The legendary Menam Chao Phraya is often referred to as, ‘The Royal River,’ and is the largest and also the most important river in Thailand. For several centuries the everyday life of Bangkok, formerly known as Krung Thep, has been closely associated with its canals.
The most important sanctuary in the city’s historic royal palace in Bangkok is Wat Phra Keo, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, with its highly visible gilded Chedi. The devotion to Buddhism of the Royal Thai Chakri Dynasty is displayed here in impressive style. One treasure in particular stands out, the Emerald Buddha, the temple’s most sacred object.
Boat tours through the Klongs, narrow and extensive canals, are a good way to enjoy the city’s sights. Even though the Klongs are not as important as they were a century or more ago they are an atmospheric reminder of the past. It is not surprising that Bangkok was once referred to as ‘The Venice of the East’.
Even though shipping is no longer important on the three hundred and seventy kilometre long river, the Menam Chao Phraya is frequented by hordes of tourists. In addition to numerous historic buildings, the boat passes by many districts in which poverty is rife.
Around sixty kilometres north of Bangkok the boat arrives at a natural island in the middle of the Chao Phraya. From the landing stage it is only a few steps to the former royal summer residence of Bang Pa In.
A few kilometres upriver is the ruined city of Ayutthaya, the legendary capital of a kingdom that once influenced a huge area of southeast Asia for more than four hundred years.
Due to the many historic sites and fascinating sanctuaries that were built along the banks of the Menam Chao Phraya, this great ‘royal’ river has played a vital role in the cultural development of Thailand, a land that even today still exudes the exotic ambience of a golden age.