Some of Bangkok’s very prominent tourist attractions are scattered along the banks of the Chao Phraya river. And five out of those countless attractions are a must see: Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha), Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn), and Khao San Road. Four of these, excluding Khao San Road, are situated close to each other. Khao San Road requires some extra travel, nothing too difficult, but is a perfect place to end a great day in Bangkok. This trip to the riverside (half a day or full day as per your choice) starts at the Sathorn (Central) Pier on Chao Phraya river. Sathorn Pier is attached to the Saphan Taksin BTS Skytain Station on the Silom Line and hence getting to the pier is also very easy. You may read about this skytrain connection and other useful information on the boat travel here. In this page I will cover the essential information to help you visit these riverside attractions on your own.
Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)
The main attraction of Wat Pho temple complex (pronounced Wat Po) is the 46 meter long and 15 meter tall golden reclining Buddha image. Wat Pho is also known as the place where the traditional Thai massage originated. There is a Thai massage school on the temple grounds and visitors can enjoy a Thai massage here.
Board an Express Boat from the Sathorn Pier, the one that is going towards Pier N8 or Tha Tien Pier. Before boarding the boat, just ask the conductor or the Express Boat company staff at the pier that the boat is going towards Wat Pho. Usually there is a big crowd waiting at Sathorn Pier to get on the boat to Wat Pho so you will not make a mistake. The ticket for the boat ride is sold on the boat at 14 THB per person, one way. Keep watching the pier stops as you will need to get down at Tha Tien (N8) pier.
Entry Fee And Timings
There is an entry fee of 100 THB per person and the temple is open every day from 8.30am to 6.30pm. Entry for kids whose height is up to 120cm is free. Ticket counter is located inside the main entry of the temple.
Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn)
Wat Arun is a Buddhist temple but gets its name from Aruna, a charioteer of the Hindu god Surya. It is located on the west bank of the Chao Phraya river, opposite side from Wat Pho.
From Tha Tien (N8) pier, take the river crossing ferry at 3 THB per person. There is a special ticket counter for the river crossing boat at pier N8. This river crossing ferry service will drop you in front of Wat Arun. For coming back to Tha Tien pier, one needs to buy another 3 THB ticket from the other side.
Entry Fee And Timings
Wat Arun is open daily from 8.00am to 6.00pm and entry per person costs 50 THB. There is another small Buddha temple on this ground outside Wat Arun where one can enter for free.
Grand Palace And Wat Phra Kaew
The Grand Palace has been the official residence of Thai kings since 1782 but at present it is only used for official ceremonies. The complex houses a collection of buildings and gardens, etc. Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) is also located within this premises. This temple houses Thailand’d most revered Buddha image carved from a single block of jade.
This complex is within a ten minute walk from Wat Pho and if you got down at Tha Tien Pier (N8) you can easily walk to the Grand Palace. If you exit Tha Tien pier and start walking left, you are going towards the Grand Palace. Wat Pho is located towards the right side of the pier exit. Grand Palace is the most visited monument in this area and usually a crowd going in that direction will lead you to the palace.
Entry Fee and Timings
The Grand Palace complex is open for visitors daily from 8.30am to 3.30pm. An entry fee payment of 500 THB is required at the ticket counter but this price includes an entry to Wat Phra Kaew.
Khao San Road
Khao San Road is the backpacker tourist district of Bangkok and has everything that tourists come looking for in Bangkok. This budget tourist’s paradise is a must visit particularly in the evening. There are several things to enjoy on Khao San Road but this exhibit sponsored by DTAC lists seven things to do here:
i. Visit Wat Chana Songkhram
ii. Checkout Khao San Museum
iii. Enjoy The Real Thai Food
iv. Get A Tatoo
v. Relax With A Thai Massage
vi. Buy Silver And Handicrafts
vii. Rock The Night Out
Do what you are interested in and find the time for.
Take a boat going towards pier Phra Arthit (N13) and get down at that pier. If you tell the boat conductor that you need to go to Khao San Road, they will tell you where to get down. Exit the pier and you will find yourself standing at the side of a road. Turn left and walk for a few minutes until you come to a major road signal. Turn right and start walking on this road. After a few left turns that you do not need to take, you will come to a left turn where you will see the DTAC exhibit shown in the above picture. Once you exit pier N13, do not hesitate in asking other people on the road for directions to Khao San Road.
If you wish to come back to Saphan Taksin BTS station via a boat, then keep in mind that the boat service runs upto 7.30pm only and the last boat from Phra Arthit pier going towards Sathorn pier will leave at 7.00pm. Otherwise you may take a meter taxi from Khao San Road to go directly to National Stadium BTS station. Another option is to take a motorbike taxi to Hua Lamphong MRT station to catch the next MRT train. Please do not take a Tuk Tuk because you will end up paying too much.
I would not take a public bus from Khao San Road unless I am very sure about its route. Mis-communication with bus conductors is very common and you may end up going to a far off place in a different direction.
Order of Visiting Riverside Attractions
This is the order that I suggest:
1. Start from Sathorn Pier and come to Pier N8 (Tha Tien)
2. Exit the pier and walk left towards the Grand Palace. Remember that the Grand palace closes at 3.30pm and in this complex you also need to see Wat Phra Kaew.
3. After seeing Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, walk back to Tha Tien (N8) Pier, take the river crossing ferry and go to Wat Arun.
4. Return from Wat Arun to Wat Pho side of pier N8 and go out, right side towards Wat Pho.
5. See Wat Pho, get a Thai massage there, and return to the pier for your return boat ride to Sathorn pier or if you wish, the next boat towards Khao San Road.
Avoid The Scams
There are several scamsters waiting for you on the streets of Bangkok. Avoid them, read my article on Thailand Tourist Scams for guidance.