Bangkok Chinatown by Bicycle
Discover Bangkok Chinatown and Thonburi Riverside by Bike
Trying to experience all Bangkok has to offer in a short period of time is a near-impossible task. The sheer size and variety of this friendly city reveals new wonders to even long time residents, so what is the best way to make the most of short break in Bangkok? Cars are too far removed from the experience; walking is too slow in such a big place; the answer is to hop on a bicycle and use peddle-power. A bicycle tour of Chinatown and Thonburi on the opposite side of the river is a half day trip that introduces you to hectic market scenes, centuries old temples and narrow alleyways where life carries on much as it has for generations. The knowledgeable guide complements the sights with facts and stories in a fun and engaging way that helps add context to the experience.
The sun is still a low, orange globe when the group gets set up with safety gear and seat adjustments. The members of the tour group have already had plenty of time to chat and get to know each other on the minivan journey from their hotels, so there is already a kind of camaraderie amongst the group.
The route through Chinatown avoids the busiest main roads and instead takes side roads through this ancient part of Bangkok, where residents still sit in front of their shop houses soaking up the early morning sun. The slow pace of the tour means you get time to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells that you encounter, and the six-gear mountain bikes are of excellent quality and maintained to a very high standard so peddling requires minimal effort.
There are several stops on the way through Chinatown, and you get the chance to see both Thai and Chinese temples, learning the interesting details of their history before stopping at the looming and ornate China Gate that symbolizes the entrance to Chinatown in Bangkok. Once the tour reaches the markets, it’s time to get off the bikes briefly due to the pedestrian traffic, but this time can be used to sample many delicious street snacks like dim-sum, seasonal fruit, chestnuts and Thai-style coconut pancakes, to name but a few.
Back on the bikes again, and it’s a short ride to the river pier. Crossing the Chao Praya River offers a nice breather, a chance to quench your thirst and reapply sunscreen (you didn’t forget it, did you?). On the Thonburi side of the river, life is noticeably slower and the Chinese influence less prevalent. Roads are fringed by trees and birds can be heard tweeting overhead. The guide again proves his worth by looking for Thai herbs, such as lemongrass or basil, which he will pass around for everyone to smell. There is another stop after a few kilometers at a beautiful and little-known park, dedicated to the King’s Mother. It is immaculately maintained and in the centre is a small museum with interesting details relating to the Royal family. The guide will explain – in a lighthearted way – a brief history of Thailand’s royalty, starting at King Rama 5 (known and loved as the king who abolished slavery in Thailand), leading up to the reigning monarch.
The final leg of the journey takes the group though narrow residential alleyways that feel a million miles from the hectic streets of downtown Bangkok, with many more cultural sites including a stop at Wat Kalayanamit, a large temple that is almost entirely filled by a breathtaking Buddha image around 16 metres tall. Kneeling in front of the revered Buddha image, with the lingering scent of incense hanging in the air, conversation tends to become philosophical and adds another dimension to this trip. The last stop is at one of the most famous temples in Thailand – and one of the most spectacular – Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn). The bikes are left with tour staff and the group travels the final few metres on foot. It’s a relaxing finale to the tour and allows everyone to share their thoughts and opinions.
The time is now close to midday, and it is incredible how many different sides of Bangkok you get to see in one morning. From world-famous temples and bustling markets, to the mundane day-to-day activities of local neighbourhoods, this tour will leave you with holiday’s worth of memories, all packed in to just half a day.
Duration: The Chinatown bicycle tour runs from 08:00 to 12:00 midday, with frequent stops and all on flat terrain.