Bangkok's River District

Bangkokian Museum Klong San Area Oriental Place Shops Lebua Hotel Centre Point Silom Wat Yannawa Sheraton Royal Orchid Oriental Hotel Shangri-La Hotel Peninsula Hotel Wat Suan Plu River City Portuguese Chancellery General Post Office Customs House Haroon Mosque French Embassy East Asiatic Company Assumption Cathedral Siphraya Pier Oriental Pier Sathorn Pier Taksin Bridge Skytrain Millennium Hilton

Although Thailand was never colonized, the colonial powers did maintain a presence in the country. Their embassies and trading companies were granted land along the river between what is now Chinatown and the Taksin Bridge. This is one of the few places in Bangkok where you can see something resembling colonial architecture.

Bangkok's Riverfront
Riverside Map
Click on an icon for more information.
Base map image © OpenStreetMap contributors, CC BY-SA
Wat Suan Plu
Not far from the huge riverside Shangri-La Hotel is the small community temple of Wat Suan Plu. Unlike many of Bangkok's temples which have been "improved" in recent years, Suan Plu temple has been well maintained, but retains its charming wooden kuti (monk's quarters) and other ornaments.
Assumption Cathedral
Built in 1910, primarily by the French community, Assumption Cathedral sits in a small square isolated from the main streets. The outside is a rather simple Romanesque facade which reveals a very rich rococo interior.
East Asiatic Company
Between the cathedral and the river are the buildings of the Dutch East Asiatic Company (EAC). Founded in 1897, EAC is still one of the world's leading trading companies. These beautiful Venetian-styled buildings were built in 1901. There's talk of turning them into an up-scale shopping arcade.
Oriental Plaza
On the other side of Soi Oriental from the EAC is the world-renowned Oriental Hotel. The hotel was originally built in 1876, but its place in history is largely due to the Sarkies Brothers who acquired it and rebuilt the hotel in 1887 to bring it up to the standard of their other hotel properties -- the E&O in Penang and Raffles in Singapore. Two towers were added in the 20th century, which unfortunately detract a lot from the hotel's charm, but apparently not enough to stop it being voted the world's best hotel year after year. The Oriental Plaza shopping arcade lies north of the hotel's parking garage. It's of the same era as the hotel and the EAC buildings, and is worth a look.
French Embassy
The French Embassy faces the river right next to the Oriental Hotel. The Embassy is the second oldest in Bangkok, after the Portuguese. The French sent their first ambassador to Siam in the 17th century. The embassy has been expanded many times over the years, but has recently been restored to something close to its original form. However, it's generally not open to the public.
Old Customs House
The 1880 Customs House next to the French Embassy is in a very sorry state. It was turned over to the harbor fire brigade when larger ships necessitated a move down river and apparently hasn't even been painted in over 30 years. The building apparently once rivaled the EAC offices. It's been listed and plans are underway for the fire services to move out so the building can be renovated and turned into a riverside hotel, but this has been stalled for many years because the fire service doesn't want to move.
Haroon Mosque
Between the customs house and Charoen Krung Road is a small Muslim community. At its center is the Haroon Mosque. The mosque, as well as the surrounding wooden houses, are beautifully decorated with intricate wooden grillwork.
General Post Office
Up on Charoen Krung Road is Bangkok's main post office. It's not very pretty, but on Sundays there is a popular stamp and coin market.
Portuguese Chancellery
The Portuguese were the first Europeans to have formal ties with Siam. The plot of land on which the current Chancellery stands was granted by King Rama II in 1820. It was replaced later in that century by the current structure.
River City
Next to the Portuguese Chancellery is the Sheraton Royal Orchid hotel, and north of that is the River City shopping center. The center specializes in "antiques" -- which in Thailand means things made in an old style, even if they were made yesterday. It can definitely be worth a look around.
Oriental Place
This small colonial-styled mini-mall next to the Oriental Hotel is full of art shops and tailors. Next door, is a newer open-air area with a few nice restaurants.