It is well known that the river Chao Phraya is full of Chinese-styled junks and cruisers taking tourists and even locals for dinner upon the river. Over the past few months, the Queen among all those boats was launched and baptized as the “Baan Khanitha”. Baan Khanitha is a known restaurant to most of us, but in fact it’s not just one restaurant, there are four today. It all started in 1993 when Khun Khanitha Akaranithikul opened her first restaurant on Sukhumvit Soi 23
Khun Khanitha in earlier days was a famous fashion designer who I happened to meet in 1989. My husband and I were on vacation in Bangkok and saw a dress in the show window at her shop in Oriental Mandarin Hotel. My husband insisted that I should try it on. I hesitated, as I couldn’t imagine myself fitting into the dress, since it looked a size too small. Anyway, as I didn’t want to disappoint my husband, I went in to the shop and asked the sales woman to let me try it.
Believe me, I was surprised when I found out that the dress fitted me perfectly. It didn’t take long before my husband asked the sales woman for the name of the owner of the shop. He quickly got her on the phone and even before I had changed my clothes, my husband had organized a meeting with Khun Khanitha, the owner.
The office and flagship store KHANITHA was located on Suriwong Street in those days. It was one of the most beautiful shops, with a very exclusive and tasteful decorations. I especially remember the wall-to-wall carpeting designed by Khun Khanitha herself. From the pattern here, you could compare it to an Aubusson. It wasn’t hard to fall in love with both the owner and the collection. We had a pleasant talk and after an hour I had become the new importer of the silk label Khanitha for my country, Switzerland.When khun Khanitha told me that the collection would arrive on a certain date, with a specific flight, I just couldn’t hold back a smile. I was skeptical as I was so used to waiting for delayed Swedish collections I was representing which they never arrived on time, so how would it be possible for a collection coming from Thailand to arrive on schedule?
Again, I got a big surprise since the collection arrived exactly on the date and the time khun Khanitha had promised, and it was a pleasure unpacking the beautiful silk garments. This was the beginning of a long cooperation and successful business relationship. After many years and several more boutiques in Bangkok and even in New York, and with representatives/agents in Europe and America, Khun Khanitha gave up her business due to personal reasons. I was so sad when I found out, as I had just rented a small shop in Sweden where I wanted to sell the collection exclusively. I had to close it down before even having opened it. As this amazing woman can’t live without projects, she decided to start something which to her was completely new and unknown. She decided to open a restaurant.
I am certain that prior to this she had never stirred a pan or shopped for groceries or vegetables from the market by herself, and now she wanted a restaurant…..I couldn’t help wondering. She found an old barn on Sukhumvit Soi 23, had it renovated carefully, went to Chiang Mai to buy antiques and, after a while, Baan Khanitha was ready to welcome its first guests. It didn’t take long until the restaurant got its first award for being the best Thai food restaurant, and this reputation remains.
Today Khun Khanitha has three more restaurants. The biggest one is located on Sathorn and can seat around 200 guests, “Baan Khanitha and Gallery”. It has a very nice little outside room with a waterfall, my favorite part of the restaurant. The walls inside are covered with paintings made by a monk. This lady has an eye for everything and it seems as though she can turn any business into a hugely successful project, both aesthetically and financially. On Sukhumvit, Soi 53, you will find the Moon Glass Bar and Restaurant., also said to be “the social bar” in Thong Lor. This is a fantastic bar, built of glass atop of an old swimming pool. From the upper floor you can look down at the people downstairs, but not from downstairs up, for a logical reason…. Here you can enjoy a combination of Western and Thai food in the restaurant and plenty of tasteful cocktails in the bar and with the best Sangria in town. The latest-built restaurant is located at Asiatique by the river. This elegant place, built in colonial style, overlooks the river and has a big terrace where you can sit and follow the busy river life. The interior décor shows fabrics from Jim Thompson, and it’s a classic restaurant that has become very popular.
Today you can also dine on the river on the newly built cruiser “Baan Khanitha”. This junk is pure elegance, built in Ayutthaya and designed by the architect Khun Narin Lertasavavivat, who Khun Khanitha got to know through friends. Khun Narin has designed or re designed, all of Khanitha’s restaurants, but this is the first time he designed a cruise ship for dining. Many of Bangkok’s private homes have been designed by this young and creative architect. These two persons together guarantee success.
I call this ship the Queen of Chao Phraya. She can take 50 people at the most. All food is created and cooked from scratch on board in an ultra-modern kitchen. The staff is well trained and speaks English more or less fluently. The wine list is exquisite and when you order a white wine, you get it chilled to the perfect temperature. The menu is interesting, with several dishes starting with a platter including small appetizers. I would say, it is Thai cuisine as its best. The cruiser Baan Khanitha takes you out on the river and back within approximately 2 ½ hours, allowing plenty of time to enjoy the food and the scenery. You enter at Asiatique, in front of the restaurant and you also finish your trip there. My Swedish friend Anika and I were lucky to be Khun Khanitha’s guests on the “maiden voyage”. It was a delightful evening and both of us will take our visiting friends on board in the future.
You can also rent the cruiser for private parties, or why not have a workshop or small business meeting on board? This is the best way to show your visiting friends, business partners, family, etc., the beautiful Chao Phraya River and letting them taste delicious Thai food.I can also imagine a romantic wedding on the river….something to take into consideration if you are thinking of getting married in Bangkok.I happen to know that Khun Khanitha already has ordered a second ship which will be the named the Crown Princess.
Don’t hesitate, book an unforgettable evening and enjoy the view along the busy river. Cheers!
For more information, please contact; www.Baankhanitha.com
Address: 2194 Room No.8 Charoen Krung Road Wat Phraya Krai, Bangkho Laem Bangkok 10120
Tel: 02-1084910-11 Open hours 05.00-midnight.