River Side Hotel Dinner Cruise
195 Ratwiti Road
+66 (0) 2883 1588
Just about everyone who’s read a book in their lifetime, knows the age old expression “when in Rome (do as the Romans do)“. But who knew the Thai’s would be coming along for the ride… literally.
The Chao Phraya River, though not an impressive sight during the day, becomes this magical waterway lined with some of the most incredible ancient structures that are lit up with lights, thus providing a breathtaking view that differs from what you can see from land during daylight.
Led by a Finn of all people, along with folks from Indonesia, the UAE, China and other nations, I found myself in a large group being taken for an unexpected dinner cruise aboard a vessel docked at the River Side Bangkok Hotel. The taxi ride to this older part of the city was a bit doggy, but I must admit that it didn’t take a lot of arm twisting to get me to go. After many trips to Thailand, I was running out of new things to do, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity, as well as get a free meal to boot!
As I alluded to in my opening, I truly expected this to be a complete tourist trap, but low and behold, the entire ship was packed with Thai couples, families and friends out for a weekday dinner. No other foreigners, aside from our group, to be seen for the entire voyage.
Before our ship set sail, we discovered this uncovered beer garden near the dock. With at least an hour before we were to board, this made for a great opportunity to get going with some refreshments, and nothing beats a few cold bottles of Singha after a long day of networking.
I could imagine that this is a popular spot a little later in the evening (we were only there around 5pm) for those who aren’t interested in paying for the trip down the river, but would just prefer to have their drinks and food in the comforts of this wide open space. If I was working nearby, I could see this as being an almost daily stopover on my way home…
The River Side Luxury Cruise is a journey aboard a massive boat. It easily holds a few hundred people, complete with two decks (the top uncovered), and a large dance hall on the main floor with live entertainment provided by the in-ship band. With numerous servers floating about catering to all the diners, it makes for a chaotic environment which is coupled by the gentle swaying of the ship as it gets into the open waters of the river. Thankfully, our waitresses quickly delivered the many bottles of beer, wine and spirits that our group requested.
Despite the pleasant start to our journey, there was a part of me that was still hesitant about the food. Would it be any good? After all, it is aboard a ship, which probably had to have a restricted cooking space and the limitations that go along with it in terms of putting out great food.
Now I haven’t posted all of the possible photos of the food that arrived, but our first dish of a vegetable Thai curry was a solid opening volley. A rich, creamy texture with the requisite spicy kick that pervades the food of this culture, I was really pleased with whoever ordered this for our group. The battle over the steamed rice quickly ensued and we had to order more.
Of all of the places that I’ve visited around the world, Thailand has always struck out one of the fantastic places for fresh seafood. Even aboard a river patrolling ship this held true, as these giant prawns were amazing! With the delicate slightly salty scent that suggested they were recently plucked from the sea, each bite into the juicy meat was met with a satisfying grin. They were also very easy to separate from the shell, so this made scarfing them down all the more pleasant. I can’t even remember how many plates of this were ordered, but I surely raised my cholesterol level as a result of one too many.
The simplicity of a fresh steamed white fish always makes for a great meal in my books. Coupled with the taste enhancing ingredients like fine sliced onions, mushrooms, ginger, cilantro, lemongrass and the distinct access of fish sauce, I can honestly say this was as good as I’ve had in other places across Thailand’s coastal regions. The fall-of-the-bone meat was oh so satisfying.
Leaving the food angle, and as described earlier, there was some in-ship entertainment, comprised of a six person band that went through various songs, Thai and English. They really only got going later in the night after all the dining was done, and people were really getting into it to my surprise. The dance floor in front of the stage was packed with locals bouncing around to the beats. Quite the bit of entertainment in and of itself, just watching the crowds rather than the band.
Lastly, I thought I’d close this review by showing you the “views” from the ship itself, that I took from one of the outer walkways. Some of the most impressive wats in Thailand are along this river, including my personal favorite, Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn). I’d gone during the day earlier in the week and climbed up to the highest deck that you can.
As a result of my four hour journey on this dinner cruise ship, I learned that I should never let any preconcieved thoughts affect my expectations…especially when they involve food. This was a great lesson in having an open mind.