If you’re overjoyed by the recent onset of cooler temperatures in Bangkok, then there’s no better time to find a set of (bicycle) wheels and explore the city by pedal power. Go out and try it now, because you know how fickle winter in the Big Mango can be.
Wondering where you could possibly (and sanely) get around on bicycle in the Thai capital? Try these suggested routes. And please wear a helmet!
While not technically in Bangkok province, Bang Krachao’s main entry point is directly across from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. You can see the skyscrapers of Rama 4 from the northern tip, but once you pedal in, the greenery takes over.
Development on Bang Krachao is restricted, allowing it to retain it’s natural feel. This can be a therapeutic bike ride in the sense that you can spend hours meandering around lush paths through dense tropical scenery, without any traffic, red lights, or exhaust fumes. A bike trip to Bang Krachao makes a great escape from the hectic buzz of the city without having to go far.
A highlight that shouldn’t be missed is Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan park, which features a bird watching tower and a hidden raft pull. Recharge with delectable market grub at Nam Pheung floating market.
To get there, take the MRT to Sirikit Convention Centre and then taxi or motorbike it to the ferry pier, which is directly next to Wat Klong Toey Nok. The rickety and impossibly tiny ‘ferry’ across the Chao Phraya is half the fun. You can rent bikes on the Bang Krachao side for about 80 baht per day.
For a festival of lights that will immerse you in the most regal of Bangkok settings, a night trip through Dusit can be a real treat for the eyes. This is Bangkok’s European-inspired royal zone. Expect to see lots of impressive canal bridges, royal households, and elegant road arches, all with foreign flair.
From a biking perspective, Dusit is one of the most cycle-friendly parts of the city. Especially if you go on a Sunday evening, there’s little to no traffic.
Since Dusit was one of the only planned parts of Bangkok, attention was given to proper footpaths and wide streets with ample shoulders on the sides. All of which will be mostly empty on a weekend evening — plus you get the full effect of the lights then too.
A recommended start is by Wat Benchamabophit (also known as the Marble Temple), where the floodlighting at night really makes the white marble pop. Continue on through and make sure you see the Ananta Samakhorn Throne Hall, which is breathtaking at dusk.
A good access point to Dusit via public transit is taking Si Ayutthaya road west from Phaya Thai BTS.
You’ve surely seen the megaliths of Bangkok tourism by day — the Grand Palace and Wat Pho — replete in their tour bus group glory. But don’t let that be your only impression of Rattanakosin Island.
At night, the tour bus traffic is gone and the hordes of people have vanished. And on bike, you won’t constantly get heckled by tuk tuk drivers. Since the area’s been around for over two centuries, the city government has managed to put in functional sidewalks throughout, and even — gasp! — a bike path with cute flashing barrier lights.
Make sure you turn your head across from the palace too, though. The whole strip of streets to the side of the palace area is home to a collection of immaculately preserved 19th century Thai-European designed public buildings which are often lit up at night.
The city also revamped Bangkok’s classic Sanam Luang park. When I first arrived in Bangkok, Thai friends joked that this was a place to go to get chopped up by prostitutes (not sure where the funny part of that joke is, but they always grinned when telling it). Now, the park’s ‘night staff’ seem to have largely moved on. Take a break on the verdant lawn while enjoying the Grand Palace’s floodlit chedis.
Combo Loop: Lumpini and Benjakiti Parks
You know these parks already, but did you know that they are actually connected?
The Green Mile is essentially a long pedestrian bridge — think a ubiquitous Bangkok saphan loy, but on steroids. It is indeed neon green in color, and it allows cyclists and joggers to make a huge loop between the downtown area’s two largest parks.
With the Green Mile, it is possible to do a giant circuit that includes Lumpini Park, the connector, and a circuit of the relatively large lake loop of Benjakiti Park.
If you’re getting ready early for your Songkran Body this year, you could even repeat the loop. More than half the route is shaded.
I suggest a pause at the palm-tree ringed landing that juts out into Benjakiti Lake. There, you can take in the Central Park-like view while contemplating the irony that you’re getting a breath of fresh air on land that was donated by the Tobacco Monopoly.
Finding this mystical connecting path is easier from the Lumpini side. There is access at the northeastern corner of the park, near the intersection of Sarasin Road and Witthayu Road. On the Benjakiti side, there is access via the guard booth at the far (back) end of the parking lot on the north side of the park.
Saen Saep Canal
Last but not least, for a behind the scenes peek at the Big Mango, you should explore the Saen Saep canal by bike.
Technically, this may be Bangkok’s longest uninterrupted ‘bike lane’ — it goes from the Phloen Chit part of the canal on the city side, and extends out almost to the Eastern Ring Road near Minburi. That’s almost 20 kilometers of paved paths, of which no sections have any car traffic, and almost no road crossings.
Of course, you’ll be sharing the path with just about anything that moves in Bangkok that is not a car — expect the odd motorbike, wheelbarrow, other cyclists, skateboard, chicken, or rolling mango that has recently dropped from a tree.
You can get on the canal’s footpath from most road bridges that cross the canal. The south side of the canal path is generally less interrupted and more bike friendly.
This ride will show you every walk of life in the city. Asok is lined with condos, while the parts nearer to Ekkamai feature countless old wooden Thai houses. The Ramkamhaeng section showcases many beautiful wats and mosques right along the canal.
If you have the energy to go past the last boat stop in Bangkapi, you’ll get to see a side of Bangkok seemingly untouched by development. The last few kilometers have grassy fields, rickety wooden bridges, and as many ducks as people.
What’s your favorite spot for biking in Bangkok?
All images but featured image are courtesy of the author