The Chao Phraya River could be about to see a renaissance. Big new developments are both underway and moments from being given the BMA’s green light, including new water-borne transportation links, pedestrianized boardwalks and a shopping mall offering Paragon-levels of luxury retail. So, here’s how the Chao Phraya could look tomorrow. 

1. TRANSPORTATION

 
More than 30,000 people in Bangkok still use water transportation every day. Bangkok Post reports that the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has ordered 200 households around Khlong Lad Phrao out of the area to make way for a new boat service that will provide transport from Lad Phrao to Phra Khanong. The same development aims to improve the environment along a 5.5km stretch of Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem, reaching to the Chao Phraya River, with small relaxation areas proposed every 100 meters. The number of people using river transportation is still significantly lower than cars.

Road vs. River

During rush hour, swapping your car for river transportation could safely save you at least half an hour on the 6km commute from Bang Kapi to Ratchathewi.
 

However, the number of people using river transportation is still significantly lower than cars.

 


2. ART AND DESIGN

Traditionally known for its jewelry and antique shops, Charoenkrung is now gaining a reputation for contemporary art and design. The biggest development on the old riverside road is the news that Thailand Creative and Design Center (TCDC) is relocating to the Grand Postal Building and will be open by the end of 2016, which was recently renovated by the Department of Architecture Co., Ltd. and Shma Company Ltd. Renderings of the new TCDC will be unveiled by the end of August. TCDC could potentially be the spark to activate interest in the Charoenkrung area and connect the dots between its existing network of art galleries and bars both new and old.
 
In the meantime, check out these cool art, music and design spaces:
 
Speedy Grandma. 672/50-52 Charoen Krung Soi 28, 089-508-3859
 
Soy Sauce Factory. 11/1 Charoen Krung Soi 24,081-301-2669
 
Soulbar. 945 Charoen Krung Rd.,095-521-1541

P.Tendercool. 48-58 Charoenkrung Soi 30, 02-266-4344

See also: Charoenkrung Road's shop-house revival


3. RETAIL

The malls just keep on coming. Set to open in 2017, Icon Siam will be the biggest of all. The mega B50-billion riverside development by three property giants—Siam Piwat, Magnolia Quality Development and Charoen Pokphand—will transform the 80,000-sq-meter plot of land on Charoen Nakhon Road into something approaching a brand new suburb. It will consist of two luxurious sky-scraper residential buildings, as well as two shopping complexes, a 3,500-seat auditorium and a large-scale multimedia light show.
 
Icon Siam
 

See also: 8 new malls and property developments coming to the Chao Phraya River 


4. COMMUNITY

The BMA plans to improve accessibility for both cars and boats to the Klong San area, also known as the Kadeejeen community. Once considered one of Bangkok’s most cosmopolitan districts, the area is still filled with unorganized street vendors selling all sort of items, whom the BMA intend to organize into a proper street market, while improving the environment by covering the dirty riverbank in aquatic plants.
 
A rendering of the Kadeejeen Community Museum

Good Signs

 
 
The BMA also plans to set up signs to give information about historical sites and buildings reaching from Klong San to the Kadeejeen Community.

5. PUBLIC SPACE

 
Taking in an area that encompasses the Bangkok Fish Market, Wat Yannawa and the old Bangkok Dockyard, Yannawa Riverwalk will be a 1.2km, five-meter-wide, car-free promenade with cycle lane and recreational space. There is also talk of establishing a museum that tells the history of the area. Backed by residents and landlords, the proposal is currently awaiting approval from BMA. If it goes ahead, expect a completion date of 2017 at a cost of B152 million. Yannawa Riverwalk could be considered Bangkok’s very own version of Hong Kong’s Avenue of Stars or Melbourne’s Southbank.
 

6. DINING

Already, hot new restaurants are beginning to open by the river. Here are two of our favorites. 
 
 
Eat Sight Story offers fusion foody an uninterrupted view of Wat Arun and an adorable space filled with Asian and European knickknacks.
45/1 Maharaj Rd., 02-622-2163
 
 
Sheepshank Public House serves modern American comfort dishes from a space that used to be an old boatyard. You can still see remnants of its former life in the form of old pulleys, crates and buoys.
47 Phra Athit Rd., 02-629-5165. Phra Artit Pier
 

BK ASKS

Duangrit Bunnag

Architect/Founder of DBALP, owner of Jam Factory
 
Most people who live in Bangkok forget that we have the river. Urban structures have not been built adjacent to the river. That’s why we’re trying to include the river in every conversation we have about urban development.
 
The real charm of the Chao Phraya from the Thonburi side is how you approach it. Around Klong San, for example, you must walk past a jumble of alleyways and mixed-used shop houses and then suddenly you’re standing in an open area with the river in front of you.
 
The river is alive when there are people around it. It is part of the urban fabric and, whenever we build something new, we must consider preserving its charm. We must look for possibility within the river’s current context. Don’t try to change things, whether you think they’re good or bad, otherwise we will have to rebuild the whole thing, which means tearing the old structures down.
 
Current riverside developments destroy the charm and spirit of Bangkok’s riverside. We always look at case studies from abroad, forgetting that Thailand is different. We must respect our river and its legacy and add value to what’s there. Preserving what’s there will create genuine charm.
 
 

Samruay Imkrajai

Taxi Boat Driver
The Chao Phraya River has become a part of me. Tourists are really encouraged to spend their time by the river, and often hire a longtail boat to reach quiet locations away from the city. I take them along the canal routes to see the slow, unencumbered side of river life.
 
I am concerned about the current water quality. Bangkok has problems with flooding which means that fresh water in the north gets stored behind dams. As a result, salt water is engulfing the Chao Phraya and we have terrible pH levels. Ultimately it will be uninhabitable for freshwater fish. It’s at its worst around Klong Toei pier.
 
Picture above from The Boat Lady of Bangkok, a WEC Vimeo award-winning short about Samruay’s life. Watch it here:

The boat lady of Bangkok - Winner Vimeo WEC from Benjamin Parrot