Dusk falls over the Chao Phraya river, the broad waterway that snakes through Bangkok city and surrounding countryside. Against the darkening horizon, barges and small craft churn the surface of the river into glittering points of light. On the open deck of the teak river boat Mekhala, moored beside a temple, guests are enjoying drinks before sitting down to a Thai meal.
It’s an experience that more and more incentive groups are enjoying as they savour the delights of a Bangkok river cruise. Adventure tour company Asian Oasis operates three converted rice barges on the river, for a one-night, two-day trip that alternates upstream and downstream to and from Bangkok and the former capital of Ayutthaya.
The three boats have eighteen air-conditioned cabins in total, each a marvel of compact design, with en-suites. The overnight stop is at Wat Kai Tia, a Buddhist shrine in a tranquil rural village, where obliging staff serve central Thailand specialty dishes by candlelight on deck. The boats stop at a traditional market as well as an ethnic Mon village; for the rest of the time guests can marvel at life on the teeming waterway on which half of Thailand’s population depends.
The clientele is mostly Australian and European, says Chananya Phataraprasit (pictured), the company’s Executive Director and pioneer of eco-tourism in southeast Asia, and all meals are included. Guests pay for their own booze, or can buy a package that includes drinks.
From $110 per person per day
The cost: from around USD110 per person per day. “That’s good value for money,” says Ms Phataraprasit, with some understatement. “It’s a vibrant, unusual way for many inbound visitors to see Thailand.” As I can attest.