Bangkok is notorious. Notorious for what? Up to you. Depends on what area of Bangkok you venture off to. Bangkok is infamous for… Same here. Fill in the next word as you wish. But with all the traffic, red lights, road side food stalls, mysterious deaths and cheap massages one area of Bangkok can be quite serene and relaxing.

Bangkok’s famous Chao Phraya River offers a lot more than just a locale for production.  Ferry boats allow Bangkokians a break from everyday traffic. Saphan Thaksin is the epicenter of the ferry world. Boats go up and down the river stopping at any number of piers opening up a wonderful way to see Bangkok and take in the sights.  Boat tickets run anywhere between 150b to 2,000b depending on how long and what you’re looking for.  The river is filled with activities; here are a few of the best.

Yaowarat, or Chinatown (Ratchawongse Peir 5), is known for some of the best street food in the city as well as goldshops, herbal medicine stores, and teashops. Some of the shop owners seem like they have been here since the beginning; some 200 years ago. Great for walking around, great for photos. In the same area you can check out Phahurat Market, or Thailand’s little India, which is known for its fabric and textile industry. Sampheng Market is the largest wholesale market in town and is the best place to buy a bag of cheap souvenirs for the relatives back home.

Khaosan Road (Phra Athit Pier N13) is a popular spot for tourists, back packers and locals alike. Street food, chilled out bars, and cheap clothes are everywhere here. Also this is where people go to change their identities; the street offers fake IDs, passports, university degrees and press credentials. I love to buy cheap t-shirts here with designs not offered in America to send home to my nephew.  In the same area you can walk to a 200 year old citadel Phra Sumane Fort. The fort is now in Suan Santi Chaiprakarn Park where people can chill out, catch a show or an event.

The next area I will talk about (Peir N8) is maybe the best pound for pound tourist spot on the river. Peir N8 is the pier that connects people to Wat Pho which boasts the reclining Buddha and is where the “thai massage” is mastered. Musueum Siam is close and is a nice place to freshen up on Thai history. A small ferry ride across the river brings you to the magnificent Wat Arun, or “Temple of Dawn” which is a must see on anyone’s Thailand to do list.

Thailand’s most celebrated landmark is probably the grand palace (Maharaj Peir). Built in 1780s the palace is home to Wat Phra Khaw and its Emerald Buddha. The temple also has an amazing mural showing the tale of Ramayana. The palace itself has many great sights including Dusit Mahaprasat Hall and Charki Mahaprasat Hall. This is a must see even though after 7 years here I have personally never seen it.

Cruises down the river are quite popular and a few different options are available. A popular attraction is a dinner cruise. I did this with my high school students awhile back and we had quite a nice time. The ride is about 3 hours; just enough time to eat and socialize. The newest attraction is the “Klong Guru” which is a ride down the path less taken. The Klong Guru is a local gentleman who knows the canals, or klongs, inside out. This ride takes people through some famous klongs and includes a stop to see a puppet show. If you’re in the mood for an overnight experience the Mehkala from asan oasis offers an overnight ride from Ayutthaya to Bangkok. The experience is awesome. Check out my article on it here.

Maybe the river isn’t for you. I get it; the boats, the water, the smell of seafood. But at least visit Thailand’s river side shopping/restaurant district Asiatique. This river front area is packed with good food, good views and good shopping (over 1500 boutiques). You can catch a cabaret show, or just sit back, have a drink, talk with friends and enjoy the view. Personally this is my favorite thing to do on the river.