Excerpts from the author’s weekend experience on the river
To truly accomplish a sense of ‘away’ while I’m within city limits, it’s essential to find a lush riverside resort. The Anantara Riverside is one such property, its gardens offering up a perfectly manicured slice of the tropics. The city slicker within also knows the service will be faultless. Of course, it’s really pretty: candy coloured bougainvillea spill over balconies; a century-old Banyan tree rustles overhead; peaked, red-tiled roofs stand in contrast against the green – it’s classic, refined Thai style.
Upon arrival with my chosen companion, clinking cold cocktail glasses on the pier, the romance is underway in record time. To really feel the motion of the… river… a dinner cruise on the resort’s antique rice barge, the Manohra, is a rare treat.
It’s also fun to eat like a traveller. Even if you eat Thai food daily, a meal like this helps you appreciate Thai flavours. Dinner on the Manohra, for instance, begins with miang khum – chili, ginger, nuts, garlic, onions, dried shrimp and various pastes wrapped in a betel leaf. Not something you eat every day. A fragrant massaman, creamy tom kha gai and an enormous river prawn follow, classics that really showcase that trademark Thai interplay of sweet/spicy/salty. A dessert sampler consolidated the meal. My favourite, as always, is the mango and sticky rice (paired with a cold Chardonnay.)
While we were wining and dining, the Manohra made her way upriver, past Wat Arun, under the golden Rama 8 Bridge, past lop-sided wooden stilt-houses and gleaming new developments. It presented the perfect opportunity to pick out places we wanted to explore the next day – places I only ever see when I’m on the river and that I ordinarily never get a chance to visit. We returned to the Anantara full of plans, then decided to make a proper date night of it with a night-cap at Trader Vic’s. The Mai Tai is their specialty, though I recommend against trying every single one of the flavours on offer in a single night.
Saturday at sunset, we decided, would be experienced opposite Wat Arun. The Temple of Dawn catches the day’s first light, so if you’re sitting across the river from it at dusk, the sun will set directly behind it. There are several restaurants opposite Wat Arun, and we chose an old favourite – The Deck at Arun Residence – to savour that quiet stillness of twilight, which we experience practically never anywhere else in Bangkok.
After checkout, the shuttle boat brought us back to Saphan Taksin. It’s always tough coming back to ‘reality’ after a vacation, but to bookend the weekend with another leisurely cruise was sweet consolation, as is knowing a romantic river break is only a few minutes’ away.