by Benjamin Malcolm
The massive Chao Phraya River has played an important role
in the history of Thailand. Over the centuries its annual
floods have created a vast inland plain of fertile soil that
provides the country with much of its food supply. It has
also acted as a vital transportation link for getting goods
to both domestic and international markets. Perhaps most importantly,
the "River of Kings" has helped unify the country
by providing a national symbol and an avenue for the various
groups comprising the Thai population to communicate with
Life on and along the river is always a fascinating sight
and numerous tour boats provide visitors to Bangkok with a
chance to view this activity. The boats range from simple
"longtailed" boats powered by roaring automobile
engines to luxury cruisers with every imaginable facility.
The cr?me de la cr?me of the luxury class are the converted
rice barges operated by Manohra Cruises. Its most impressive
vessel is the Manohra Song.
Designed for only a limited number of guests, the Manohra
Song possesses four air-conditioned staterooms with en suite
bathrooms. The furnishings are spectacular and include objects
of art, antiques, Oriental carpets, Thai fabrics and appointments
made of teak and rare woods. The upper deck possesses a lounge,
dining area and sun deck. There is a fully equipped galley,
a bar and private quarters for the crew. The boat possesses
two engines for manoeuverability and always has a captain,
Chief Steward and Assistant Steward on board.
Aside from its luxury, what really sets the Manohra Song
apart from other Chao Phraya cruise boats is its sumptuous
staterooms. Imagine cruising one of the world's most famous
rivers and retiring at night to a private cabin with air-conditioning,
hot shower, separate vanity, fresh flowers and luxurious towels.
These amenities enable guests to enjoy sublimely comfortable
and leisurely trips along the river without worrying about
hurrying back to Bangkok or to a hotel to spend the night.
The Manohra Song's repertoire includes three separate cruises.
On Monday and Wednesday it travels up-river from Bangkok to
Ayutthaya, with Monday or Wednesday night aboard and the return
to Bangkok made by private car. On Tuesday and Thursday, guests
travel to Ayutthaya by private car and then proceed down-river
from Ayutthaya to Bangkok, with Tuesday or Thursday night
spent aboard the vessel. On weekends, there is a roundtrip
available with the entire journey spent aboard the Manohra
Although space precludes a description of all of the trips,
the all-inclusive weekend trip is especially delightful.
The Weekend Cruise Aboard the Manohra
09:30 Passengers arrive at
the Manohra Cruises pier at the Bangkok Marriott
Resort & Spa for a welcome drink and introduction
10:00 The cruise departs for its up river
journey on the might River of Kings.
12:00 A traditional Thai lunch is served
13:00 The cruise arrives at Ko Kret an
island in the Chao Phraya where earthenware, famous
throughout Thailand is created. There is a brief
walking tour of the Mon Earthenware Centre and
the opportunity to browse nearby vendor's stalls.
14:30 Depart Ko Kret
15:30 Traditional English-style tea is
served on board.
18:00 Cocktails are enjoyed on board while
the sun sets over the river.
18:30 The Manohra Song arrives in Ayutthaya
where passengers will spend the night on board.
19:30 A candle-lit traditional Thai dinner
is served on the vessel.
08:00 An American breakfast
09:00 Passengers leave the vessel and enjoy
a fully escorted tour of the famous Royal Summer
Palaces at Ayutthaya, which date back to the 17th
10:30 Return to the boat and prepare to
12:00 Lunch is served as the board cruises
down the river.
16:00 Arrive at Wat Arun, the "Temple
of Dawn" with time provided for leisurely
16:45 Return to the Manohra Song and prepare
18:00 Return to the Manohra Cruise pier
at the Bangkok Marriott Resort & Spa.
The cost for each of the three of the cruises is US$390
single and US$650 double. The prices are inclusive of meals,
guides, ground tours, admission charges and private car transfers.
For those who really want to experience luxury and something
unique, the Manohra Song can be chartered for day cruises
or multi-day cruises. Private charters are limited to eight
adults unless other arrangements are made in advance.
Manohra and Manohra Moon, the other two converted rice barges
operated by Manohra Cruises are available for lunch, dinner
and cocktail cruises. If you are interested, call the company
for details. But don't forget, if you are seeking upmarket
luxury at its best, the Manohra Song is the ideal way to tour
the might Chao Phraya River. Take one of these cruises and
you will be given memories that will last a lifetime.