Sunday morning was the monthly day trip for the Thailand Cycling Club. This ten-year old organization sets up day trips, longer weekend trips, and a bicycle recycling program to help underprivileged youngsters throughout Thailand.
Having found information about the club at a local bike shop, I had been eagerly anticipating the first opportunity to join them on a ride.
About 7:30 in the morning, Tawn dropped me off at Lumpini Park, Bangkok’s central park. There were already about 100 cyclists set up around the statue of King Rama VI. I quickly identified Bob – the Thai-language TCC brochure had only one line in English: “for English call Bob xxx-xxxx.” Bob introduced me to the organizers and I signed up for membership, which is not mandatory to join a ride.
By 8:30 the group was up to about 200 people. Young and old, children with parents, retirees, avid cyclists and recreational ones, all together to take back a small part of their city for a few hours from the many cars, busses, and taxis that make it less bicycle-friendly than it could be. The group was almost entirely Thai, with only five farang joining in the ride. Right: Bicycles in front of a Chinese Buddhist temple, being protected by a stone lion, part of our first stop in the six-hour, 12-kilometer ride.
We set out by crossing Rama IV Road and driving down Silom Road. These normally-busy streets were a little quieter on a Sunday morning, and the leaders of the group employed Critical Mass-style tactics to block cars at intersections so that we could ride safely.
Along the way we made many stops: a Chinese community Buddhist temple, an Indian community Hindu temple, an Indonesian community Muslim mosque, as well as several other sites that showed the diverse histories of foreign peoples in Khrungthep.
A representative from the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority was with us and served as a tour guide. At each stop we received an educational lecture, learning more about the specific location as well as the community served. For example, we learned that the Indonesian Muslims live in one of the poorest areas of the city and that local youths are affected by a chronic drug abuse problem. One of the mosque’s biggest activities is to create educational and employment opportunities for the local youth. Left: A stop at a small Thai Buddhist temple in the Charoen Khrung district.
Throughout the ride, several people from the group would make an effort to introduce themselves to me. It is an amazing range of people, each of whom have their own reasons for cycling. Later in the afternoon, I was invited by a young lady to join her and her friends instead of riding alone.
She is an English professor at Bangkok University and studied in Nashville, Tennessee for a year – the home of my cousins Scott and Kari, coincidently. She started riding a month ago, in preparation for a move later in the Summer to Bristol, England for further studies. Her English boyfriend, already in Bristol, is an avid cyclist and she thought it best to start preparing so she could cycle with him.
She met her friends at a park down the raod from me, where they ride every weekday evening. Interesting group. Gave me another chance to practice my Thai. Above: Me and two of my new cycling friends.
The final stop in the ride was along the banks of the Chao Praya River at a dry dock and shipyard originally established by the Tawai community in Khrungthep but now owned by Thais. It was particularly fascinating for me as I’ve never seen a dry dock up close and it is interesting that the ship can balance on its keel so well.
It probably shouldn’t amaze me, but it does.
All in all, it was a fun ride. A little too much stopping and learning and a little too little actual riding. But a good way to see the areas of the city that would otherwise remain hidden to me.
Video of the Bike Trip
In the evening, we were invited over to Markus and Tam’s house for dinner. Markus’ cousin is in town from Germany and so there was a bit of a dinner party – quite elaborate cooking, actually.