Apsara River Cruise by Banyan Tree Bangkok

Evening Rice Barge Tour with Five-Course Dinner

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 20:00, 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 is only 5 minutes by cab from the MRT at Hua Lamphong, or you can take the free shuttle ferry from the pier near Sapphan Taksin BTS. Although the rice barge is around 120 years old, it has been renovated into a classy floating dining room, an intimate space that can cater for up to 64 people. Outside festive periods the boat isn’t particularly busy, and the majority of tables have an uninterrupted view of the river. The cruise takes an hour and 45 minutes, 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; a refreshing blend of apple, lime, basil and lemongrass with a dash of lemonade. This is served with a small amuse-bouche of rice crackers with sweet, coconut dipping sauce while you browse the drinks menu, which compromises of a decent selection of wines by the bottle or glass, spirits, cocktails and soft drinks. The food menu is fixed, but the maitre d’ checks any allergies and dislikes before you board, and the food is adapted accordingly. There is 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 appetizer is a pretty selection of small bites, which include a blue flower shaped chicken dumpling and a delicious crunchy chilli concoction wrapped in a pepper leaf. There is enough time in between courses to wander around the two small decks at each end of the boat and enjoy the view, and the atmosphere is relaxed and convivial. The appetizer 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 arrives in front of Wat Arun, and the boat stops completely 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 is almost 22:00 by the time you disembark, but the exceptional service and leisurely pace of the Apsara adds a romantic, candle lit touch to the cruise; something that is 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 five-star feast, and it really is a magical experience.

Opening Hours: Cruise start : 8.00-9.45pm
Location: River City Shopping Complex 23 Trok Rongnamkhaeng, Charoen Krung 30, Si Phaya Pier, Yota Road, Sampantawong, Bangkok 10100,Thailand

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