Apsara River Cruise by Banyan Tree Bangkok
Travelling the Chao Phraya River at night with the temples lit-up along the banks is one of the must-do experiences in Bangkok, and the luxury of the Apsara truly is a cut above the majority of boats travelling this well-worn tourist trail. Taking time to pause in front of the famous sights, passengers are treated to a delicious Thai feast onboard a romantic converted rice barge.
Departing from River City Pier every night at 8pm, you can either embark here or take advantage of the complimentary shuttle bus from Banyan Tree Hotel in Sathorn. Although you miss the sunset, the traffic on the river is much quieter at this time of night, and the temples are lit up for that perfect night-time picture.
Getting to River City by yourself is easy. It's only 5 minutes by cab from the MRT at Hua Lamphong, or you can take the free shuttle ferry from the pier near Saphan Taksin BTS. Although the rice barge is around 120 years old, it has been renovated into a classy floating dining room and an intimate space that can cater for up to 64 people.
The cruise takes 1 hr 45 mins, travelling up the river past Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) and the Grand Palace to Rama VIII Bridge.
From the moment you board, the service is of international standard. The captain and his crew greet you at the pier dressed in traditional Thai outfits and you are served a welcome drink with a small amuse-bouche of rice crackers with sweet coconut dipping sauce.
The food menu is fixed, but the food is adapted for allergies and dislikes before you board. There's no live entertainment but you cruise along to the sounds of traditional Thai instruments, punctuated by a commentary of the monuments you are passing by, guaranteeing that you don’t miss the sites while you enjoy your food.
The appetiser is a pretty selection of small bites, which include a blue flower-shaped chicken dumpling and a delicious crunchy chilli concoction wrapped in a leaf. There's enough time in between courses to wander around the 2 small decks at each end of the boat and enjoy the view.
The appetiser is followed by a hot and sour fish curry. Again you can let the staff know how spicy you like your food – they even double-check that it suits your palate once served. The main courses take over your table in a glorious banquet: spicy, stir-fried soft shell crab, giant and juicy river prawns, seasonal vegetables and a salad of lime, pork and chilli. Throughout the journey, the boat slows down, taking the routes nearest to the temples and palace to ensure you get that perfect photo.
As you tuck into your main course, the Apsara will stop in front of Wat Arun as groups take it in turns to have their picture taken in front of the stupa. Even if you have visited Bangkok before there is something remarkable about seeing the famous temple glowing gold against the night sky.
A trio of Thai desserts is served as you make your way back to the pier: mango and sticky black rice, green tea panna cotta and pink water chestnuts in coconut milk. It will be almost 10pm by the time you disembark. The exceptional service and leisurely pace of the Apsara adds a romantic, candlelit touch to the cruise – something that's sorely missing from the neon-lit party boats of other tours. This trip along the river takes you away from the commotion of the city to enjoy Bangkok by night as you enjoy a 5-star feast, and it really is a magical experience.
Open: Daily from 8pm to 9.45pm
100 S Sathorn Rd
Thung Maha Mek