch off the river are the gateways to numerous communities that still depend on water as the primary means of transportation. These communities provide insight to many Thai traditions and water-based living which continue to thrive today. The Taling Chan Floating Market, Museum Siam and Orchid Farm are popular stops on long-tail boats that can be chartered to explore these fascinating neighborhoods.

Upstream from central Bangkok is Ko Kret, an island in the Chao Phraya River where its Mon inhabitants have for centuries crafted their distinctive clay pottery and continue their craft that remains much sought after. Downstream is Bang Kachao, another island that is known as the green lung of Bangkok, which is sparsely inhabited and ideal for a day of cycling on small winding roads through small villages.

At nighttime the riverside remains alive and pulsing with traditional markets, the most famous of which is the Pak Khlong Talad, or the Flower Market where flowers and plants from across the Kingdom arrive for sale. It is the largest flower market in Thailand and one of Bangkok’s most colorful and frenetic spectacles not to be missed. Entertainment and shopping venues abound along the banks of the river, along with nightly dinner cruises to fit almost any budget.

When exploring the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, boats are the only way to go. River ferries have scheduled service and stops for an opportunity to travel with the locals, Hop On, Hop Off tours are a relatively new option, or chartering a private long tail or modern yacht are all possible.

When in Bangkok reserve time for The River of Kings and enjoy a waterway that continues to be the heart of the city for tradition, history and today, innovative in every way.

Samut Songkhram
Gateway to the Gulf

Samut Songkhram, 70 kilometers south of Bangkok, straddles the Mae Klong River at its estuary on the Gulf of Thailand. It is a colorful and interesting day trip from the capital, the best way to get there is by train on the Mahachai Line from Wong Wian Yai Station on the Thonburi side of the river. The train will take you straight to the Samut Songkhram with an unusual spectacle at the Mae Klong Railway Market, a local wet market literally on the tracks. When the signal of the arriving train rings, vendors will rush to clear all goods that obstruct the coming train, and once passed everything goes back to its place. This exciting unseen market is also called ‘Rom Hoop’ in Thai, in English ‘umbrella closing’ that is utterly unique to Samut Songkhram.

In this tiny but vibrant city there are at least 5 authentic floating markets; Amphawa, Tha Kha, Don Manora, Bang Noi, Bang Nok Khwaek, some more than 100 years old. The most popular is Amphawa Floating Market awash with wooden sampans with each vendor selling a single ware, fresh vegetables, flowers, household goods, noodles and local dishes all served straight from the boat.

One of tourists’ popular spots is Don Hoi Lot – named for the abundant indigenous razor clams, which is the pristine sandbar at the mouth of Mae Klong River. And if you are historical lover, the trip will not be complete without visiting Wat Bang Kung, the unseen ancient temple which almost entirely wrapped in the roots of a banyan tree. Also, Bang Kung area is the site of a major battle during Thai-Burmese war in 1767.

the Jewel of the South East

Trat is Thailand’s eastern-most province with neighboring Cambodia to the east and the Gulf of Thailand to the south. With virgin jungle on the eastern border and pristine islands that dot its coastline, Trat is the perfect escape to combine adventure with sun, sand and sea.

Koh Chang, or Elephant Island, is Thailand’s 2nd largest island, with jungle covered mountains, great waterfalls, sweeping bays and flourishing coral reefs. It remains both remote and rugged with a wide range of accommodation choices, exceptional snorkeling and diving, and even elephant trekking on the beach.

Kho Chang is also the center of Mu Ko Chang Marine National Park and the departure point for smaller surrounding islands that boast powder white sand beaches, crystal warm waters and a real sense of getting away from it all.

Koh Kood is a small charming island with ultra- luxurious getaways to simple beach bungalows and a small village in Pirates Bay where freshly caught seafood is served up by locals.

Koh Mak and Koh Kham are other small islands, perfect for day trips or longer stays. Koh Kham also offers one of the world’s 5 best black sand beaches at Laem Ngop, a picture-perfect contrast to the usual white sand beaches in the Gulf.

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