Known as the ‘River of Kings’, the Chao Praya River has always been vital to Thailand’s history, culture and trade. Running hundreds of miles through of the centre of the country, it has long carried rice and teak to the capital, Bangkok, where the river is the heart and soul of a city once called the ‘Venice of the East’.
It’s also the place for a truly memorable dining experience, where you can feast your eyes on the glittering temples and dazzling skyscrapers along the river, especially during and after sunset. Here are some of the best:
The menu at Supanniga Eating Room is inspired by the recipes of the owner’s grandmother, featuring robust flavours from Isan province in northeast Thailand and the coastal provinces of Trat and Chanthaburi. You may feel tempted to make a meal of the exquisite appetisers alone: try minced pork stir-fried with garlic and peanuts served on a tangerine slice (ma hon); the steamed spiced crabmeat and pork served in a crab shell (pu jah); or perhaps some shredded pork with roasted coconut and peanuts on a betel leaf (mieng yong). Supanniga offers many grilled, stir-fried, rice and noodle entrees, as well as a scenic night river cruise. Enjoy a six-course dinner with Champagne or snacks and cocktails (mangosteen or rambutan martini, anyone?) as you cruise past the spectacular Grand Palace and utterly unique Wat Pho.
A world away from hectic central Bangkok, River Tree House is a haven of peace in a beautiful, traditional-style teak house with a covered wooden veranda set amid palm trees. Its extensive and moderately priced menu includes Isan specialties like green papaya salad with crispy catfish, tiger shrimp or crab in glass noodles, and traditional Thai dishes like chicken with cashew nuts and apples. This hidden gem in Nonthaburi north of central Bangkok is worth the journey, and it’s a favourite for many visitors and expatriates. Take the Chao Phraya Express Boat to Nonthaburi pier, and then a 10-minute taxi ride, or the metro’s Purple Line. The restaurant’s tuk-tuk, a motorised rickshaw, will pick you up from the parking area, or you can do a 15-minute walk.
The Deck offers a front-row seat to admire the ornate Temple of the Dawn (Wat Arun), right across the river, perfect at sunset and its brilliant illumination at night. It may be a little pricy but it’s worth it. A full menu is served on the river terrace, with delights such as lamb loin in yellow curry sauce, and tiger prawns salad with mint, lemongrass and lychee, but the rooftop bar offers the most unforgettable view. The Deck is a mere two-minute walk from Wat Pho, near the Grand Palace.
At the end of a soi (alley) in Chinatown, in an old wooden house filled with colourful paintings, cat curios and actual cats, you’ll find Samara. This is a bohemian find for chill music and a great view from its terrace, so near the river you can dip your toes to cool off. Expect Japanese-accented Thai food, like fried tofu with shrimp in spicy herb sauce and scallops in three sauces, with Belgian beers to wash it down, in this cozy small cafe next to Wat Pathum Khongkha temple, open from late afternoon.
An upscale bistro serving both Thai foods like sweet-and-sour shrimp soup (tom yum goong) and Western foods like Wagyu burgers and sandwiches,Babble & Rum has a stylish upstairs bar and riverfront terrace with daybeds. Here you can taste Boran (a traditional Thai ice cream made with coconut milk) in various flavours such as durian or black bean served sandwich-like in bread with sticky rice, peanut and condensed milk. You’ll also find an international wine list and Thai-inspired cocktails like Jelly Riva, a blend of melon syrup, lime juice, jam and liquor. A five-minute walk from Khao San Road, Babble & Rum is just a few minutes’ walk from Phra Athit pier.