Named by Rama I and formerly known as just “Me Nam” the Chao Phraya River provides life, leisure and a bit of luxury to the Land of Smiles.

The modern day epicenter of the river is Bangkok, but Me Nam’s story doesn’t begin here. With the convergence of two rivers, the Ping and the Nan, the Chao Phraya begins in Nakhon Sawan. Ayutthaya was where the river was first really settled. Ayutthaya’s fall to the Burmese caused King Taksin to move his glorious city to Thonburi, where it stayed until Rama I preferred her eastern banks; present day Bangkok. The importance of the river rings loudly in Thai history. No matter where the capital city moves it is always close to the comforting embrace of its mother.

As Bangkok grew, so did the river. Canals were built throughout the city providing transportation deep into Bangkok’s belly. So many canals as a matter of fact that some actually refer to Bangkok as the “Venice of the East”.  These canals are still used today and are a fantastic and fast way to get around the city.

Magnificent buildings were constructed on the banks of the Chao Phraya. Today you see the brilliant Wat Arun along with other temples, hotels, government buildings looming over everyday people. These people sell goods and rations, they are people going to and from work, and people simply marveling in Me Nam’s glory; with a beer Chang.  Barges transporting goods meagerly float up stream while ferry boats and dinner cruises snake their way through the river traffic.

I always say that ‘Bangkok is not Thailand’. Anyone who has had a beer on Thonglor counting the extravagant cars go by, or has shopped in one of Thailand’s many luxurious malls can confirm that statement. Bangkok is a stark contrast to the whole of Thailand. Yet the river is different. The river is still Thailand in its essence. A piece of Thailand that will never really change; only adapt to the change around it.  The Chao Phraya will stay true to herself for millennium and is a “must see” in South East Asia.