Bangkok is an ancient city. It is massive, chaotic, and confusing. Touring the city will sap up your energy and will bring you blisters the size of your own toes. I found that using the Chao Phraya tourist boats make moving from one tourist spot to another easier than hailing taxis and arguing with the driver when he gets the location wrong. It is also inexpensive at THB180 for the whole day. Here is my guide to using the river cruise to see all that you must see in Bangkok.
The Chao Phraya tourist boat has several stops, about 13 stops in all. You can choose to stop in all piers, but we decided not to and just choose certain piers to stop so that we can explore certain places. We only stopped at two piers in one afternoon. My best estimate is you can only do three stops in one day for a meaningful sightseeing. Please check ahead the closing time of the sites you will be going to so that you can schedule them accordingly. (E.g. The Grand Palace at the Maharaj Pier closes at 3PM, while the Wat Arun is best seen at night when it lights up).
What we did was, we rode the tourist boat until the last pier, Phra Athit, and disembarked there. Then we rode the tourist boat again until the first pier, Saphan Thaksin, and disembarked there to get to the train station (but, we did a segway shopping at the Bangrak Bazaar.).
Phra Athit Pier (Khao San Road)
Phra Athit Pier will take you to, among others, Khao San Road. We took the back alleys until we reached the road made famous by the book and the movie of the same titles, The Beach.
I did not find anything interesting in Khao San Road, although there were many stalls selling shirts, bikinis, bags, and dreamcathers. I thought the prices were expensive. But I believe Khao San Road comes alive at night especially with the many beer houses and bars dotting the lane. I found more interesting the stores, guesthouses, and goods sold at the alleys going to Khao San Road, including the alley to Phra Athit Pier where quality goods were sold at, I think, reasonable prices.
I loved the wooden jewelry found at the Phra Athit pier and in another store just one block from the pier. I also burned my money buying some used books at the bookstore in one alley from the pier.
Saphan Thaksin Pier (Bangrak Bazaar)
The Bangrak Bazaar had fast fashion clothes and footwear for both men and women. The prices are still reasonable although they don’t give you discount, as compared to in Chatuchak. There is also a Robinson Department Store (different from the Philippines’ Robinson’s Department Store). We loved this Housr Brand burgers at the entrance of the bazaar selling pork burgers for only 65baht. I also loved this packet of biscuits that I bought for 20 baht.
There are other piers — Oriental Pier (where the Mandarin Oriental hotel is located); the River City Pier (where the River City shopping complex is located, most come here for prime antique shopping); Rajchawong Pier (you disembark here to go to Chinatown); the Yodpiman Pier (you disembark here to go to the Pak Khlong Talat or the flower market); the Wat Arun Pier (you disembark here to visit Wat Arun); the Maharaj Pier (you disembark here to go to the Grand Palace), and the Asiatique Pier (you come here for Asiatique complex). We wanted to disembark at the Wat Arun Pier but there was a throng of people going in and we just decided to view the beautiful temple from the river boat.
Note 1: The tourist boat is fast. Prepare to get dizzy.
Note 2: The Chao Phraya is an ancient river and is dirty. Do not attempt to reach out to the water and be careful not to drink the water.
Note 3: Getting on and off the tourist boat should be fast. They do not wait for you, so move fast.
Note 4: Hold on to the rails of the boat because it will move regardless of whether you have been seated down or not.
Note 5: Always be considerate of other tourists. Do not block ways and give seats to other people.