National Museum of Royal Barges
The Chao Phraya River is a dominant part of Bangkok’s cityscape, and it used to play an even more important role. Boats were the primary mode of transport, and the royal family owned thousands of them. A handful of them can be seen at the Royal Barges Museum. The boats on display have been restored and are in a delicate state, so are only used on special occasions. They take around 50 specially-trained oarsmen to power them, and the longest barge, Suphannahonse, is 150 feet (46 meters) long!
Many boat tours of the Chao Phraya River stop at the museum, and this is the most convenient way to visit. Such tours also take in a number of the other sights along the river, such as Wat Arun. You can visit independently, but it’s a bit out of the way.
Things to know before you go
- There’s a small entry fee to the museum, and a separate fee to take photos or videos.
- Look out especially for the two most important barges at the museum, which have figurehead prows in the shape of a swan and the Hindu mythological creature, Garuda.
- Take plenty of water, as the the hangar-type warehouse in which the barges are housed can get hot.
How to get there
The museum is northwest of the Grand Palace, across the river. Many boat tours along the Chao Phraya River make a stop here. If you’re traveling independently, you can take an express boat to Wang Lang Pier and walk the rest of the way.
When to get there
The museum is open daily from 9am until 5pm. It’s closed on some Thai public holidays. The Royal Barge Procession, when these boats are used, is only held every few years, usually in December. The barges aren’t in the museum in the few weeks leading up to the procession during a procession year.
Visit the Grand Palace Across the River
If you’re mesmerized by the gold and glittering mirrors of the royal barges, don’t miss the Grand Palace, southeast of the museum and on the other side of the river. The same craft techniques were used to decorate the the palaces and temples within the complex. It’s Bangkok’s busiest tourist attraction, but for good reason, and is a must-visit place.
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- Bangkok National Museum
- Phra Sumen Fort
- Khao San Road
- Grand Palace
- Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew)
- Democracy Monument
- Tiger God Shrine (San Chao Pho Suea)
- Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho)
- Bangkok NANTA Theatre
- Temple of the Dawn (Wat Arun)
- Wat Suthat Thepwararam
- Giant Swing (Sao Ching Cha)
- Wat Ratchanatdaram Woravihara (Loha Prasat)
- Pak Klong Talad Flower Market (Pak Khlong Talat)