The Buddhist temples.
Sorrel relaxing on a barge.
Cruising along the River of Kings.
With its temples, ruins, pristine beaches, mountains and islands, it's easy to understand why Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles.
Thailand has been described as the perfect place to visit. Consider its temples, ruins, pristine beaches, mountains, islands, cuisine and people, and it's easy to understand why Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles.
Its capital, Bangkok, is a noisy, polluted, traffic-choked and humid city. Yet, it draws people by the planeload. Certainly the Skytrain has eased the congestion and the Chao Phraya, River of Kings, has been a main transport route and artery of Thai life for more than 700 years.
There are many luxurious hotels on the banks of the Chao Phraya. The Marriott Royal Garden Riverside is known for its serenity and airy public areas. The Royal Garden is colonial in style with seven storeys and 417 rooms, all with private balconies.
It has one of the best pools in Thailand, a spa surrounded by lush gardens, a gym, tennis courts, massage rooms and sauna. The pool has a swim-up bar, or you can enjoy a cool drink in the Lobby Lounge, the colonial Elephant Bar or Long Tail Bar on the river.
It is here you can board the Manohra Song, a luxury teak barge which 50 years ago hauled rice along the waterway. This graceful old barge will take you on an overnight cruise from Thailand’s modern capital to its ancient capital, Ayutthaya, while you enjoy its luxury amenities.
You will sail past the Grand Palace and Royal Barges, taking in the rich, the poor, the old, the new, the sacred and the profane, all jumbled together. It's a combination that makes Bangkok the fascinating place it is.
Once outside Bangkok, the river widens and the scenery becomes increasingly rural with trees, houses on stilts and Buddhist temples. The further north you travel the cleaner the water becomes.
Your day ends with a delicious meal and overnight mooring at the 230-year-old Wat Bang Na Monastery.
The next day, your journey to the small island of Ayutthaya begins. The old capital sits at the junction of the Chao Phraya, Pa Sak and Lopburi rivers and was founded in 1350 by Prince U Thong. It prospered and served as the capital of Siam until 1767. Over its 417 years of glory it saw 33 kings of different dynasties and its population reached one million. Visiting foreigners said it was the most illustrious city they had ever seen.
The Burmese army destroyed Ayutthaya and today the site's ruined palaces and temples only hint at the city's former grandeur.
Just 30 minutes south of Ayutthaya is Bang Pa-In, the former summer palace. Prasat Thong, who reigned from 1630 to 1655, used it as his summer residence, and when Bangkok became the new capital in 1782, the palace was abandoned. Eighty years later, King Rama IV built a new residence there, and his son added the royal palace and the Thai-, European- and Chinese-style buildings you see there today.
From Bangkok to Ayutthaya.
The Manohra Song
departs from Bangkok. A two-day cruise starts at around $700 per person twin-share. They run year round.
Rooms at the Marriott Royal Garden Riverside start at about $120 per double per night.
Qantas flies daily to Bangkok with return economy airfares starting at $1307 from the east coast and Adelaide and $1338 from Perth.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.
Qantas 13 1313
Manohra Song Cruises: Ph: (0011 662) 476 0021
Fax: (0011 662) 475 1120
Marriott Royal Garden Riverside: Ph: (0011 662) 476 0021 or 0022
Tourism Authority of Thailand: Ph: (02) 9247 7549