rivers and canals .or "klongs" offer a truly spectacular way of seeing
the country. All kinds of cruises are available, enabling visitors
to see out-of-the-way sights and to experience the traditional way
of life still followed in rural areas of the kingdom.
A great introduction to river and canal cruising
are the long-tail boats that ply these waterways. The best place to
hire one of these vessels the pier next to the Oriental Hotel, known
as Tha Oriental. Others include Tha Chang, Tha Si Phraya and Tha Saphan
Phut, all located on or near the Chao Phraya River which runs through
the centre of Bangkok. The Boat Tour Centre at the River City Complex
next to the Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel, Bangkok has an efficient
booking desk and reasonable rates. Alternatively, visitors can catch
the regular long-tail boat services that ply the Chao Phraya River.
Fares are as low as ten baht for certain sections.
Places to visit include Ko Kret Island with its
Mon community and local pottery, and Suan Thip restaurant, north of
Bangkok, which has delightful Thai-style gardens and villas. One of
the most popular river cruises is undoubtedly to the former capital
of Ayutthaya, some 80 kilometres north of Bangkok. This takes in picturesque
river scenery in central Thailand and usually includes a stop at the
former royal residency of Bang Pain, Several Bangkok hotels, such
as the Oriental and the Shangri-La, operate their own air-conditioned
passenger cruises for this particular trip; visitors can normally
choose to go one-way by boat and return by bus.
|Floating Market Tour
Tours leave daily at 07.00 am. from the landing
of the Oriental and Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotels. This offers a pleasant
view of life along the klongs. Most tours pass through Bangkok Yai
district to Klong Dan near Wat Sai where the floating market is located.
Some tours also stop at the Snake Farm, Wat Arun, and the Royal Barge
Rice Barge Tours
An interesting way of discovering Thailand's river
life, cruises of this kind employ specially converted rice barges
to transport visitors.
Operated by Marriott Royal Garden Riverside Hotel,
this beautifully restored barge is available for cruises to Ayutthaya
and various overnight options. Full on-board catering and accommodation
River Jet Transport
A faster way of cruising Thailand's rivers and
(larger) klongs is by jet boats. Hourly trips around the Niwet Thamprawat
Temple Island and to Bang Pa-In/Ayutthaya are available as well. Others
good locations for river cruising include the Mae Klong River in Samut
Songkram, where visitors can see the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market,
complete with traditional Thai life, fruit orchards and temples on
| For those who prefer
a more restful way of seeing the scenic wonders of Thailand's marine
life, sea cruising is a good alternative. There is a choice of luxury
passenger liners plying the waters along both coasts, while tour boats
offer regular day trips from bases such as Phuket, Pattaya and Ko
Samui. Local long-tailed boats can be hired for trips to nearby scenic
islands for snorkelling.
The Gulf of Thailand
During the months of May to October, the weather
in the Gulf is ideal for cruising. Choices of one-night to four-night
cruises are available. One night takes you to Pattaya and back, two
nights take you to Ko Chang. Three-nights enable you to cruise the
islands of Ko Samui, Ko Tao, and Nang Nual, with opportunities for
snorkelling. The four-night cruise takes you through the Ang Thong
Islands, on to Nang Nual and Ko Tao. Most cruise boats have several
leisure facilities on board such as Jacuzzis, games shows and disco.
The Andaman Sea
Cruising season is from November to May, and cruises
leave from Phuket. The shortest cruise takes in Ko Phi Phi and other
islands in Krabi. A three-day cruise visits Krabi, the Similan Islands,
and the Surin Islands. Four-day cruises explore the Tarutao group
of islands, and the Malaysian island of Langkawi.