This Bangkok dinner cruise was definitely memorable, to say the least.
What do you get when you combine a karaoke session that includes Country Roads and Gangnam Style, a buffet laden with spaghetti bolognese, and a little bit of line dancing to Achy Breaky Heart? Why, a night out in Bangkok on the Chao Phraya River, of course! We were happy to partner once again with Viator for their Bangkok Dinner Cruise on the Chao Phraya River tour.
After being cooped up in our hotel room all day on account of the protests throughout Bangkok, we were happy to get out and see more of the city. Despite the traffic problems accompanying the protests, we were picked up at the hotel exactly on time. When we arrived at a shopping mall, I was surprised to learn that it was the tour departure point - where was the boat? Where was the water?
The confusion was soon cleared up, as the staff in the tour office confirmed our table number and we were ushered through to the mall, where we were greeted with scented flower corsages, and invited to browse and shop until departure time. The back of the mall led to the docks and we were shown the exact doors that led to our boat.
Several different tour companies used the same docking area, so we paid keen attention to make sure we got on the right boat. We were ushered on board on time and shown to our table on the upper deck. The attentive staff came around offering cold facecloths and taking drink orders. We were happy to have a private table for two right beside the water.
Our evening began with a display of Thai dancing. I really enjoyed seeing their beautiful traditional Thai dress and it was a nice way to start the evening. Without further ado, we were then invited to make our way up to the buffet.
The buffet had three sections. There was a salad bar that included raw vegetables, cold cut meats, and cheese, as well as a large tray of sushi. There was a double sided main course buffet, and there was a dessert buffet. As well, soup, rolls, coffee, and tea were available adjacent to the desserts. In all honesty, the buffet food wasn't very good. There was a mix of Thai influenced dishes, including different rices and noodles, meat, seafood, and vegetable dishes, as well as western-style favourites, including beef lasagna and chicken spaghetti bolognese. There was one Thai chicken curry that was quite tasty but the rest was rather bland. While I appreciated the variety of dishes, I was disappointed in the quality. It reminded me of university cafeteria style food. (Vegans and those with allergies should note that this was a high cross contamination zone).
The evening started off rather quietly, as we glided down the silent river, taking in the ghostly shapes of the shore. I was just remarking that this was an altogether unusual side of Bangkok, the utter opposite of the hustle and bustle we expected, when the karaoke started on our boat! While the entertainment was a bit unusual, there's no denying it was hilarious. As the three person act (one girl, one guy, and a saxophonist) covered everything from Country Roads to Gangnam Style, we couldn't help but think this was a side of Bangkok we never expected to see.
As far as the sightseeing went, we were able to see a lot of government buildings, religious sites, palaces, and bridges all beautifully lit up. Unfortunately, there wasn't really any commentary to tell us what we were seeing. Still, the sights were lovely and it was nice to see so many varied buildings.
On the way back to our dock, the music's tempo became even more upbeat and the staff went around encouraging everyone to get up and dance. I can't say I was tempted to get on the dance floor, but it was a lot of fun to watch!
Before the tour concluded, there was one more dance experience for us to enjoy. The staff all got up and did a line dance to Achy Breaky Heart! It was the last thing on earth we were expecting and we were both in stitches watching it. See the fun and merriment for yourself:
I have mixed feelings about recommending this experience. The "Thai feast" was a far cry from being "scrumptious" as promised and there was no real tour aspect to the boat ride. On the plus side, we were thoroughly entertained, we enjoyed seeing the famous buildings lit up, and we appreciated that the tour was punctual and organized and that the staff was warm and friendly.
I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who wanted to experience Thai cuisine or wanted a more guided, structured sightseeing experience. Prices start from $48.51 US and I think prospective travelers have to ask themselves if this is a fair value for an entertaining river cruise. For me personally the price is a bit high considering the quality of the food provided. I think this experience would be best for someone who had a limited amount of time in Bangkok and was looking for a fun and memorable way to spend a free evening.
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Our partnership with Viator did not influence our opinions or writing.