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Riverside Renaissance

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By Dave Stamboulis

Bangkok’s waterways have long been the real arteries of the city, especially one in which traffic snarls are legendary. Yet for years all the trendy and chic new eating and drinking options were popping up inland, in fashionable Thonglor and bustling Silom, or along Sukhumvit, with little attention being paid to Bangkok’s water world. That has all changed recently, with the Chao Phraya River now becoming the place to hang-out once again, and for good reason. The breezes are cool, the transport easy on the system, and the fabulous views combined with all the fantastic eats and drinks making the monicker “Venice of the East” seem all that relevant again.

The Chao Phraya now features a romantic eatery or trendy nightspot on just about every bend in Bangkok, with a plethora of snazzy eateries and cool hang-out bars just beckoning for a drink or two, whether it be for sunset gazing or after-the lights-go down lounging. One could spend ages just exploring all, but for those who want to delve in right away, here are some of the best spots from north to south:

Sala Rattanakosin
sala rattanakosin - restaurant 19Sala Rattanakosin (39 Soi Ta Tien, Maharaj Rd, 02-622-1388, is a chic new restaurant, bar, and boutique guesthouse that throws the knockout punch when it comes to river views. Located just opposite the iconic Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), you’ve got the best seat in the house come evening, when the temple gets illuminated with golden lights while the colorful cruise boats meander by. British ace chef Tony Wrigley will stun your palate with creations like roasted whole baby chicken rubbed with Chermoula spices, or his Massaman southern curry with braised lamb shank; while the rooftop bar gives even more superlative views and you contemplate it all over a River Breeze (rum, lime juice, triple sec, and pineapple).
Chon2Chon: located in a cluster of gorgeous old teakwood houses in the exclusive Siam Hotel ((3/2 Khao Rd., Dusit, 02-206-6999. overlooking the Chao Phraya, Chon offers up classical Thai fare such as kurobata pork ribs in longan honey while you dine surrounded by stylish Thai antiques and collectibles. There is also the Deco Bar and Bistro that has a jazzy feel to it, and guests of the hotel can drink at the Bather’s Bar, where spacious daybeds sit next to an infinity pool, taking in the entire sweep of the river. This is classy at its utmost.
The Riva Surya
RivaSurya_MezzanineBar_river_viewThe Riva Surya
(23 Phra Arthit Road, Phranakorn, 02-633-5000, has brought boutique to Khao San Road, and this elegant resort features Babble and Rum, a restaurant and mezzanine bar with French décor that has daybeds to recline on, overlooking the river while you nibble on the signature smoked salmon and avocado salad, and drink a few glasses of Jelly Riva (vodka, lime, and melon syrup on jelly) to refresh yourself.
Checkmate Bar and Bistro
Checkmate Bar and Bistro (Asiatique The Riverfront #E01, 2194 Charoen Krung Soi 72-74, 086 977 8749): If you have made it this far down the river you won’t be disappointed, as Checkmate checks in with one of the nicest vibes to be found along the Chao Phraya in the happening Asiatique Night Market. Using chess as a motif (unwinding with a game after work), the black and white bistro and bar will seduce you with some excellent fusion fare and outstanding cocktails. Standouts include a salmon sashimi salad with wasabi dressing and crab cakes on lemongrass stalks, while the bar offerings range from signature drinks to pints of Hoegaarden Rose or Stella. Different live bands play each evening, and there is a warm décor accompanying the whole scene.
Longtail Bar and Riverside Terrace
Longtail Bar and Riverside Terrace:
located on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya in the dazzling Anantara Riverside Resort (257/1-3 Charoennakorn Road, Thonburi, 02-476-0022,, the Longtail Bar features Lanna style architecture and tables and chairs laid out along the pier, giving tremendous views east of the Bangkok skyline. Enjoy a Bangkok Bridge (gin, kaffir lime syrup, and lychee liqueur) while watching the teak shuttle boats come and go. The adjacent Riverside Terrace has a prime spot overlooking the Chao Phraya, not to mention traditional dancers performing on a flame lit stage to accompany wonderful seafood and barbecue buffet dinners.
The Deck and Amorosa
the deck 018The Deck and Amorosa (36-38 Soi Pratu Nok Yung 02-221-9158, also provides stunning views of Wat Arun in a very romantic dining setup, with the upscale Deck offering a mixture of Thai and international fare, with standouts such as New Zealand mussels, mushroom risotto, and lamb curry heading the large array of dishes. Meanwhile, you can truly savor the illuminated views of the temple by having a few drinks at the quaint Amorosa bar upstairs.
SambalBarGrill1Sambal (Royal Orchid Sheraton, 2 Charoen Krung Soi 30, 02-266-9214, // serves up all kinds of creative international fusion favorites in a breezy setting right on the riverbank. The focus here is on seafood, complimenting the watery surroundings, and features grilled tiger prawns, lobster rolls, and snow fish bouillabaisse to go along with some superb alcohol concoctions such as the Destination Imagination (Irish whiskey, lime, and fresh mangoes) and Nearing the Tropics (Brazilian cachaca sugar cane rum, lychee syrup, and fresh strawberries). There is a free shuttle boat here from the Saphan Taksin Pier, so you can linger and laze the night away listening to the water lapping next to you.
Viva & Aviv The River
VivAviv4Viva & Aviv The River (River City Shopping Complex, 23 Trok Rongnamkhaeng, Yota Road, Talad Noi, 02-639-6305// is a playful new spot at River City that promises “good food, quirky drinks, and a constant breeze.” The atmosphere is rustic, the food innovative (think Caliente Perro Spanish chorizo hot dogs or Isaan Carbonara pasta), and the expert mixologist creates concoctions like the Cuban Smuggler (cigar smoke-infused rum, lime, vanilla, and cola) or Man Goes Nuts (Stolichnaya vanilla vodka, brandy, ripe mangoes, and saffron house syrup). The folks behind the stylish Hyde & Seek created this relaxing joint, so expect to be wowed, both by the drinks and the vibe.