by Alex Blandford
There is something about being on the water, whether it be for pleasure, work or somewhere in between, it creates a calming, tranquil setting away from the worries of the world. Step aboard the Apsara, The Banyan Tree Bangkok’s ornate wooden barge – and be wowed by the sites of the city from the most pleasurable of settings whilst eating some of the most authentic gourmet food imaginable.
The very name of the river that flows through the centre of Bangkok conjures up something mystical in the mind; Chao Phraya. These images are made all the more real as you set sail and float past some of the oldest and most beautiful sights of the city such as the Grand Palace and Temple of Dawn. Couple this with the modern skyscrapers, hotels and bridges, notably the Golden Rama, and you really start to get a feel for how Bangkok has evolved and changed over the centuries.
It is obviously important to note that the Apsara is not simply a sightseeing cruise; it is an authentic dining occasion. While appetisers are laid down by the waiting staff their knowledge of the dishes and pleasure at serving such high quality food is all too evident. Then the taste. Forget what you thought you knew about Thai cuisine. This food has been thought through, planned and executed to perfection. It is a brilliant combination of tradition and flavour mixed together to create one of the best looking menus in the city.
In between courses there is a commentary of the sites and surroundings. It is not intrusive or invasive on the meal, but an accompaniment to those less familiar with the geography of Bangkok. Alongside the sites there are ample opportunities to explore the barge and pause for photos in front of some of the aforementioned marvels. Time should be taken to study the map made available at the start of the cruise to gain an understanding of the distances that are being travelled – think of the time saved at being on the river as opposed to the roads!
The main course is an obvious favourite, comprising an excellent mix of rice, duck, curry, chicken and fish, all presented in separate dishes to tempt and consume your tastebuds. Presentation is a spectacle in itself and Apsara should really be applauded for this. Nothing has been left to chance here.
As with the other Banyan Tree venues, the elements have been catered for and the Apsara has dropdown windows should the weather turn on you. For the majority of the time though, you will enjoy a completely uninterrupted view of the river, the sites, the sounds and the best views of Bangkok. A cruise on the Apsara makes for the perfect event, be it for an anniversary, relaxing dinner or a private moment. The Banyan Tree have provided the perfect blend of high end, authentic Thai food, a serene environment and attentive staff – you will not be disappointed.
You will not want to leave the Apsara, however for those staying at The Banyan Tree there is a complimentary shuttle service to and from the departure pier located at River City. If you are staying elsewhere or wish to carry on your evening afterwards their staff will arrange onward travel for you.