Bangkok attracts plenty of tourists as the travel gateway to South East Asia, for shopping and the nightlife. But the first thing on your list of things to do should be a trip on the Chao Phraya river to experience the old Bangkok and see its most impressive cultural sights!
When you speak to many Thais, you will sense their pride into their country and heritage! It is in no small part due to the long history of the Thai Kingdom, the many historical buildings, temples and artefacts and the frequently mentioned fact that Thailand is the only country in South East Asia that was never colonized by the Western Powers! The best way to see some of the historic sights is to plan a trip along the Chao Phraya river. You will not only find the Grand Palace and Wat Arun, but see some stunning bridges, like Rama VIII, a cable-stayed bridge. And all of this you can explore by boat, avoiding the crazy traffic on Bangkok’s streets. If you are staying at one of the hotels along the river (great for the first-time visitor), you will likely find a pier for the regular river boats nearby or your hotel might even have it’s on river boat to take you too the key sights.
If you are staying somewhere else in the city, take the BTS Skytrain to Saphan Taksin station and walk down to the river – you will see the pier for the river boats. The most fun (and cheapest) way to go are the regular scheduled river boats (with an orange flag). A one-way ticket is only THB15 (50cents US) and you can pay when you hop on. You have to hop on and off quickly, because different from the typically leisurely pace in Thailand, these boats are on a mission and only stop briefly to let people on and off. If it’s only a few people, they might not even make a full stop, so be prepared! You can also buy a tourist day pass on a separate boat for THB150, but you don’t really get or see anything different and you miss the glimpse into the daily life of regular people going about their business! If you want to enjoy just the cruise, you can stay on the boat for around 1h, hop off and go back, all for only THB30 or $1. You can also extend the fun by renting your own Longtail Boat, as seen in the picture above. You can then choose your own path through the many side channels of the river, seeing some hidden parts of the city. It will be a relaxing and fun way to spend a few hours! I’d recommend that you at least get off to see the Grand Palace, easy to reach by foot from one of the stops! You can read about it here (link to Grand Palace).