Biking Along Khrungthep’s Version of the Seine

Just as I had given up all hope that ruuduu naew (cold season) would continue and had resigned myself to the arrival of ruuduu ron (hot season), I’ve been pleasantly surprised at its brief reappearance.  Sunday morning temperatures were down to 65 F / 19 C and very breezy.  This is possibly the coldest I’ve seen here in Khrungthep.  And the forecast is for similar overnight lows for the next four or five days.

It was perfect riding weather and Sunday morning about 7:30 Markus and I set off to try urban cycling in the Big Mango another time.  Our last outing to the old city several months ago was beset by heavy traffic including a university graduation, a parade, and a marathon. 

Our 24 km circuit was not physically that difficult – all the streets were level and paved – but the mental alertness required when riding in an urban environment makes it much more challenging, I think, than riding in the countryside.

DSCF5751 We headed up Asoke to the train tracks and then paralleled them (and the construction site of the new Airport Line inner-city terminal, pictured here) until we reached Thanon Si Ayutthaya, which we followed all the way to the Chitlada Palace Complex, noted on the map below.  This includes Chitlada Palace, where the King currently lives, as well as (across the street) Dusit Zoo, the Parliament Building, and the Throne Hall.  We were able to ride through some of that complex before heading to Khlong Phadung.

 

Geography Lesson

BKK Map 2007 The older part of Khrungthep is a series of three islands, bordered on the west by the Chao Phraya River and on the east by three concentric, man-made khlongs (canals).  The smallest island, labeled “A” on the picture, is Rattanokosin Island.  It contains the Grand Palace (indicated by a marker), the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Sanam Luang parade grounds, and Silpakorn and Thammasat universities.  It was the original city founded by King Rama I in 1782.

The next island, labeled “B” on the picture, is Phra Nakhon Island.  It contains many additional government buildings, City Hall, and the Democracy Monument.  There is a fine self-guided audio tour you can take of this part of the old city.

The third island, labeled “C” on the picture and defined by Khlong Phadung (dotted line to the right of the island), is actually two different islands as Khlong Mahanak (which becomes Khlong Saen Saeb further east) bisects it near Golden Mount.  The north portion is Pom Prap Sattru Phai and contains the UN Conference Centre, the Ratchadamnoen Boxing Stadium, and several government ministries.  The south portion is Samphan Thawong and contains the Temple of the Golden Mount (the only hill in Khrungthep) and Chinatown, called Yawarot by locals.

DSCF5753 Markus and I followed Khlong Phadung along the border of the third island.  The khlong changes names a few times but we ended up by Hua Lamphong Railway Station.  All along the khlong, the city is doing major reconstruction to improve the area and make it more attractive.  This includes installing new pedestrian bridges (pictured left, waiting to be lifted into place), repaving walkways along both banks of the khlong, installing new lamp posts, and planting more trees.  When it is completed, it will be a very nice walk, a smaller version of strolling along the Seine in Paris.  With better curry, too.

I’ve already written one self-guided walking tour (no audio recorded yet) for the Rama I / Phloenchit area including the Jim Thompson House.  I think the next one I write will be for a walk along Khlong Phadung.  It passes many interesting sights including a variety of architectural styles and types of markets.  Future visitors stay tuned for more developments.


 

Tawn and I have taken some concrete steps towards finding a condominium to purchase.  Yesterday we met for the first time with an agent and went to view condos at four different locations.  Unlike in the United States, you don’t work exclusively with one agent because there are not universal listings.  Any given agent will only be aware of a limited number of available properties.  In this case our agent works for Plus Properties, a developer of medium-sized projects usually aimed at the mid-market.  He also handles some properties that aren’t developed by Plus, and he seems very willing to work with us to look at a variety of places.

We’ve been frank that we don’t expect to purchase anything in the next three months.  We’ve also been firm about our price range: 4-5 million baht.

The challenge, I think, is that what we’re looking for needs to serve two purposes.  Our strategy is, in the short term (3-5 years) for the condo to be the place we live.  After that we anticipate buying another place, possibly an actual house or a larger condominium or maybe we’ll be living with Tawn’s parents by then – who knows? – and using this first condo as a rental property.  So it needs to be sufficiently large to meet our living needs now, but also has to have features that would make it appealing for high-end renters (read: expats) in the future.  Unfortunately, those features such as a swimming pool, fitness center, etc. are not necessarily important to us personally yet they help drive up the price.

sukhumvit_plus_big Two places we saw yesterday were in the Phra Khanong area (Sukhumvit 67-69), which is an appealing loation, just one stop from the end of the Sukhumvit Skytrain line.  The first, at Plus Sukhumvit, is a mid-rise building (17 stories) only 3-4 minutes walk from the Skytrain.  The 2 bedroom, 2 bath is a little small at 60 square meters (multiple by 10 for square feet) and the kitchen would be frustratingly small.  But the facilities are very nice and the location is super-convenient for a renter.

 

plus67 The second place, Plus 67, is on the north side of Sukhumvit and is a little deeper in the soi, about a 6 minute walk to the station.  The 2 bed / 2 bath condo there is larger, 73 square meters, and the kitchen is a little more workable.  But the facilities, while okay, aren’t that special.  The slightly longer walk would be a drawback in renting, although not terrible.  Both locations would require some remodeling work to replace cheap laminate floors and improve the kitchens.

 

We’ll continue to look, especially along the Skytrain and subway lines, and see what else we can get for our money.  With potential political and economic instability here, I’m not in a great rush to buy, but we’ll see how that plays out.

 

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