As the sun sets and darkness descends on Bangkok, the Chao Phraya River undergoes a remarkable transformation. The once ordinary buildings that line its banks come alive, as the lights flicker to life, casting a mesmerising glow upon the riverine landscape.
Resembling a living painting, the scene that unfolds is nothing short of captivating as the water mirrors the myriad shades of colours along its banks.
It is these combinations of the illuminated structures and the serene river that makes up the enchanting backdrop, exuding both vibrancy and tranquility, against which we have our dinner — aboard the two-hour Royal Princess Dinner Cruise, on a balmy evening.
Whether you're a local or a tourist, a dinner cruise in Bangkok promises an unforgettable evening of dining, enchanting sights and dancing.
An excellent way to pack in some sightseeing while relishing a delightful dining experience. It is a spectacle that leaves diners in awe of the riverscape that unfolds before their eyes, as they enjoy the onboard buffet offerings from a hearty selection ranging from flavourful traditional spicy Thai-Asiatic delicacies to continental dishes.
All you can eat
Among the buffet options, is an international seafood section that offers a wide array of dishes, including sushi, fish, meats, and delectable desserts. It's an indulgent all-you-can-eat experience. Alcoholic beverages are not included on the cruise ticket and are billed separately. Drinking water, though, is accessible throughout the duration of the cruise.
While the food may not necessarily steal the show, this cruise, and the whole excursion, provides a vantage point from which to view the city, allowing you to navigate the Chao Phraya River and take in its scenic vistas.
According to tour guide Noppnadon Kunsamit, during the peak tourism season in Thailand, which spans November to March, the cruise can be chaotic, with revellers scrambling to board the cruiser. Typically, the dinner serving points can be congested due to the large number of revellers.
According to Kunsamit, it is advisable to plan the trip, taking Bangkok’s notorious traffic congestion into consideration. These have the potential to cause significant delays and may result in one missing the cruise.
The Chao Phraya is a major transportation artery for a network of river buses, cross-river ferries, and iconic longtail water taxis. To access the harbour for the dinner cruise, you can use the riverbank exit-entrance located at the Iconsiam Mall.
Boarding for the Royal Princess Dinner Cruise begins at 7.30pm. There are multiple companies involved in organising and facilitating this remarkable experience, and the average price for tickets is $20.
If you arrive early at the harbour, you can explore the popular Iconsiam Mall and shop. The ground floor hosts mom-and-pop stalls offering a variety of products, while the upper floors feature designer shops.
One notable area within the Iconsiam is the SookSiam, a themed zone spanning 16,000 square metres on the ground floor that offers a modern experience of Thai culture, featuring a diverse range of elements such as Thai cuisine, art, handicraft, even traditional medicine and performances representing all 77 provinces of Thailand.
One can also indulge in culinary delights, including whole roasted crocodile or pig.
SookSiam houses an indoor floating market akin to those across the country, allowing visitors to experience the culture of riverside shopping. The sook provides visitors with an opportunity to discover and acquire mostly hand-crafted products typically found in small towns and villages on the countryside.
Around 7 o'clock — boarding time — revellers gather at the waterfront, eagerly anticipating the arrival of their designated boats. To keep them entertained, the boats showcase energetic performances, featuring live band acts on the top deck.
The vessels feature three levels of seating, with the bottom two levels providing air-conditioned sections with expansive windows, allowing passengers to enjoy the breathtaking views.
Sitting on the upper deck beneath the vast expanse of the sky and breeze,adds an extra layer to the experience. This is where the artistes, the deejay booth, dancefloor and live band are situated.
Once onboard, revellers are greeted with a refreshing welcome drink, followed shortly by the opening of the buffet. Chaos reigns when the buffet opens. However, there is plenty of food — enough for second, even third helpings. The dreamy view of some of Bangkok's iconic landmarks on the riverbank more than compensates for all the trouble.
The cruiser glides past various iconic sights, allowing passengers a view of the city's skyline and illuminated landmarks, among them the Rama 8 Bridge, Wat Kalayanamit (Big Buddha Temple), Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn), and The Grand Palace, must-see destinations for tourists.
Situated at the core of Bangkok, the Grand Palace is an expansive collection of structures that has, since 1782, served as the official abode of the Kings of Siam. The palace grounds housed the king, his court, and the royal government until 1925.
The cruise also goes under the Somdet Phra Pinklao Bridge, a prominent bridge over the Chao Phraya River in close proximity to the Grand Palace, that serves as a link between Rattanakosin Island and Thonburi.
The Temple of Dawn is a Buddhist temple in Yai district, on the Thonburi west bank of the river, which derives its name from the Hindu god Aruna, often personified as the radiations of the rising sun.
The cruise goes past yet another bridge, the King Taksin (the Great) Bridge commonly known as Sathon Bridge crossing the river and past the magnificent Rama VIII Bridge a cable-stayed bridge crossing, built to alleviate traffic congestion on the nearby Phra Pinklao Bridge.
The singers and sax players enthrall guests with popular ballads from across the globe — including Africa — igniting a lively atmosphere that gets most dancing on the floor. The river is clean and does not have a bad smell like some others in the city. The vistas present fodder for photographers.