Since our guests are adventurous, outdoorsy sorts, I arranged for a half-day bicycle tour of the “Bangkok Jungle” through Spiceroads. Located just across the river from the Khlong Toei district (which includes the part of Sukhumvit Road that I live in), this jungle is just that – an isolated and undeveloped section of the larger metropolitan area. Joining us were a pair of expats, one American and the other British, who I know.
The reason that Phra Pradaeng, the green patch nearly encircled by the Chao Phraya River, has avoided development is that it is actually part of Samut Prakan province instead of Bangkok. Zoning laws were enacted to limit development in this section of the province. The area is often referred to as the “lungs of Bangkok” and includes a large public park.
Our starting point for the tour was a restaurant near the Thong Lo BTS Skytrain station. We rode through a little bit of city traffic, although mostly on back sois (alleys), and then through the slum area of Khlong Toei down near the port. Finally, we boarded a long-tail boat and left the city behind.
On the other side of the river, any sign of the hustle and bustle of the nation’s capital quickly melted away as we rode along small roads and elevated concrete paths through banana, coconut, and lychee plantations. Except for the occasional view of a skyscraper peeking over the horizon, you could easily forget where you were.
We had time for several breaks, seeing some of the local sites (which are limited), feeding the fish in the park, and trying a Thai snack of sticky rice and starchy bananas steamed in banana leaf.
Back at the pier as we waited for our boat, some local children swam in the edge of the river, showing off for us by performing ever more daring stunts. Here, a double flip into murky waters.
Back near our starting point, I peeked in the front gate of a complex that is usually closed. I don’t know what it is, but it looks almost like a shinto temple. Very beautiful.