Thursday, April 6, 2017

Today, was the Chakri Memorial Day, here in Thailand. In other words, a Bank Holiday. Annie, my wife and I had decided to do the cycle that I had done on the 6th and 13th of March, which was to cycle around Bangkajaow. Bangkajaow was a jungle area part of Bangkok, virtually untouched by the developers, with only a scattering of neighbourhoods and roads throughout.

The map of Bangkajaow

I wanted to get an early start, so we could get across the river and start cycling around before all the tourists arrived. We both decided to make a move at around eight thirty. I believed Annie was going to race me to the bathroom, but thankfully her mobile distracted her, so I got in there first.

‘Oh, I see you’ve beaten me to the shower – typical.’

‘We could have a shower together, you could wash me down and then you could wash yourself down, while I prepare the bikes.’ I said trying to be witty and hopeful about it all, but she wasn’t game.

Eventually, we took our bikes down to the car. It was amazing how much you could get in a car of that size. My wife’s car was a Vios, a small Toyota car, but we managed to get two adult bikes in, along with the rest of our gear.

We arrived at the bottom of Naradhiwat Rajanagarindra Road, where it met the Rama III Road. There we just parked up near the Chong Non-Si Pier.

Chong Non-Si pier

There, Annie phoned to order a boat for our crossing. There was nobody at the pier except a young boy with a bundle of fishing netting in his hand. We were not too sure what his intentions were – whether he was waiting to cross the river or whether he was waiting for his friends to turn up.

I decided to do some filming while Annie experimented with her new camera. Then suddenly the young boy ran across the pier and flung his netting into the river – and in doing so answered our initial question – he was fishing here at the pier.

Our boat arrived and we made our short crossing to the Bangkrachonok Pier.

The taxi man coming to pick us up in his boat

Bangkajaow is in the province of Samut Prakan. It is surrounded by the Chao Phraya River. There is a small Khlong (canal) connecting the river to itself before it loops round to form the island.

Boat, river and Bangkok

The attraction for Annie and myself was the cycling on the elevated cycle paths and pavements. They snake themselves through the scatterings of villages in and among the lush, green, jungle, vegetation. The paths in some areas are quite narrow and come to an abrupt end, while others reach out to unexpected piers as we discovered to our inconvenience.

Annie with her bike all ready to go

So, with a camera fixed on my helmet and my Garmin all set up, we went. Organizing my gadgets in advance had been a tireless exercise, believing that my camera had a fault on it, as the battery went flat without being used. So, I decided to purchase an extra one just as a precaution.

We set off cycling, firstly on the quiet roads. There were many cyclists that had got there before us, which reinforced my understanding that this was a safe haven for cyclist regardless of their experience.

‘Crazy me,’ as my wife calls me, with my camera perched on my head
Annie enjoying herself in Bangkajaow

Eventually, we hit the elevated cycle pathways.

‘That’s too narrow for me to cycle along.’ Annie commented.

To please her, we cycled on. I was sure that I was going off in the wrong direction. I changed the screen on my Garmin to compass mode, but my eyesight strained with the points and anyway, the elevated pathways generally went off in every direction except the one that you intended.

Beautifully painted and maintained cycle routes in Bangkajaow

We hit another pathway. ‘you’ll be OK with this one, just take care and judge your speed according.’ She did well at first, but cycling in front of her I occasionally thought the worst when I stopped to see if she was keeping up with me. Many times she wasn’t there and in most cases, she’d stopped to take photographs or to adjust her helmet or cycle glasses.

We were mesmerized by the jungle effect, the trees that looked down upon us as we cycled through archways of branches, these were bursting with growth, with delicate green leaf formations everywhere. Then there we were enchanted by the golden shower of the blossom of the Ratchaphruek tress, (Cassia fistula) the national flower of Thailand. Then there were the golden trumpets in bloom just to add flavour to the scene.

So lovely to cycle down, they should have these routes in the centre of Bangkok

Sometimes the abandoned ‘orchard channels’ looked to have gone native. Nature had certainly come into its own, looking all wild and rampant.

Growing excitedly wild and looking ravishingly beautiful

The cycle lanes at times looked darkened owing to the lack of sunlight, the fact that it was overcast didn’t help the situation and occasionally the rain started, but it didn’t materialise into anything. The raindrops produced circular patterns in the khlongs, weakening as they went, but that didn’t dampen our spirits. We cycled on relentlessly.

Khlong and cycle route going round the bend

In some areas, the cicada insects rasped to crescendo levels, almost deafening us with their pestering chorus lines.

We knew of places of interest here, like the Bang Krachao Park, which we cycled into, but we were slowed down by the more leisurely cyclists. The park was nice with its fanciful bridges and calm waters. We cycled through the floating market at Talad Bang Nampung too.

German cyclists enjoying themselves in Bang Krachao Park
Nice bridge in the distance surrounded by jungle

We imagined that this place would be crawling with tourists and up to press we had kept our distance from it, but in fact, it was quiet with only a hand full of stall holders trading. We missed out on the Bangkok Tree House, but that was more to do with the fact that we’d seen it before when we’d visited the island some years ago.

Bangkok Tree House

Lunch was taken out of the way next to a sedated looking khlong.

‘Are you enjoying this?’ I asked Annie hoping that the narrowness of the paths wasn’t causing her any displeasure.

‘Yes, it’s really nice here, we should do more cycling like this.

After lunch, we set out again passing temples, where the Monks chanted their scriptures, which sounded rather relaxing as well as being spiritual. We came across the pathways that had been painted green and later, elaborated with paintings of flowers and birds.

Decorated pathways
Annie cycling along admiring the pained pathways

We found a small reserve which looked rather interesting until we realized it had been neglected somewhat with broken terracing. It was here that Annie accidentally dropped her lens cover from her new camera, which found its final resting place in the murky depths of the swamp, after falling through a hole in the wooden floor panelling.

A nature trail in the jungle

‘It’s probably dropped through the hole and no, I’m not going to put my hand down there in an attempt to find it. God only knows what’s lingering down there.’ Snakes and spiders invariably came to mind.

Returning back to the mainland after an exciting day

Eventually, we made our way back to our pier and caught our shuttle boat back to the mainland. To bring the day nicely to the close we decided to venture out for a meal. Annie drove, but the roads being a bank holiday was busier than normal.

‘Don’t interfere with my driving I know what I’m doing, otherwise, you’ll confuse me.’ I sat there a little worried about the erratic drivers. ‘I know they are crazy but I need to concentrate on this, I know you’re only trying to help, but please be quiet.’

Later I commented ‘If we die after being involved in a car crash I’ll only say two words, and that’ll be “goodbye.” Because you will head off to the Buddhist heaven and I no doubt will go off to the Christian Hell.’

Annie laughed at my off the cuff comment, ‘I like that,’ she said.

‘I thought you would.’ I said.

A video looking at the cycle routes in Bangkajaow, turn your volume up and capture the sounds of this intriguing place. A must for all nature lovers visiting Bangkok

Listen to the sounds of Thailand: the Monks chant, the birds, people chatting to the racket of the cicada insects. This is all in a cycle.

Map showing where Bangkajaow in relation to Bangkok
Bangkajaow Map
Our cycle route at Bangkajaow. All the interesting places in the north of the island. The South is slightly developed and not as lush.