Photo: Keep on chugging.

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The Chao Phraya River

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A vital lifeline into the heart of Thai civilisation, the Chao Phraya River churns steadily through Bangkok. Glittering chedis, crumbling shacks and gaudy skyscrapers lean over its murky water dotted by countless boats filled with goods, commuters and travellers. You haven’t really been to Bangkok until you’ve been out on the Chao Phraya.

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You could say that the story of Thailand follows the path of the Chao Phraya. Collecting water from tributaries like the Nan, Ping and Pa Sok rivers, this great mae nam slices through Central Thailand, irrigating one of the world’s most productive rice basins along its 372-kilometre course. The term chao phraya translates roughly as "grand duke," but "River of Kings" is the commonly used English moniker.

Startling Rama XIII Bridge. Photo taken in or around The Chao Phraya River, Bangkok, Thailand by Stuart McDonald.

Startling Rama XIII Bridge. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Back in the mid-1300s, the Ayutthaya kingdom—predecessor to modern Thailand—was founded alongside the Chao Phraya. Bringing grains and produce from the northern plains and hills along with seafood and imported goods from the Gulf, this robust river nourished Ayutthaya into one of the largest and most prosperous cities the world had ever known.

After Ayutthaya was destroyed by Burmese invaders in 1767, a new dynasty of Thai kings naturally built their palaces along the Chao Phraya, some 90 kilometres to the south in Bangkok, or Krung Thep Maha Nakorn ("The Great City of Angels") to use the name that most Thais prefer. Some 30 kilometres further south, the Chao Phraya empties into the Gulf of Thailand in Samut Prakan, "The Ocean ... Travelfish members only (Around 1,300 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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Location map for The Chao Phraya River

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Popular attractions in Bangkok

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A selection of some of our favourite places to stay in Bangkok.

What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Bangkok.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
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 Read up on how to get to Bangkok, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Bangkok? Please read this.
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