July 22, 2024
Thrills on 2 Wheels in Bangkok

Thrills on 2 Wheels in Bangkok

Bicycling in Thailand
Bicycling in Thailand

Fancy seeing Bangkok, land of crazy traffic, on a bike by night?

When I first heard that Grasshopper Adventures was running a Bangkok Bike Tour, I thought it was a joke. It’s hard enough to cross the road by foot, let alone roll about by pedal power. And then I discovered they also run the tour at night, and I thought for sure these guys are crazy – and I signed up right away.

All good inventions take a while to catch on, but for the brilliance behind designing this cycling tour in Bangkok was to keep the bikes off the road and in the back streets.

“Every day, I used to ride to work along the canals and footpaths, and I never had to worry about being run over by a tuk-tuk,” says Ae Thagoon, who runs the tours for Grasshopper Adventures.

The rides are available any day of the week and are guaranteed to run even if there’s only one customer. Tours begin a few streets back from Khao San Road, in an area of Banglamphoo that is popular with locals for its markets and temples. It is easy to get there by land or water.

We get on our bikes just before the sun goes down, so we can get familiar with the gear before darkness sets in. The path ahead is completely flat. so there’s no need to work the gears to hard, but the brakes are an essential element for a safe ride.

Once you know you can pull up in an instant, it is easier to wander about with a little of confidence. For day trips, the level of skill required to get around town is very low. You don’t have to be Lance Armstrong to do the tour – all you need is good balance on the bike and be prepared to take it slow when the path gets narrow.

The itinerary is as much about stopping to enjoy the highlights as it is the riding. Entering the grounds of Wat Po at night reveals a new world of peace and tranquility that would be hard to imagine during daytime when thousands of visitors ramble past the temples. The soft glow of floodlights bounces of the stupas. You can’t visit the reclining Buddha at this hour or the night, but the smell of incense still wafts through the air to remind you that this is a living place of worship.

Wat Po and Wat Arun are the starts of this journey, but the smaller temples in minor streets are equally entrancing. Bangkok is filled to the brim with Buddhist devotion, which is one reason the people in the city are so nice. Every community has its own temple, a central point for the gathering of harmony and kindness. When you have the time to explore these lesser known locations, you will get a different feel for the city.

A certain charm
Grubby tuk-tuks and epileptic taxi drivers are not what Bangkok is about – it’s the generations of families living together in small homes along rivers and streets that define the city’s charm. Typical of any Asian city, the “charm” does tend to spill onto the street, and as we ride through cloistered neighborhoods, we encounter the hazards of low-hung laundry, cooking over the hot coals and children inventing new ball games.

The sudden arrival of cyclists and flashing lights cause a stir with the kids, and they pop out of the darkness to wave and scream in excitement. Even the grandmothers get a little overwhelmed sometimes, and they too give a grin and a chuckle.

Bangkok is a city of canals and klongs that form a network of waterways feeding off the Chao Phraya River. This is where much of the city’s life takes place. The footpaths and lanes that connect the klongs to major thoroughfares are not very wide, which make them ideal for cyclists. It’s these smaller streets that make Bangkok such a great place for two-wheeled transportations.

Paths along the bike rise not only get narrow, but they can also look a little wet at times. One section that follows the klong for several hundred meters suddenly does a left turn and heads out across the water. This trail that leads away from terra firma is a little mysterious in the dark, but it eventually returns back to the river banks.

Locals to Bangkok like Ae Thagoon would not dream of taking a taxi or bus to get across town. They are not trying to be eco-friendly, they just know how simple it is to grab a bike and head into the backstreets. In the absence of traffic lights and traffic jams, the distance from one side of town to the other seems small. And you don’t have to race along at breakneck speed either. A gentle pace gets you around in very little time.

The duration of a tour depends on your group and how long you want to stay and play at the temples and markets. Day-trippers may find themselves engrossed in smaller markets across the river in Thonburi, while the night-riders can get easily distracted by the variety of street eats on offer.

Two-wheeled adventures in Bangkok are not merely a way to see the city, but they give you the rare chance to experience life through the eyes of local folks.

Grasshopper Adventures offers half-day bike tours around Bangkok on any day of the week for just 1000 Thai Baht, and the three-to-four-hour night ride for 1100 Thai Baht. Book online at www.grasshopperadventures.com or call telephone +66 (0)87 929 5208.

Written by
Sean Kjetil Nordbo
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