Biking Through Bangkok
I feel like I’ve smoked a pack of cigarettes. Maybe even two. I just spent an hour on a tuk tuk, inhaling exhaust fumes and trying to keep my eyes from drying out from the polluted air. To make it worse, my tuk tuk driver and I had a little bit of misunderstanding as to where I wanted to go. After 30 minutes of stop and go, bumper to bumper traffic, I pulled out my map and pointed to the sky-train station I was trying to get to. He said “ahhh!” and pointed somewhere off to the left. I sighed, sat back in my seat, and covered my nose with my hand, wondering why I had decided to try taking the sky-train when a taxi would be much more enjoyable than the open-aired tuk tuk. I had just finished an amazing day of biking in and around Bangkok (more on that later), and was now trying a new way of getting back to my hotel since taxis are a little expensive (in Thai terms) and the buses are impossible to figure out. Thirty more minutes of red lights, car horns, and rush hour madness, I was finally at the station. I jumped out of the tuk tuk, handed my driver some baht, and fled up the stairs to the sky-train. When I got there I realized I had no idea what to do. There was a coin operated ticket machine, but after having my ten baht coin fall through three times without any ticket issued, I implored the help of man behind me who was gracious enough to show me how the system works (it’s really not that complicated) and I was on my way.
The sky-train is actually really cool. It soars above the city and you can look down on the congested streets and sidewalk vendors selling food. At first the train was insanely crowded with school children and people getting off work, but it emptied out as we headed out of the city center. I reached my exit station and followed the crowd back down to the streets. My next mission was to find food. I was starving.
There is a nice looking restaurant close to my hotel, and needing a place to sit and relax, I headed there. It’s quite possibly my new favorite restaurant. I was greeted at the door by the owner and after being shown the menu (Japanese, to my delight!), I mentioned that I was a vegetarian and he graciously offered to make me something special. I took my seat at a booth and it wasn’t long before the plates to arrive. Five dishes overflowing with fresh vegetables, tofu, rice, and noodles to be exact. I was instructed to put the vegetables into the large pot sitting on a burner fixed to the table filled with simmering broth and wait until they were tender. I added the four different types of mushrooms, cabbage, bok choy, green onions, two types of tofu, and three different kinds of rice noodles into the pot and sat back to wait. When everything was ready, I ladled the soup into a bowl and seasoned it with a choice of four different sauces. It was amazing and only cost $10, which is actually pretty expensive for Thailand.
Now for the majority if my day. I left my hotel early this morning and headed downtown to Grasshopper Adventures where I would be embarking on a full day bike tour in and around Bangkok. After a late start, we (myself, a couple from Scotland, two girls from Singapore, and our guide, Woody), were on our way. Dodging in and out of traffic jams, maneuvering around masses of people, stopping for oncoming cars, buses, and tuk tuks, we wound our way through the city. The back alleys were narrow and often crowded, but we managed to make our way through without too much trouble. After about an hour of city riding, we began to see the outskirts of town. The riding gradually went from narrow lanes, to wider streets, to concrete slabs laid down through the forest. Our first stop was a Buddhist temple hidden away among the dense trees. A monk in his saffron robes posed for us before a giant gold Buddha.
Back on our bikes, we followed Woody on what seemed a wild goose chase through small villages, along dirt paths, over brides, atop elevated walkways, and my favorite , through flooded rivers. At one point we had to take off our shoes and peddle through a temple courtyard with water up to our knees, laughing the whole way. We stopped for lunch at a noodle shop along the river and then spent some time throwing cheese puffs and bits of bread to the giant catfish in the brown water.
Back on our bikes we continued our tour of ancient temples (at one temple a young monk sat astride a giant pig for our amusement), flooded plantations, and eventually back to the winding, narrow streets of the city. I was constantly amazed at how Woody knew every twist and turn because there were probably a hundred. Eventually we reached the banks of the Chao Phraya river and we loaded our bikes onto the ferry that would take us to the other side (we took the bridge on the way out of the city). After six hours we were back at the Grasshopper office, tired, wet, but thoroughly happy. It was definitely one of the best tours I have ever taken.
How to book: Grasshopper Adventures has a ton of great biking tours. The one that I did can be found here
Cost: 1-day tours are around $75