Exploring Bangkok by BikeFriday, February 10, 2017 by admin
Getting around in Bangkok is exceedingly versatile. You see the sites by tuk-tuk or haggle taxi boat prices on the Chao Phraya. Or cruise aboard one of Southeast Asia’s most efficient public transit systems. In any case, you’re never far from where you want to be. So why not take on the hustle and bustle of the city at your own pace? Explore Bangkok by bike!
Bike tours have become increasingly popular in Bangkok. They offer visitors a unique perspective and access to the tangle of backstreets and splendour of the outskirts. All while ticking off the must-see stops along the way.
There are many operators offering pre-designed guided bike tours for varying skill levels and time commitments. You might want a recreational bike tour of Bangkok. Or an escape to the urban oasis of Bang Krachao, the “Green Lung” of the city. Maybe fancy an arduous MTB Thailand trek? Bangkok bike tour providers have it all. Many will even customise an experience to your taste or will provide self-guided GPS to follow, and all for a surprisingly affordable price – many tours start at just $30.
Alternatively, those comfortable with a map and equipped with a sense of adventure can hire high-quality, well-serviced bicycles citywide. Bike rental in Bangkok starts from just $2 a day, or you can even have one delivered to your hotel. Just beware of the crazy labyrinth that is the streets of Bangkok!
The Historical Highlights
Tick off all your must-see sites of Bangkok by bike, enjoying a wildly different perspective. Delve into the meandering sois that make up much of the city’s culture. To visit them all could take days if not weeks. But the beauty and flexibility of biking in Bangkok are that you’re able to venture to wherever piques your interest. Simply book a guided tour suited to your taste!
The Grand Palace
Many tours begin along the paths along the Bangkok Noi, a large canal off the Chao Phraya River. The canal offers access to dotted communities boasting the diversity sprawled across the city. As fishing boats and taxis buzz past, meander among ancient Buddhist temples. Located alongside bustling Muslim neighbourhoods, they remain virtually unvisited by Westerners. Stop by the Old Customs House right on the river. In ancient times, this was the first stop for travellers entering Bangkok.
The river roads will eventually open up to The Grand Palace, one landmark not to be missed. At the heart of the city, the palace has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam and Thailand since 1782. Hop off your bike and wander through its famous public park. Once it was exclusively reserved for the royal family but now open to the public.
From the palace, twisting alleyways will lead cyclists to The Giant Swing or Wat Suthat. This is one of Bangkok’s oldest and more impressive temples. Another homage to the vibrant diversity of the area, the red swing is a symbol of the Hindu religion. The swing ceremony involves men swinging from the top to collect a bag of coins. It’s a representation of the Hindu myth in which Uma Devi places a bet with Shiva. The legend says a serpent is suspended between two trees over a river, swinging and aiming to strike Shiva. The struck Shiva does not fall, though. And it signifies the soundness and strength of earth’s creation by Brahma.
Turn up the heat a little bit and embrace the commotion of ever-enigmatic Chinatown. Ride along the animated street markets that pour across indeterminate blocks, disappearing into alleys inaccessible by cars, concealing forgotten temples and shrines.
If you manage to escape the grips of Chinatown, it is the perfect jumping-off point for exploring beyond the city limits.
Do you prefer sticking to the city’s rim? Or would you go for journeying deeper outside the greater Bangkok area? There’s always a special charm achieved exiting the congestion of the city, cycling along increasingly narrowing paths and winding trails. The journeys are usually gentle and flat, suitable for all levels. Occasionally they might involve more technical or MTB (mountain bike) riding. So be prepared and at the appropriate fitness level for your undertaking.
You can spend a whole day losing yourself in the beautiful and often overlooked Thonburi District. It is situated on the West banks of the Chao Phraya River. Thonburi is best-known for the iconic temple of the dawn, Wat Arun. However, dig deeper into the back streets and discover the Santa Cruz Church and surrounding Portuguese community. Or go explore the quirky Wat Prayoon and its tranquil turtle pond. Thonburi is also home to one of Bangkok’s lesser-known floating markets, Klong Lad Mayom. Smaller than the famous Damnoen Saduak, it’s free of the crowds and teeming with Thai charm. If in need of a break, unwind in the delightfully secluded Princess Mother Memorial Park.
If your sights are set even farther outside the city proper, rise early and embark on the 25-kilometer biking journey North to the crumbling ruins of UNESCO world heritage site Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Siam until 1767 when Burmese invaders sacked it.
Explore the ruins of Wat Mahatat and its famously mysterious Buddha’s head, and the hauntingly impressive ruins of the Royal Palace. Then bike to the beautifully preserved Wat Na Phra Meru. It is still intact as it was the base for the Burmese troops during their occupation of the ancient city. Along the route back, stop at Wat Niwet Thamapra, a unique gothic-style temple towering atop a river island. The road is flat and widely travelled, suitable for all levels.
Amphawa Floating Market
To experience a bit more of the countryside and varying terrain, head past coconut farms and fruit plantations to Amphawa Floating Market, famous among the locals. En route you’ll cycle through cascading plant nurseries and orchards between quaint canal villages and temple ruins. At 40 kilometres of riding it’s a longer journey but over easy trails and roads.
Thanks to Bangkok’s location, it is also possible to head south on a longer bike adventure to the coastline of the Gulf of Thailand, host of tiny fishing communities and winding backcountry roads flanked by mangroves. The unique flora and fauna of the region include kingfishers, monitor lizards and the Planet Earth star, the mudskipper fish.
Bangkok Night Bike Tour
Home to 10 million people, this dazzling city of lights is most spectacularly seen after sundown, with the focal point undoubtedly around the Chao Phraya River.
Start your Bangkok night bike tour in bustling Chinatown. Explore all things food down Yaowarat Road and Talat Kao Market, one of the oldest markets in Bangkok. It used to be a trading post in Chinatown for over a century. Dim sum in hand, wander through the old Chinese community, uncovering herbal medicine shops and stalls of all kinds, and end at the Leng Buai La Shrine, the oldest Chinese shrine in Thailand, where evening worshippers gather shrouded in spirituality and fragrant incense.
For sundown, cycle along the Chao Phraya River toward the Memorial Bridge for stunning views of the Grand Palace and the sun setting over Wat Pho. Another option is to head to see the sunset at The Golden Mount, or Wat Saket,
After dark, visit the Amulet Market near the Grand Palace, where you can watch buyers and traders bargaining for tiny amulets, scouring for those with hidden value. Back toward Chinatown lies the city’s largest flower market, Pak Khlong Talat.
Bangkok by Bike Like a Local
To truly escape the tourists, take to Bangkok’s byways and back streets among the small wooden stalls and iron-barred apartments of middle-class Bangkok.
Bangkok’s Central Business District is virtually off the tourist’s map entirely, with many streets inaccessible to all but foot or bicycle traffic. Textile factories are interspersed with ornate Buddhist shrines and elderly Thai women crouched in front of street-side stoves, brewing up curries of chicken and vegetables, eventually leading up to some of Bangkok’s poorest areas. Take care to respect the neighbourhood’s privacy, and you’ll likely find delightfully friendly smiles around every corner.
Bangrak, or the Village of Love, is a formerly busy trading port with an important place in the city’s history, including the introduction of the Thai printing press and the first automobile in the county. Today the neighbourhood is one of the best food areas of the city and home to the infamous Patpong Red Light District.
Take a getaway like a local to nearby Ko Kret Island. This island was literally made for the cyclist, as it’s the only transportation option besides your own two feet. The island is inhabited by the Mon, a people famous for the craftsmanship and terracotta pottery. Unsurprisingly, the main village boasts a massive and charmingly quaint marketplace.
A Taste of Bangkok
The beauty of a city as culturally rich as Bangkok is that any bike tour can easily turn into a culinary crawl. Set out on an empty stomach and embark on a journey among cuisines spanning the continent.
The street markets of Chinatown
Sampeng Lane, the birthplace of Chinatown and one of the area’s most bustling markets by day, transforms into an outdoor eatery by night. It serves up a variety of Chinese and Malay foods like moo ping (barbequed pork), isaan sausage, guay diow (noodle soup), ladnar noodles and mango sticky rice.
The food of Little India
Pahurat Market, or Little India, is a short cycle from Chinatown, an area known for its textiles, silks, one of the largest Sikh temples outside of India, and of course, its food. As soon as you turn down the alleys, the fragrances of cardamom and masala fill the senses. Stalls along the street scorch hand-rolled rotis over open flames. Delicious curry houses offer respite from the outside chaos.
Klong San Market
Head toward the banks of the Chao Phraya River to the Klong San Market. Delightfully void of tourists, you can wander down the teeming pathways hawking everything from bags by designers like “Proda” or “Louit Vuitton” to limitless cheap street snacks. Load up on fried chicken and Thai-style pastries brushing elbows with the city’s locals.
Keep going along the river to the lively pier-market Tha Din Daeng. Known locally as Bangkok’s second Chinatown, the riverside market is a Bangkok best-kept secret for some of the best authentic Thai eats. With shops specialising in kanom pia (baked bread balls with bean,) haan palo (braised goose), guay tiew moo (pork noodles,) and rad na (noodles in gravy,) it’s impossible not to find something to suit your palate. Cap it all off with kanom chan (Thai pudding) and a traditional Thai coffee as you watch the river lights from the pier.
Bangkok Jungle Bike Tours
Part of Bangkok’s allure is its chaos and commotion, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find tranquillity and nature at its doorstep.
Known as Bangkok’s Green Lung, Bang Krachao in Phra Pradaeng is a cyclist’s paradise. With elevated paths and a web of dirt roads, this peninsular sanctuary on the Chao Phraya is home to Talad Bang Nampung, an authentically Thai floating market with rows of tables served by floating kitchens. Cycling through the urban oasis with stilted houses on swamplands and raised sidewalks may be mesmerising, but there are several stops worth checking out: a venue near the pier hosts a Siamese Fighting Fish Gallery, or try your luck and search for giant monitor lizards in the Bang Krachao Park. Many companies offer bike tours, though the island is gentle enough to explore solo, and bike rental is available just as you exit the ferry pier.
Not for the faint of heart, Khao Ito, an area bordering Khao Yai National Park, offers avid cyclists tough, technical and exciting riding through the hills and canopied forests. Your hard work will award incredible views and panoramas of the surrounding countryside, beautiful in either wet or dry season. Mountain biking (MTB) experience in similar conditions is required as there is occasional overgrowth or rocky paths and some steep descents, and it’s advised to go with a bike tour guide on this Bangkok bike adventure for those unfamiliar with the terrain.
Follow the Saen Seab Canal toward Minburi, one of the city’s oldest suburbs, toward the old market town of Nong Chock. A quaint, Muslim-dominated agricultural province, you’ll get a taste for the quieter side of Thai life, cycling past fish farms, rice mills and traditional Thai homes. Other sites along the way include the Temple of Phurt Udom Pol and the Kamalulislam Mosque.
Those truly looking to get off-the-beaten-track can embark on multi-day tours for Thailand cycling and beyond. While not recommended to endeavour solo without ample experience, several bike tour companies offer packages complete with hotel itineraries, on-site mechanic and maintenance, backup support van for breaks from riding and to carry luggage, and snacks aplenty.
From Bangkok to Phuket or Koh Samui
Ride from Bangkok by bike down the coast to the islands of the Gulf through the beautiful back roads of Southern Thailand. Pass the limestone mountains of Sam Roi Yot National Park, wild monkey forests, and rubber plantations. Then break from exploring mangrove forests, caves and pristine coastline stopping at top highlights like the Khi Buri National Park and elephant conservation site. Once in Chumphon, board a ferry to either ultra-chic Koh Samui or beachy paradise Koh Phangan. For snorkelling and diving go to Koh Tao. This journey typically takes about five days.
Or continue riding right down to Phuket – the biggest southern island of Thailand. This will take a little longer but will give you an opportunity to enjoy the variety if Thai wildlife to its fullest.
From Bangkok to Burma
Head west from Bangkok toward the Burmese border to experience the Bridge Over the River Kwai. Reflect on the haunting WWII history as you cycle alongside the Death Railway. These tracks were laid by prisoners of war to link Thailand and Burma. Visit the Hellfire Pass and Krasae Cave. Meander through series of winding roads to find Angkor-era ruins at Muang Sing, the further point west that the great Khmer Empire once spread. This route is most easily accessible from Kanchanburi, a short drive from Bangkok.
Bangkok to Siem Reap
Why not make it an international trip and take a five-day ride to Siem Reap? This five-day cycling route takes you along the coastline and through old Khmer mining towns. Pass by widespread farms and orchards, with a stop in increasingly popular Battambang.