The Bangkok River, respectfully known by locals as the Chao Phraya (“Grand Duke”), has been Thailand’s main artery to the world for centuries. The east and west banks of the river were where the earliest communities settled and welcomed international immigrants with open arms. It is from the river’s edges that Thailand traded with Europe and Asia for more than 500 years.
As the city rose up to become a truly global city, it experienced an urban sprawl. Automobiles and roadways, trains and railways, airplanes and flight routes became the new arteries. The river’s status diminished but its importance never faded – locals still lived, worked, and played on the river. Through years of change, the Chao Phraya continued to flow.
Bangkokians have begun looking away from concrete jungle and toward places of balance between nature and man-made. Places of balance between old and new. Places of balance between business and leisure. And they have found that balance on the river once more. People are seeing Bangkok River for what it has always been – the lifeblood of Thailand’s capital historically, environmentally, culturally, spiritually and economically.
Like other great waterfront destinations, Bangkok River is naturally a hub for tourism. The country’s most magnificent palaces and temples are here. Bustling markets, street vendors and famous eateries sitting alongside funky bars, vibrant restaurants, art galleries and boutiques all dot the locales up and down the river. World famous festivals such as Songkran and Loy Krathong are annually celebrated on its waters.
International travelers are also looking to stay for work and play on Bangkok River. A long tradition of Thai hospitality and luxury international hotel brands are found on the river: Millennium Hilton, Royal Orchid Sheraton, Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, The Peninsula Bangkok, Shangri-La Hotel, Chatrium Hotel Riverside, Ramada Plaza Bangkok Menam Riverside and Anantara Bangkok Riverside.
Bangkok River is playing host to more meetings and events. These hotels, with state-of-the-art facilities and staff experienced in conducting world-class conferences and incentives, and a plethora of usual and unusual places to gather, are increasingly seen as ideal venues for the MICE industry.
Over the years, significant events have been held on the river’s banks: One of the world’s top luxury brands chose to have their global conference on the River by combining Mandarin Oriental and The Peninsula for accommodation, meetings, dining and entertainment. Shangri-La Hotel hosted the 2012 World Economic Forum with more than 500 delegates including heads of state, captains of industry, and media chiefs gathering for two days of conference and 14 days of meetings, while staying with the eight river luxury hotels. IUCN held its regional meeting on the bank of the Chao Phraya at Royal Orchid Sheraton, a choice that proved to be in alignment with its their environmental agenda as attendees experienced an insightful tour to the mangroves of Bang Kachao or a longtail boat klong (canal) ride.
Public and private sectors are beginning to flock back to its banks, revitalizing the river with projects that together will recreate the waterfront areas to reach their fullest potentials. The Bangkok River Partners, comprised of the eight luxury hotels, are busy designing a program of events – some large, some small – but all showcasing the very best of Thai creativity, showmanship and hospitality. Over the course of the year, visitors will witness a lights festival, design week, food fairs, music festivals, art gallery hops, fun runs, CSR activities and more.
It is clear: Bangkok River is having a renaissance. Whether on business or pleasure, locals and travelers want holistic, memorable experiences that cannot be found elsewhere. The Chao Phraya River, and its riverside, is the real Bangkok.