Phra Pradaeng – just a short river crossing from the centre of Bangkok – is a river peninsula covered in wild jungle, fruit plantations and marshland. It is a magical place that transports visitors back to the time before high-rise buildings, six lane highways and subway trains, and yet takes only half a day to explore by bicycle. You might know it by the local name of Bangkrachao or as it is often described in guide books, the ‘green lung of Bangkok’.
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Meeting in the afternoon on Sukhumvit Road Soi 39, our group of six plus Bottle, our guide, introduce ourselves and after a quick safety talk and explanation about the gears, we saddle up and hit the road. It is a five minute ride along a main road before we enter a fascinating area of the city that clings to the river: Klong Toei slum. This warren of densely packed houses, shops and criss-crossing canals lacks the colour of slums in South America, but it is a friendly and welcoming place and an area of the city that few foreigners go that retains that sense of authenticity so treasured by adventurous travellers.
Within 15 minutes we reach the riverside and take our seats aboard a longtail boat, zigzagging around rice barges and oil tankers towards the green expanse on the far side of the river. Once we disembark, the sound of traffic is replaced by gentle birdsong and rustling leaves. The paths we take are all well marked and flat so fitness is barely an issue as the 25 km is taken at a leisurely pace and the tour leader keeps everyone entertained with, songs, jokes and anecdotes. Nicknames are given quickly and stick until the end. The locals in Phra Pradaeng still trundle along on ancient motorbikes, or peddle along with the tour group, and time just feels a more plentiful commodity. We pass by a verdant fruit plantation fairly overflowing with a bountiful crop and then abandoned plantations that were destroyed in the 2011 floods that devastated parts of Thailand and have now been left for nature to reclaim.
The abundance of life in the tropics is astounding. Long legged storks pick through the reeds as frogs sing out in concert, and I’ve never known so many hues of green – from the pale jade of young rice, to the dark moss that tentatively grows on the edges of the boardwalks over the marshland. A large monitor lizard basking in the afternoon sun scurries into the undergrowth as we approach an old temple that has a mystical ambiance surrounding it. After some snaps we take a break at a local street side restaurant serving some pork and noodles for just 30 baht, but half the group prefer to pet the new born kittens that are rollicking around wide eyed.
At weekends, the highlight of the four hour trip is a stop at the Bang Nam Pheung floating market. It is a quaint affair – no more than a few strips of stalls clustered around a canal – but it makes a lovely stop to grab some snacks under the dappled shade of wide arching branches. The final stop on the loop around the peninsula is Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park, a giant green space with wide open pathways, bridges and a lake filled with fish. After some fun feeding the fish it is back onto the longtail boat and back to the base on Sukhumvit Soi 39.
Considering Bangkok’s rampant construction boom over the past decade it is almost unbelievable that the famed ‘green lung of Bangkok’ has been shielded from development. However, slowly, plots of land are being bought up and large mansions are popping up all over the place so our advice is, enjoy this sanctuary of nature while you have the chance.
Bangkok Jungle Bike Tour
- Opening Hours: 13:00 to 17:00
- Location: 25 km along flat, asphalt roads