Last sunday I decided to go for a ride on my bicycle in Bangkok. WHAT??? Yes, I said ride a bicycle in Bangkok. Whereas most people declare me absolutely insane, little do they know that right in the middle of Bangkok there is a true piece of untouched jungle perfect for riding, called Phra Pradaeng. If you’ve ever visited the Thai country side, you’ll have an idea of what it feels like over there. It’s only 5 Km from the heart of the Sukhumvit area, and it is a true adventure. Many professional companies organize great cycling tours here, and although this is the best option for those that are visiting Bangkok, I like to go independently and discover things for myself. Every trip is a new adventure. Although I am a fanatic road cyclist, this trip is more suitable for mountain bikes and hybrids.
I leave my home around 8.15 AM. The roads are deserted and it’s an easy ride through the Bangkok streets. I end up at Wat Klong Toei, where I buy a 20 Baht ticket to get across the Chao Phraya river (for those familar with the area, take Kasem Rat road off Rama IV, then turn right towards Wat Klong Toei just before you hit the port area. There’s a bus depot, a 7-11 and many food carts there). This little boat trip is great. Barely a few centimeters above the water, cruising amidst commercial ships that look absolutely gigantic from our position, I often share my ride with temple visitors, market merchants, monks and the occasional chicken. Only a few minutes later we reach the opposite river bank and I can continue my ride. First I buy some water and Kluay tak (some sort of dried banana with honey) to keep me going. There’s a little store at this pier, and they also rent out bikes here. Those bikes are great for a short 10-20 Km ride, but if you’re a serious rider, go with one of the professional companies mentioned below that have well equipped mountain bikes available.
After 15 Km or so, I stop at one of the many temples I encounter on my way. Time for a quick break and some spring rolls. Food and drink is available all over in Phra Pradaeng. Little English is spoken, although I am greeted enthusiastically by many kids shouting “hello mister!”. Cats and dogs are all over the place. The pier at the temple is watched by a large number of motorcycle taxi drivers, patiently waiting for the next ferry to come in. Monks come and go, and some people are fishing. Life is good.
A little further down is a market. No signs. I discovered this when following quite a few people that were going into a certain direction along a small path. My experience teaches me that if Thai people in groups get excited, there is usually food or a market involved, and usually both. I was right again this time. I had some amazing grilled pork from the barbeque, and some juice from fruit that I am not familiar with. It tasted very good though, and it was an excellent and (presumably) healthy thirst quencher. All for less than the equivalent of US$ 1.50.
After continuing for a while on one of the main roads, I decide to get off the beaten track and follow one of the concrete elevated paths that are so typical of this area. They are quite narrow, and sometimes I have to make way for the odd dog, pedestrian or motorcycle. The paths are created to connect people’s houses to the main roads, and one gets a close up view of the daily life of the people that live here. Most of these paths ultimately lead to the river, which surrounds Phra Pradaeng (see map below). Although no navigation is needed on a group tour, I recommend a GPS or at least a decent map and compass just in case you decide to go there alone for the 1st time. The area is not big enough to seriously get lost, but especially once you get on the elevated paths it is easy to lose your sense of direction. At the end of the path, indeed I hit the river and another temple. After watching 5 newborn kitties play and fool around, I once again get back on my bike to continue the tour.
I continue going home with a long loop following the river, crossing at one of the bridges, a quick detour into China town, and back to Sukhumvit via Lumphini Park. This last part of the trip is not recommended unless you are a very experienced cyclist and you don’t mind dodging Bangkok traffic, inhaling exhaust fumes and zig-zagging through traffic jams. You’re better off making your way back the way you came.
Below are some pictures of the Phra Pradeang part of the ride. They were all taken by mobile phone camera, but will give you a good idea on what you will encounter. Enjoy!