As in so many waterfront cities, the restaurants that line the banks of Bangkok’s Chao Paya River are often, by default, tourist traps. But that’s not always the case. Sure, the five picks below offer picture-perfect views of ferries and sampans plying the water, city skyscrapers, and the temple of Wat Arun. But what I love about these eateries is that they also offer high-quality cuisine without sticker shock. Eagle Nest, for example, is becoming a not-so-hidden gem thanks to its gorgeous temple views—but it still tops my list of go-to recommendations when friends request ideas for “the perfect two days in Bangkok.” The other restaurants on my list are also ones that I like for both their food and their photo ops. Be sure, though, to bring your camera to any of these spots: if you’re lucky, you’ll catch one of the gorgeously color-saturates sunsets here that has given it the nickname “the Venice of the East.”
A perfect day for me is exploring Wat Pho with friends and then walking over to this rooftop bar at the Sala Arun Hotel in time to catch the sunset. The uninterrupted views of the sun sinking over Wat Arun are magical; after enjoying a few drinks with the view, I like to head to the downstairs restaurant, Bitter Deck, for terrific Thai food.
Steve Café & Cuisine
Laid-back but civilized, Steve Café & Cuisine is the perfect place to have lunch in between temple visits and your daily massage. It’s off the beaten path, so it’s best to pre-plot your route (or have your hotel write the address in Thai for you so you can get a taxi). Once you’ve found this hidden gem, though, you can reward yourself with yummy Thai food and an afternoon cocktail.
Supatra River House Restaurant
Named after the founder of Bangkok’s express boat transportation system, Khunying Supatra (who used to live here), this restaurant offers a free ferry to shuttle diners back and forth from the Maharaj Pier. Views of the Grand Palace and a traditional Thai menu are the draws here; a delicious multi-course prix-fixe meal costs less than $35.
Sala Rim Naam
The phrase “dinner theater” ordinarily conjures images of tacky revues and bad buffets, but the classical Thai dances preformed at this Mandarin Oriental restaurant are both festive and accompanied by top-notch fine dining. Order from a classic Thai menu and gaze over the passing boats that chug past the Chao Praya’s western bank.
With its open kitchen, killer views and international menu, Flow is one of the best places to enjoy a weekend brunch and fuel up before a full day of sightseeing. The terrific buffet here lets you and choose from Thai noodle dishes, hand-rolled sushi and traditional Western breakfast items.