This cycle route was discovered more out of coincidence than anything else. It was while we were cycling up the Ratchapruek Road. We spotted (my wife and me) a pathway that was snuggled tightly up against a concrete wall, which then disappearing around a bend. Intrigued by our discovery, we decided to follow it, unknown to where it might lead us to. As it was, we were rewarded by discovering this fantastic little cycle gem, that could lead us all the way across the western part of Bangkok, to the Buddhist Park and beyond.
The attraction of this route was that it was there for exploring. The pathway just led us on a mysterious elevated pathway, in some places, it was only a yard across and it took us through some very interesting and quaint neighbourhoods.
At first, the route was quite tricky with its tight right-angles bends. For much of this route we were penned in on both sides by high walls or fencing, highlighting the fact that, ‘Good fences make good neighbours.’ But this just intensified the fact that the path was suspended above what was nothing more than a dreary looking klong (canal) which was stagnant at that.
Both Annie and I were certainly up for the experience, intrigued to discover where exactly this mysterious path would take us to, but what was more interesting is what we stumbled across on the way. Obviously, for many of the people who lived in the older dwellings, the only way to get around was either by motorbike, on foot or by boat and we certainly witnessed a lot of that.
Fruit seemed to grow in abundance along the way too, if it wasn’t jackfruit, then it was bananas. Jackfruit could grow to enormous sizes. Sometimes, huge ones would just hang there from the trees just waiting to fall. To somebody not acquainted to it, one might wonder if it had come from another planet.
Most of the pathways followed alongside these khlongs, in many cases the water was turbid, no doubt harbouring God knows within its murky depths, although I don’t think they were too deep. But as I cycled along, we came across two boys joyfully playing in the khlong. Obviously, they’d not done a risk assessment of the quality of the water, but they looked happy enough – well, for now, they did. I remember accidentally cycling into one of these khlongs during the floods here in Thailand and I can tell you that I didn’t waste much time in getting out of it.
Just around the corner from them, was a tree embellished with brightly coloured ribbons and a salphraphumi ‘a spirit house,’ with offerings, including drinks for the spirits. Sometimes, we’d seen dresses for sale here too.
The path continued on its way, heading round more bends and running along wall-sides and fences. Eventually, the fixed borders ran out onto what looked like abandoned banana plantations, some of which had encroaching plants crawling across their surfaces. A lone cyclist smiled incessantly as he approached.
The bananas hung down like chandeliers. Bananas were growing all over the place, just like blackberries do in England. Some of these orchard channels looked neglected, but I suppose bananas don’t need a lot of looking after. The water in the channels also looked amass with fine green leaf droppings, although it could have been algae for all I knew.
What made this cycle jaunt so interesting was that the pathway didn’t go in one straight line, they tended to trace around perimeter of people’s property that ran along the wall-sides it also took into account junctions with other khlongs, allowing head clearance for small boats to pass through, not exactly ‘up the lazy river.’ On this part, which was one of my favourite, the path turned to the right before headed over a bridge. If the surrounding trees were in blossom and with the right amount of right, you could get some really interesting photographs here.
In some places, you could get some quite long stretches. These still had the fair share of obstacles, from bridges, and other structures which caused you to dismount and carry your bike over them. Shadowed now by trees situated in the expanse of the mainly middle-class gardens, we cycled on.
As in all fertile tropical places, if nature is left unnurtured, it will come into its own, becoming aggressive, wild and indigenous. Obviously, the jungle law was attempting to stamp its authority here, prior to getting a foothold. What looked like an abandoned khlong was now coming into its own.
Along the main khlong, a seed boat sped towards me, sending spray in all directions and creating wakes as it went, disturbing the tranquillity of the place, that had made this a safe haven for the sleeping khlong.
Further along, I came across a stretch of townhouses. The owners all displaying the fact that they’d got satellite television. I wondered how attractive the front of the houses might have been in comparison to the backs. Some of their extensions looked a little conspicuous, set back from the opalescent khlong.
Obstacles don’t really come much worse than a low bridge that is at most, under 160cm high. This was a real ‘get your head down unless you wanted it knocking off.’ Not only that, but the path dipped down to reach it and then rose back up again at the other side, but for an experienced cyclist this offered a little excitement, from the fact that you never really knew if there is anybody coming up along from the other side. The road above was the Bang Waek Road, a road that I had cycled on on so many occasions.
Well, the inevitable happened, as I cycled on. I came across three boys dressed in nothing but trunks, it didn’t take me too long to fathom out what their intentions were. There were no second thoughts, it just seemed to be second nature to them as they dived into the khlong, head first. As far as they were concerned this was as good as any municipal swimming pool and without the entrance cost. They were happy, doing what I suppose boys like doing, and that’s taking risks.
I was now about halfway through my cycle. Yesterday I had filmed this route, today I was out with my camera, attempting to retrace the cycle. This stretch of the pathway was no doubt one of the longest stretches and towards the back end, I spied a long-tailed boat. These normally zip along the khlongs with their engines groaning to a fever pitch. But this one was all moored up looking splendid, painted in vibrant colours, with its long propeller shaft to its rear. Set back from the khlong, was the local temple complex, which was partially hidden from view, mostly by the white perimeter wall of the temple itself.
Dogs on the prowl for a cyclist are a constant problem especially on a path like this. Sometimes, you came across a pack of them and you never really know whether they are feral ones or not; rabies always came to mind. Almost every temple complex had a large gathering of them and some of the crazy people even feed them. Whether they’d been wormed or not was another question. This one lolled across a bridge as I approached it. It acted as if he was the lord and master, well, that’s before I disturbed him. It looked at me as if to say, ‘who on earth do you think you are!’
I carried my bike up and over the bridge, even though there was a ramp, I decided not to risk it, believing that my bicycle would not appreciate it. I went on, taking in all that I surveyed. To say that the centre of Bangkok was only a mere 10 kilometres away, it felt as if I was cycling through a gorgeous green oasis somewhere.
I came across a woman and her daughter in a boat gracefully navigating the khlong. It was the older woman who had the oar in her hand. The woman seemed more than happy for me to photograph her.
I now came across another part that I loved. Here I could cycle at speed. The overhanging bushes, trees and shrubs, hung down listlessly, offering me an archway in which I could cycle through. The sunlight attempted to penetrate the interlacing greenery, sparkling and glistening as I went, as it cast fancy patterns. In some places, the long tenacious tendrils stretched out vulgarly and arrogantly across my path, as if they were reaching out to relatives on the other side. No doubt, if left untouched they’d triumph in the end.
The alleyway led me to the Phuthamonthan Sai 1 Road, there I cycled up the road before heading west and then back on myself along another khlong. This khlong took me under the road that I had just cycled on. At least cycling along the khlongs, I didn’t have to worry about traffic or pollution. I cycled past the front of another long-tailed boat that had garlands hanging down from its bows.
In the distance, I could see the ‘Chair of Saint Peter’s Church.’ Quite ironic to say that I’d been made aware that the previous week somebody had drowned in the very same khlong, near this very same spot. The fact that the path was quite narrow didn’t help my situation. Like earlier, there were boys who were prepared to jump off the footbridge and into the khlong, but what really took my attention were three boys playing around in a field that had obviously been flooded after part of Cyclone Mora weather pattern had brought early monsoon rain to Bangkok. They were certainly photogenic, up to their necks in water, well actually they were on their knees pretending that it was deeper than it actually was.
Like yesterday, I finished taking my photographs The last ones were taken of one of the largest churches in the area, the ‘Chair of Saint Peter’s.’ Like all religious building, regardless of the faith, there are some really interesting architecture and designs.
But just for the record, I had seen this not too far away from the church and I could not resist the temptation of taking a photograph of it. Not that I know anything about transformers, but this was certainly different, which basically concluded my rather intriguing cycle jaunt.