Loy Pela Voyages, Bangkok, Thailand

Loy Pela Voyages
Bangkok, Thailand


In a city racing towards tomorrow, Loy Pela Voyages is resurrecting the romance and mystique of yesterday’s Siam with its luxurious overnight cruises along the Chao Phraya River. Boarding the brand’s newest ship, the Loy River Song, we charted a leisurely course from the heart of Bangkok to the island of Ko Kret on a journey that truly befits the ‘River of Kings.’

Getting from A to B has never been quicker and easier thanks to the advancements in modern transportation. Yet, despite this, there has been a growing inclination amongst OutThere travellers lately towards a slower, more deliberate style of globe-trotting, reminiscent of an era when the journey was deemed just as important as the destination. We are seeing this play out in real-time with increasing demand for luxury train journeys, and now, over in Bangkok, a cruise company is echoing this sentiment with several itineraries, spanning from one to three nights, along one of the world’s most storied rivers. 

‘If Agatha Christie were alive today, this would be an irresistible setting for her next masterpiece’; that was our first thought when the Loy River Song departed from the dock outside the Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort and began gently puttering its way northward. Operated by Loy Pela Voyages under the international Minor Hotels chain, the vessel is one of just two historic teak rice barges that the company has carefully restored – the other being the smaller Loy Dream, which has just two berths. 

After being warmly greeted and presented with cold lemongrass-scented towels, refreshing herbal drinks, and sweet jasmine garlands by butlers who would look after us throughout the duration of the journey, we were ushered into a spacious sitting and dining area bathed in daylight pouring through floor-to-ceiling windows in every direction. The entire space felt like a love letter to old Siam, with original hardwood flooring, polished glass surfaces, vibrant upholstered furniture, precious antiquities, and travel books that practically begged to be closely inspected – that is, of course, when we hadn’t been lounging on the deck, captivated by the ever-changing spectrum of life along a river that has seen the rise and fall of empires, the birth of cities, and the development of cultures along its banks. The Chao Phraya River has quite literally been the cradle of civilization in Thailand. Historically, it supported early agricultural communities with its fertile plains and abundant water supply, fostering the growth of the first Thai kingdoms such as Sukhothai and eventually Ayutthaya, when it became a major trading hub, attracting merchants from around the world. Today, the river continues to be a lifeline for millions, supporting fishing communities, providing water for daily use, and serving as a major transportation route.

Below deck, there are just four staterooms, each ranging from 27 sqm/290 sqft to just over 36 sqm/388 sqft and aptly named after four of Thailand’s lesser-known main rivers – Nan, Yom, Wang, and Ping – that converge to form the Chao Phraya. Each one of the elegant rooms is appointed with either King or Queen beds, rare Thai silks, Jim Thompson fabrics, and its own unique style of handprinted wallpaper, while the en-suite bathrooms feature dressing tables and double vanities.

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While you’re Out There
Loy Pela Voyages guarantees your experiential cravings are fully satisfied with a variety of excursions and activities in their itineraries – and whenever you’re not docked for an adventure, you’ll be enjoying onboard pleasures like sunset cocktails and afternoon tea, or watching the world pass by from the cosy confines of the boat. One thing we would encourage is that at each destination of your journey, consider buying something special from one of the many traders and markets. Not only does it help to support the local economy, but it is an opportunity for you to bring home a meaningful and sentimental souvenir as a reminder of your river odyssey.

In our modern lives, it’s easy to succumb to feelings of guilt when we’re not constantly busy or occupied, but the Loy River Song throws those feelings overboard. Here, it’s all about completely disconnecting from the routines of daily life and embracing the art of relaxation while Bangkok’s main artery continues to pulsate around you. It almost sounds paradoxical; the idea of being able to experience peace and solitude in an environment so full of energy. But the Loy River Song does a splendid job of cocooning you in its cool, quiet and comfortable embrace. 

As our boat gracefully navigated the river’s gentle curves, we were treated to postcard-worthy scenes of Bangkok’s most beguiling landmarks, including Wat Arun and the opulent Grand Palace, while a team of polished staff pampered us with light bites and exotic fruits, keeping our glasses topped up. Each twist and turn of the river revealed a different epoch and aspect of daily life: vendors selling fresh vegetables and steaming bowls of noodle soup from old wooden sampans whilst overcrowded tourist boats lumbered from bank to bank; monks in saffron robes collecting alms from riverside residents whilst backpackers pointed their cameras to age-old temples; the sounds of lively bargaining, boat motors, and the occasional honk of a river taxi; the hive of trade, transport, and traffic; it reminded us of just how central the river is to so many lives.

Before long, the modern cityscape of glitzy hotels and high-rises transformed into a tableau of stilted homes, small market vendors, and diligent fishermen casting their nets into murky waters, signalling our arrival at Ko Kret, where we disembarked to get our hands dirty with a traditional pottery handicraft lesson – one of the several cultural activities offered by Loy Pela Voyages, alongside Thai dessert making, morning alms rituals with Buddhist monks, and tours of UNESCO-listed Ayutthaya. Meanwhile, our guide regaled us with tales of how this man-made island came to be – formed by a canal diversion to bypass a meander – and how it is home to the Mon ethnic group that migrated from Myanmar centuries ago. This community has managed to preserve many of their traditional ways of life, despite the pressures of modernisation, and one of the most enduring aspects of their culture is their pottery, known locally as “Kwan Aman.” For the Mon people, pottery making is not merely a means of livelihood, but a cultural expression that has been passed down through generations.

After exploring the island’s charming narrow lanes dotted with craft shops and food stalls, and pausing to pay our respects at the local Wat Poramai Yikawat (the last temple in Thailand to preserve Buddhist prayers in the Mon language), we returned to the boat for a sumptuous dinner prepared by award-winning chefs from Anantara’s culinary roster.  Zesty tom yum-infused pomelo salad, plump sautéed prawns with fragrant rice, refreshing coconut ice cream – each dish was perfectly prepared and complimented by fine wines.

To truly get beneath the fabric of Thai culture, we believe that one must start at the nation’s rivers. Loy Pela Voyages allows travellers to do this in one of the most intimate ways possible, away from the usual overcrowded tourist trappings, all while enveloped in luxury and world-class hospitality – hallmark characteristics that have come to define the Anantara and Minor brands… With jazz melodies serenading us, and panoramic river views all around, we relished the final moments of our journey. Agatha Christie would’ve certainly been in her element.


Photography by Bradley Burke and courtesy of Loy Pela Voyages

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