The Chao Phraya, like most major rivers, is a testament to how vicious and insensible humans can be to their most important resource. The river’s view from the banks of the county’s capital is less than enchanting. But a river cruise is providing an innovative and serene gaze into Thailand’s most important waterway.

We started a slow and relaxing cruise down the Chao Phraya River from Bang-Pa-In Palace in Ayutthaya. Our first stop was a Mon temple. The Mon people are supposedly responsible for bringing Buddhism to Thailand. And as someone who was raised Catholic/Jewish; thank god for Buddhism.  The temple tour was nice and the boat manager doubled as tour guide. The best part by far was when the monk came out to greet us. None of us were not expecting a gapped tooth, tattoo clad cigarette-smoking monk with a hearty contagious laugh.

Next stop was another temple where we docked for the night and enjoyed a lovely meal. It was traditional Thai cuisine without the traditional Thai spice; farang conscience food I like to say. So if you enjoy a spicy kick to your food let the staff know in advance.

Before dinner though, I had a walk around the temple. It was nice. I shot hoops with some kids (they loved that I could dunk), watched locals battle in a football match, and hung out with some pigs.

The next morning we docked at a local fresh market. The market had everything from land and sea and most of it was still alive; providing ample opportunity to scare the less daring members of our group.  Markets like these provide great facebook photos and an exclusive look into daily Thai consumerism.

 

After about an hour later we were back on the boat cruising towards Bangkok. The river’s scenery is tranquil. The water is full of floating plant life, which proves it isn’t completely toxic. Evidence of the recent flood is still visible through broken docks and river beds. Mega mansions are sporadically nestled in between factories and fishing villages. This is when most of us cracked our first beer of the day.

As we entered the metropolitan area of Bangkok the calm, slow paced river life slowly transforms. Now the Chao Phraya is completely bustling with life; fishermen, jet skis, industrial boats carrying rice and teak, and ferries pepper the river way. Huge modern buildings tower overhead, yet nothing was more spectacular than seeing Wat Arun from the water. It was a completely magnificent sight and a throwback to the natural beauty of Thailand and its architecture.

The Mehkala Cruise doesn’t just provide transportation from one holiday destination to another. It provides a unique and beautiful look into a river that helped shape and create what we now know as The Land of Smiles.

 

By Edward Mulvagh

 

The Mehkala boat is an old rice barge superbly transformed into a modern day river cruiser. The outer appearance stays true to its original era but the inside is anything but. The décor is dark wood, elegant and very comfortable.  The ride is as smooth as Teddy Pendergrass; only getting choppy in the Bangkok area due to the wake of other boats. Although the space is confined, surprisingly you never feel claustrophobic. The wind is lovely and perfect while reading a book on the open air top deck. The rooms are charming and very practical. Thankfully each room as a private bath and air conditioning; which is the only reason anyone agrees to get on the boat in the first place.