A Bangkok bike tour soon proves that the city is more than an urbanite capital city. Out there is a serene expanse of green fields and hidden communities to visit and with two wheels, you can find it.
The chance to go biking in Bangkok was an alternative look at a city I already knew fairly well. A city I had always found hectic in movement and eclectic in its urban transformation from living there. Yet, I grew to really appreciate the diversity of activities and attractions in Bangkok, and the layering of neighbourhoods and cultures with its old historical side and new, sky-train connected modern suburbs.
When I heard about the opportunity to explore Bangkok’s countryside trails with Asia bike tour specialists, Grasshopper Adventures, I was intrigued, yet sceptical. At first glance, and even on a first visit, Bangkok in no way appears rural. So where exactly would we find it?
Cycling long distance in Southeast Asia became a regular hobby – my most arduous expedition being a seven-hour bike ride to the jungle temple in Cambodia. It’s one of the best ways to encounter the off the beaten track towns, villages and paths leading to the heart of a destination you otherwise wouldn’t find without local knowledge.
When I set off on my bike in Bangkok, I never expected to see a completely different side of the city – a serene expanse of green fields, pockets of forest and winding narrow alleyways of communities that reminded me of the hutongs in Beijing. I guess I had been wrong about Bangkok all along – it isn’t just a bustling, sprawling city.
You have to search out the parts of it that are tucked away and being on two wheels helps in that exploration. Not only that, but you’ll be with a local guide who knows every nook and cranny of their hometown and can introduce you where otherwise it would look like you were imposing. I was amazed at how they remembered every tiny twist and turn, side road and dirt path to take on a route to places I would never be able to find on my own. A tenacious plan that would no doubt result in me getting halfway to the middle of nowhere and having to hail a taxi home.
A Bangkok Bike Tour With a Difference
There are plenty of ways to go biking in Bangkok as a means of covering the main sites in a short time, including dazzling temples and palaces and the scurry of markets and cool neighbourhoods. I chose one that would get me out of that well-trodden matrix and into the rural Outer Bangkok, which is a good choice if you have covered central city sightseeing ground already.
The six to seven-hour roundtrip journey was to take me northeast of Bangkok city. The starting point on Ratchadamneon Klang Road at 9 am was just around the corner from brash Khao San Road, which we had to pass through in order to reach the tranquil riverfront and the peaceful Santi Chai Prakan Park. A deliberate switch of the senses, this was the first short break from the energetic city you begin to leave behind, and a cool down from the sweat you’ve started to build up from cycling in the intense heat.
In a symbolic farewell to urban build, we passed the yellow Rama IX Bridge, hurling our bike up and down the stair ramps while taking a last look at the city sights surrounding the river. Within minutes of cycling on the other side of the Chao Phraya River, we reached some railway tracks, which I was told mark an unofficial line between Bangkok City and Outer Bangkok.
Reaching Outer Bangkok
When you cross over this makeshift city boundary, the adventure really starts since it is at this point that you really start to see the differences in the two sides of Bangkok.
It becomes quieter, the streets are less crowded and there are no skyscrapers or grand imposing buildings. Instead, I found myself following my guide down hidden, narrow alleyways, her hand signals marking a sharp and unexpected turn into backstreets and concealed communities.
These neighbourhood pathways would then spit us out onto small concrete pathways that snaked through the tropical countryside with endless vegetation and bundles of wildflowers.
A Local Lunch and Countryside Temples
Our lunch stop was at a local market, which sat on a river estuary with a wide view of the floating houses backed by a bright green jungle canvas, palm trees and the low hum of motorised boats. The appearance of an old lady floating past in her boat selling goods is how trade is made around here.
Temples form part of the Bangkok bike tour agenda. Since Thailand is predominantly Buddhist, it is natural that Buddhist temples form a part of the landscape of rural neighbourhoods. Yet, you may well be surprised by the creativity of such spaces, where temples are built in small spaces, cave-like stone mounds encased in tree roots or a temple built on a boat.
Biking Back to Bangkok City
The countryside around Bangkok seems just as boundless as the city, which means there’s a lot of ground to cover. Another hour-long ride took us deeper into the countryside with the concrete pathways still mapping the way and where we stopped for drinks and snacks at local rest-stops along the way, engaging with the local people and supporting community enterprise.
The countryside isn’t a conveyor belt of repetitive scenery and since it is such a unique sight in comparison with the congestion of Bangkok it genuinely feels like a rare sight. For much of the biking trip, you can’t quite fathom how close you are to the city – so close it would only take you up to an hour to reach this area by car.
The two-hour cycle back is shorter as you take more main roads, rather than going back exactly the way you came in. We eventually met the railway line marker before crossing the river, this time by boat. At this point in the day, you relish the shorter distance since not many people purposefully go out all day in this kind of heat.
However, should you have missed something on the entrance to rural Bangkok while trying to avoid riding into a wall while turning a tight corner, you do get to navigate through some narrow streets and lively neighbourhoods once again – a lasting reminder of the adventure that can be found, hidden away from urban view.
Just remember to get off your bike every now and again and interact with the locals who will be just as fascinated with your presence as you are with their surroundings.
Planning and Booking a Bike Tour in Bangkok
- A full-day Bangkok cycling tour with Grasshopper Adventures to the countryside costs 1850 Bhat, including food and drinks.
- It departs Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and starts at 9 am until 3 pm.
- You will cycle a distance of 35km on marked trails.
- Other options for biking in Bangkok with great reviews from Get Your Guide include:
- A Bangkok Bike and Canal Boat Tour – A combination of famous city sights and alleyways with a local guide on land and water. Includes a stop for an authentic local Thai lunch.
- A morning tour to Bangkok’s Historic Neighborhoods and a Bangkok Night Bike Tour, that includes the two famous Wat Arun & Wat Pho without the crowds on a four-hour exploration.