Biking Bangkok
Wat Paknam

Biking Bangkok

A place geographically located maybe 3 or 4 hours south of Bangkok; I’ve been waking up in Hua Hin for about a week now. I’ll be here for the next 3 weeks wearing shin guards, kicking heavy bags under the guidance of Muay Thai instructors.

Before I suffer any brain damage from all the elbows and head kicks, I’d like to take the time and write about my first week in Thailand.

There were very few Americans present. Most of the people who could speak English were from some European country, or another place entirely. I would also go as far to say that I am now certified in picking out an Australian from a crowd. I discovered this talent being out and about during social hours.

The big media transfer
One thing I love to do when arriving somewhere new, is to tour by taste. If I can manage to bring a bike along, then I’ve joined two tours in coalescence. Lucky for me, I found one on AirBnB Experiences titled: “Must Try Hidden Bangkok Bike & Food Tour”. I believe that there’s a deeper insight to be gained from a place like this, on 2 wheels with food in hand. It may seem like click bait, but this scenery wouldn't be as easily accessible on my own.

Since I usually give in to good reviews, and great photos; I decided that this would be an excursion worth trying out. Biking through narrow green alleyways, and side streets as seen in the image below; my first full day in Bangkok was stamped in the books.

The great, majestic, tour guide deity shined favor on me that day, because it turned out to be way more than what I anticipated.

The few of us that gathered to take the tour were made up of a group of friends from Sydney, a retired flight attendant also from Australia, an expeditionist from Shanghai employed by TikTok, and myself.

Our actual tour guide, Sky, was the most knowledgeable, enthusiastic personality I could have asked to lead us.

The Saddle Squad

The tour was formatted as follows:

  • We ride our bikes through the streets of Bangkok, navigating our way to different food destinations.
  • Upon arrival, Sky tells us the reason we stopped at a particular location, and educates us on the history of the area.(For instance, our initial stop was at the site of an old Portuguese settlement where Europeans first made contact with Thais hundreds of years ago.)
  • Lastly, we eat delicious, locally prepared meals in a way you wouldn’t get to anywhere else.

At the first restaurant, we enjoyed a curry recipe that had been passed down in a family for generations. It was distinctively in contrast to other Thai curries I’ve tried before, though it did not lack in the deliciousness factor they all seem to have.

Nearby, there stood an actual Portuguese Museum that included artifacts, and history of the neighborhood from then until now.

One of the highlighted exhibits happened to be “The Columbus Exchange”, which brought over chilli peppers, and other fruits like guava. Here I learned the word ‘farang’ — or, foreigner is used for that fruit as well.

On the next stop, we headed to get some fruit from a stall about 10 minutes away from the museum. Back on our bikes, Sky told us we were now riding through his own neighborhood.

Instantly I felt more connected to the area. Stopping once again to give ourselves a chance to rehydrate; he would be taking us to pay a visit to the local temple afterwards.

The fruit selection consisted of watermelon and mangosteens(my two personal favorites), rambutans, and a citrus called yuzu, served with a side of mixed salt and sugar.

It was my first time actually seeing yuzu, outside of on the bottles of flavored sake I’ve tried before. It was almost like an orange, but a bit dryer, and a subtle sweetness.

Temples and Kitchens

Approaching the local temple, Sky broke down proper etiquette for entering, particularly compared to a royal one.

He said that a royal temple usually requires a payment to enter, and that your shoulders, and other revealing areas of the body must be covered up.

The local ones were a bit more casual though, requiring only hats and sandals to be removed. There was also a bowing gesture he showed us.

The giant, golden Buddha statue, with its poised, peaceful pose, and elysian eyes

Everyone in the temple showed reverence, bowing and leaving gifts at the alter to the master of the middle path. The entirety of it all was incredible, and so surreal to see.

After leaving, feeling sanctified, it was time to grab some grub. According to Sky, the restaurant en route was quite famous.

He said that the chef here had served many meals to high profile visitors all across Thailand, throughout the decades. 

Looking around inside the room, it had a rustic, cozy feel. The pictures and memorabilia stirred up nostalgia from a distant past.

Sky ordered us up quite the celebratory meal, and although I don’t quite remember everything we ate; it was all rather delicious(“Aroy Mak" in Thai).

  • Thai Omelette
  • Tom Yum
  • Red Curry
  • Stir-fried Morning Glory Greens
  • Sticky Rice
  • Kra Pao
  • And others

The Floating Market
Bellies full and satiated, Sky took us all over a small moon bridge to visit the floating market. This was one of the places I’ve been looking forward to visiting the most. Now that I’m here, I’m going to enjoy my time walking at a leisurely pace, taking photos, and admiring the entire scene.

Every so often, a boat would come by, passing through the water and under the bridge. In the same instance, somebody riding a scooter or a bike would do the same thing, going over the bridge.

Since it was such a narrow pass, pedestrians and cyclists had to coordinate with each other. Traversing intersections and walkways cooperatively seems to come innately here in Thailand, because there were no issues to be had.

The market village was mostly locals, with a few farangs; like our group. Others were in the boats passing by with their smartphones out, recording.

I spotted; or should I say, ‘heard’ a man across the river with a guitar, playing a country western tune.

It was a nice, relaxing spot, away from all of Bangkok’s hustle & bustle life. Afterwards, we biked on towards our last destination for the day.

The Great Observer

Wat Paknam was constructed in the year 1610. Over 400 years later in 2021, the addition of this Golden Buddha statue was made.

Everyone gathered purposefully close to the gentle giant, facing their phones to get selfies for the gram. Not one to be left out, I asked Sky if he could take a photo of me too. 

Earlier in the day, Sky told me he majored in film, sharing some of the work he had done for school. I knew that I had asked the right person to use my camera. 

I showed him some of the videos I had taken from my layover in Japan (as seen below), and he seemed to be impressed by the image stabilization.

We discovered a shared weeb bond over our love for anime, and everything else Japanese. Donned in my Hunter x Hunter vacation shirt, the tone of the conversation seemed to set itself.

After biking back to where the tour began, we graciously said our farewells, parting ways with one another.

I rated the tour a 10 out of 10, highly recommending it to anyone capable of pedaling, planning to visit Bangkok for the first time.

Return to Khao San Road

Since it was only around 9pm when I got back to the hostel, I decided to stay out and explore the surrounding neighborhood, having not gotten a chance to do so the previous night.

It wasn't even the jet lag that had me feeling so exhausted, but the cumulative lack of rest brought on by worldly travel. I didn’t get much sleep during the flight to Japan, and also on the plane from Japan to Thailand. The jet lag wouldn't settle in until a few days later.

I took off down a street called Ram Buttri, almost in total contrast to Khao San road.

With its relaxed vibe, and buzzing neon lights, the chaos of Khao San seemed so far away, even in close proximity.

Both streets, however, did offer pleasant scenery for me to capture on camera.

A chance encounter occurred on this street in an unlikely place— a banana roti stall. There I was, unbothered, taking photos of all the moving, reflecting light, when a guy behind the stand calls out to me.

"Hey try some Banana Roti!” I think he said, but little did he know, I had already anticipated trying out the beloved banana pancake. I decided to check out what my man was serving up.

We got to talking as he asked about where I was from. I asked if he was from Thailand, but he said no, and told me to have a guess. I cooly accepted his challenge, but needed a hint if that's the game we were going to play.

Since his complexion was a bit more melanated than others I had seen here, my instinctive answer was Myanmar(Burma). To my surprise and his, he laughed with a shocked expression, as I had gotten the answer correct. “How did you know?!” he asked.

I chuckled, not revealing that I secretly spend most of my waking hours on Wikipedia, consuming an abundance of information others would probably find useless. 😄

He revealed to me that he’s been in Thailand for about 2 years now, and is currently 19 years old. He hasn't seen his family since coming over.

I asked if it was because of the war that had been going on in his country, and he shook his head yes.

I would encourage anyone to read up on conflict regions that get no press in the west, such as Myanmar. With a big escalation in the last 3 years or so, this fight has persisted for 7 decades now.

Just imagine growing up in a country locked in conflict for seventy plus years prior to your own existence, knowing that great limitations have been placed on you since birth.

The best option most people have, is to leave.

Despite all this, he still seemed quite cheerful. I asked if I could take his picture, and he obliged, happy with the outcome, as I showed him the results. We exchanged names, and I bid him farewell, wishing best on his journey through life. 🙏

For the rest of the evening, I continued to walk around the surrounding streets, eating mango sticky rice, drinking a durian smoothie.

Even a greedy glutton gorging through all the stalls might find themselves in trouble by the sheer quantity of food.

I managed to snap my photos and eat my sweets all while slyly maneuvering through the various vendors.

I would have to say that this was a great introduction to the city of Bangkok for me. The atmosphere is exciting, the people vibrant, and diverse; the food is cheap, and it tastes great too!

On the next day, there was a tuk-tuk tour planned, which I have a few photos and some videos from. I may just make a video for this, like the one I did for my trip to Ayutthaya last week, linked below.

For now, I’ll see how Muay Thai life treats me. I felt drained for most of the week, but I’m still getting acclimated to training twice a day; the increase in volume is extreme.