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Bang Kachao Island: cycling through the green urban oasis of Bangkok

by Flitter Fever
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Bang Kachao, the surprisingly big and lush green urban oasis south of Bangkok. Cycling in Bangkok may not be the first thing that comes to your mind when thinking about possible activities in the vibrant capital of Thailand. Cycling is by far not as popular here as it is in The Netherlands for example. Nevertheless, bicycling is a great way to see the hidden gems of Bangkok. Let’s explore Bang Kachao with the Colors of Bangkok tour guided by Recreational Bangkok Biking (RBB).

Who has not cycled through Bangkok, has not yet seen Bangkok.

André Breuer, founder RBB

Cycling in the city

You may wonder why you would take a tour by bicycle, moreover in a city like Bangkok. Yes, it is warm, but it’s something different and it’s so worth the efforts! What I love about taking a bicycle ride with a local guide in some foreign city in general is:

  • Exploring city parts that you would never see on your own
  • Healthy exercise that brings you further than walking
  • You get to see a lot in a relatively short period of time
  • Escape the city bustle and enjoy a peaceful green ride

Go ahead, give it a try! Let me tell you about my experience and hopefully it will inspire you to do the same. Do pay attention when riding the bike on the path on poles; you do not want to cycle off and fall into the water or mud! Many parts of the path have railing, but many do not, so be aware.

Bang Kachao

Bang Kachao (Thai: บางกระเจ้า) is a pretty peninsula, or actually it is in fact a so-called artificial island, located in the south of Bangkok’s city center. Artificial because originally, back in the 1800s, Bang Kachao was not an island yet. It became an island when a canal called Khlong Lat Pho was dug, disconnecting Bang Kachao from the mainland. The nickname of Bang Kachao is the Green Lungs of Bangkok, which is known as the City of Angels. Often Bang Kachao gets misspelled, for example as Bangkachao, Bang Krachao or Bang Kra Jao, but the last one is not entirely incorrect. Bang Krachao is actually the name of a different sub-district in Bangkok.

Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park and Botanical Garden forms the green heart of Bang Kachao, a peaceful tropical recreational area with a carp pond and wooden bridges, surrounded by a maze of waterways, some temples and small villages. From a 7-meter observation tower you can overlook the scenic surroundings. This unexpected lush oasis is only a short boat ride away from the city center of Bangkok. The traffic-choked city center is no more than 2 km from Bang Kachao. You can see the skyscrapers through the trees in the park!

Time Magazine named the 16 sq km island the Best Urban Oasis. The Thai government ruled that 60% of the island has to remain free of development to maintain its unspoiled character and serene setting. We went during Christmas holiday but the public park was incredibly empty; we crossed paths with maybe 10 people in a few hours’ timeframe! Apparently there are snakes on Bang Kachao, but all we heard and saw were some exotic birds. The same bird species that woke me up in for example Kanchanaburi every single day.

The Colors of Bangkok experience

6 am, the alarm goes off. Urgh. How do I come up with these things during vacation? 6.30, shit we have to rush now! We did not make this booking for nothing. 7 am and we are out of the door, into a taxi on our way to the meeting point of the tour. The tour starts at 8 am, which is about 45 min by taxi from our hotel in the Khao San Road area.

We meet The Colors of Bangkok tour guide and the other group members: a couple from Denmark, three ladies from Germany, our new friend Tharin from The Netherlands and the two of us. We are happily surprised to see our brand new looking chopper style bicycles with wide saddles. Yah! Let’s get this bicycle party started! We all receive a bottle of water and off we go! The guide helps us crossing a street that at least felt like a highway, but apparently it is tolerated to cycle here. Who would have thought? Adventurous!

Being a true Dutchie I could not resist hopping on a bicycle in this vibrant, colorful city!

Local community

The first stop is a temple that is also facilitates a kindergarten for the poor people that live in this neighborhood. We continue our ride and go into narrow alleys where in some parts my bicycle handlebar barely fits. This part of the city is what we may refer to as slum, but it is home to its friendly inhabitants. This is where some of the poorest people of Bangkok live. The city government allows people to live there as long as they build their own house. A couple of chickens, a rooster, a goose and two cats run a round. A father who is repairing the tire of his kid’s bicycle. An older woman is fixing a fishing net. Simple wooden houses with the basics of the basics. I cannot imagine living here but the people do not seem unhappy. Friendly smiles to the group of foreign visitors with their bicycles.

After a quick stop we move further towards the improvised port, where our bicycles are loaded on one long tail boat and the entire group steps into another. We get to wear this bright orange life vest, looking all charming. At a fair speed we safely cross the Chao Phraya River (Menam) and step on to the island of Bang Kachao, which is actually strictly not even Bangkok anymore. Bang Kachao is part of the Phra Pradaeng District in the Samut Prakan Province.

It is not even 9am yet and the temperatures start to rise. Nevertheless, the cycling comes with a nice welcome breeze that makes it comfortable and fun. Basic teak-wooden houses on poles (stilt house), small farms, mansion size houses with shiny fences, apparently people from all walks of life live here together as one big community.

Jungle ride

We ride our bicycles on a concrete pathway on poles that is laid out through Bangkok’s greenest area. Mangrove, ferns, palm trees, banana trees, durian trees (the smelly fruit), trees with flowers in full bloom, orchards, cycling through a curtain of lianas… Welcome to the jungle of Bangkok! It is the cool season now and temperatures are nice. Unfortunately this time of the year no water comes out from the sea, revealing the plastic soup that sadly remains when the water flow stops and withdraws. The plastic is a pity but despite all that this is a wonderful lush green oasis in the middle of such huge metropolitan.

No tourist crowds, no skyscrapers, no traffic noise. Instead of looking out for racing tuktuks, just watch out for dropping coconuts or durians.

Throwing coins

We stop to eat some delicious mango sticky rice and a refreshing drink at a local eatery. All group members are obviously enjoying themselves. After another ride through the jungle forest we arrive at a temple with two big Buddha statues outside. Monks inside are chanting their daily prayers. Not a tourist to see, except for us then.

The guide tells about the story of the temple, which is called Wat Bang Nam Phueng Nok (see map below) and 250 years old! Everybody can slam the big gong once. The Golden Buddha with the big belly turns out to be Chinese. Those who manage to throw a coin into his belly button can make a wish. And yes, I managed!

Observe & Listen

We continue our journey. Jungle, some houses, some farming, a pleasure to the eye and fun to ride a bike here. Almost unbelievable something like this is so close to such big metropolitan. Every now and then we cross paths with a friendly local, who smiles and patiently waits for the group to pass by on our bicycles. We cyle into Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park, a city park with botanical garden. We feed the cute dogs and walk up a 7-meters high, wooden observation platform. What a contrast to see the skyscrapers through the green leaves! Exotic birds singing their song. The park is pretty much deserted. What a lucky day! 

Muay Thai vs. Pad Thai 

Our next stop is a local open-air Muay Thai school where a 62-year-old ex-champion teaches his students the fine art of Thai style boxing. A few group members decide to accept the offer to get into the ring for a sort battle with the teacher. Sweat!!

As a reward, we move on to the last stop of our cycling tour, a local restaurant called Lookjan that serves tasty local dishes. I chose Pad Thai, the delicious dish with flat noodles and peanuts. On our way back to RBB’s office, a group of local kids waive at us, and we cross the highway again. Almost five hours later we feel sweaty but satisfied; this ride was worth every drop!

Relaxed tour

Like I mentioned before, the pace is relaxed. More than enough stops are made, most of the jungle path is in the shade and the cycling creates a refreshing flow of wind. The temperature and especially humidity in Bangkok that will make you sweat no matter what you do anyway, so better do something great, right? I would highly recommend doing this tour in the morning. It gives an exciting, unique and unforgettable view on the green side of Bangkok and the daily lives of its friendly community. An off the beaten track hidden gem that you should not miss when visiting Bangkok! If you know how to ride a bicycle, go for it.

Video

Watch this video by RBB to get an impression of our Colors of Bangkok ride!

We booked our tour about a week in advance due to limited spaces (max 8 people per tour) and we had a particular date in mind when we wanted to do this tour. But even on short notice, just check availability and you might be lucky!

Recreational Bangkok Biking (RBB)

You may have noticed that over the years, several companies started to offer bicycle tours in Bangkok. So why this one? The great thing with Recreational Bangkok Biking (RBB) is that the:

  • groups are kept small on purpose (max 8 people)
  • bicycles are in excellent condition with comfy saddles
  • relaxed pace of the ride is attainable for pretty much anyone
  • super friendly staff really cares about their customers
  • local community is supported with the help of RBB

When I hear about other tours like Co van Kessel with 40 people in one group I am extra happy we picked The Colors of Bangkok bicycle tour. RBB has more than 15 years of experience and they clearly know what they do. You get value for money and you feel quality is top priority here. I appreciate that.

Recreational Bangkok Biking offers six other guided bicycle tours in Bangkok, plus nowadays also in Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai. It is possible to book your cycle tour in Ayutthaya as a day trip from Bangkok via RBB.

How to get there

The easiest wat to visit Bang Kachao is booking the The Colors of Bangkok bicycle tour with RBB. Simply get a taxi from your hotel to the office of RBB via the Grab app. Or ask the staff of your accommodation to arrange a taxi for you. RBB’s address is: Rama 3 Road Soi 71, Bangkok. After booking a tour, you will get a PDF with an explanation of the route in English and Thai and a map, but it is easy to find.

Going on your own

Should you not want to join a small group tour, you could consider to rent a bicycle and cycle around on your own. The paths felt a bit like a maze and you will miss the tour’s guidance, but adventurous low budget travelers, eager to save money, may want to give it a shot. What you need to do then is:

  • Take a taxi or public transport from accommodation to the ferry pier (variable costs)
  • Take the ferry to Bang Kachao, duration app. 5 min (app. 10 THB single ride)
  • Rent a bike at one of the northern piers of Bang Kachao (app. 40 THB p/h or 80 THB p/d)
  • Bring ID with photo like passport or driver’s license (or pay 1000 THB deposit for each bicycle)
  • Pick up and drop off the bicycle between 07:30h and 19:00h
  • Take the ferry back to Bangkok city (app. 10 THB single ride)
  • Take a taxi or public transport from the ferry pier to your accommodation (variable costs)

See the map below for locations. It is also possible to rent a bicycle at the park instead of at the pier. The pier on Bangkok city side it called Klongtoeynok Phothong Pier, which is located at the Klong Toey Port, next to the temple Wat Klong Toey Nok. From this pier the ferry goes to two different piers on the northern side of Bang Kachao. Another pier you can publically use is in the west called Wat Bang Nam Phueng Nok Pier (Bang Kachao side). You can take the BTS Skytrain to Bang Na or Udom Suk and then a taxi to the Wat Bang Na Nork Pier to board a boat to cross the river. See map below. I did not see any tuktuks taxis on Bang Kachao, but you could use one to bring you to the pier.

Map

This mobile friendly map includes most things mentioned in this article and is smartphone friendly. You can use it easily via Google Maps. Click on the top left icon to open the menu. You can (un)select categories/areas to customize the map to your needs. Via Google Drive you can copy it to your folder of My Google Maps.

What to bring

Tip: do not bring too much stuff to this tour. To sum up, all you will basically need is:

  • Comfortable shoes (sneakers, sturdy sandals, nothing with heels)
  • Comfortable clothes for sunny weather
  • Sunglasses and sun hat
  • Sunscreen and insect repellent
  • Camera
  • Some cash for taxi and mango sticky rice

You will receive a bottle of water from RBB. Above all, I would strongly recommend to use 100% DEET insect repellent and spray it all over your body before taking a bicycle ride anywhere in Thailand. Our tour guide, a smart local lady, wore long sleeves and long pants to discourage insects and bugs to bother her flawless skin. I did not wore long sleeves or pants due to the heat. Unfortunately I forgot to spray on the insect repellent that was my friend for the past 2.5 weeks in Thailand. This I regret deeply because I ended up with a few itchy bite marks that stayed around for a number of weeks. In addition, should you have an extreme fear of heights you may not like the bicycle path on poles that goes through Bang Kachao.

When to visit Bang Kachao

Taking a bicycle ride through Bang Kachao can be done any day of the week, morning time is best. Locals tend to visit the park during the weekend and some national holidays. As a consequence, Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park and Botanical Garden will be the most peaceful during week days. The park is open daily from 06:00h till 20:00h. Most comfortable will be the ‘cooler’ period in Thailand, which runs from November till February, when temperatures usually do not rise above 35°C in the afternoon. But as mentioned before, the ride can be done pretty much all year round.

The weekend edition of The Colors of Bangkok bicycle tour, which is 1.5 to 2 hours longer than usual (officially during the week it is 4 hours but ours took 5 hours). This weekend edition includes a few extras such as a rickshaw ride (which is an authentic Thai bicycle-taxi) and visiting a local market. Going on your own to Bang Kachao on a Saturday or Sunday? The local authentic Bang Nam Phueng Floating Market is held between 07:00h and 16:00h and includes many food stalls, accessories, plants, etc. Most stalls are on land with floating boat kitchens. Try to get there before lunch time.

Where to stay

You will have to decide whether you would like to stay on Bang Kachao to enjoy the peacefulness, or stay in Bangkok’s city center to see more of the city easier. For one or two nights it may be nice to stay on Bang Kachao, but personally I found it a bit too much back and forth off the island if you want to do or see anything in the center of Bangkok.

Should you prefer staying in Bangkok city center, I would suggest to stay within walking distance of Kao San Road, which is full of bars, restaurants and massage salons. Chillax has two excellent resorts in the popular Khao San Road area: Chillax Heritage and Chillax Resort, of which Chillax Heritageis the slightly better one. Should both be full, have a look at Nouvo City Hotel, which is a good alternative right across our favorite place to eat and drink, Madame Musur.  

If you want to consider staying at Bang Kachao, for example to relax for a few nights at the end of your Thailand trip, I would recommend staying at B&B Baan Makham-BangNamPhueng. In case this is above your budget, then have a look at B&B Lilliput Bangkachao.

Chillax Heritage Hotel and B&B Baan Makham-BangNamPhueng

I wrote this article because I loved this tour and I feel companies like RBB deserve credits for the way they serve their customers. I was never asked or paid by RBB to write this article. This article does include affiliate links to support this website. For more information click here.

I hope you like this article and find it useful. Are you visiting Bangkok at the moment or planning to go there? Wish you a lot of fun on the Colors of Bangkok cycle tour! It is a great way to see the other side of Bangkok. Should you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below.

To read more articles about Thailand check out the Thailand Blog Archives.

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2 comments

Tharin 01/22/2020 - 09:11

Can I please go back to this place? Thanks to your blog, I got to relive this wonderful experience. We had a great time during this bicycle tour – would reccomend it to anyone – and I really enjoyed your company!

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Flitter Fever 01/27/2020 - 18:58

Thank you for your super kind message Tharin, I appreciate it! Looking forward to see you again. Kind regards, Elisa

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