If you are backpacking in Southeast Asia, you are probably going to see Bangkok – for at least one time. And Thailand’s capital isn’t just one of the most important hubs for air traffic. It’s one of the most vivid metropolitans, stuffed with sights, splendid nightlife and perhaps the city with be best local cuisine imaginable. Yet, there’s something many of you don’t know: cycling in Bangkok is a superb and unconventional way to explore the city. A travel-advice.
Bangkok’s roaring traffic is quite unattractive to cyclists – or is it not? Admittedly, without any bravery and lacking Southeast Asian traffic experience cycling in Bangkok is hard to enjoy. It’s possible, though. Honestly speaking: it is highly likely!
The right timing is essential: as busy and loud Bangkok maybe appears during daytime the more surprising it is that there is almost no traffic outside the touristic areas by night. All the “deathly” streets filled with cars, motorbikes, Tuktuks and lunatic street vendors turn into wide and empty boulevards – only to be disturbed by some taxis. These are perfect conditions for an adventure on a bicycle.
Cycling in Bangkok: from Khao San Road to JJ Green Market
Cycling through Bangkok aimlessly and discovering the city yourself is tempting. Anyway, cycling Bangkok with a specific location in mind is even more fun. What about a peddler’s market by night? Old, vintage treasures, crazy tech gadgets, one-of-a-kind fashion and many ingenious bars with live music await you there.
On JJ Green Market, which is next to famous Chatuchak Weekend Market, you maybe feel like browsing among thousands of young Bangkokians, having a pint of decent beer or listening to one of those many bands, performing in all kinds of bars on the market area. You should definitely come along with a roomy daypack – because you’ll need a lot of space for shopping. The souvenirs you can get there are likely more unique than elsewhere.
We assume, since you’re a backpacker, you’re going to live in the district of Banglamphu. Thus, our night cycling tour starts at Khao San Road. Due to see more of Bangkok the tour’s way there is different than the way back. We recommend following the route counterclockwise – so you can experience the bustling activities in the side streets on the way there. On your way back, you can enjoy the quiet bigger streets and you’re home in no time.
The journey is the reward
To avoid the heat and Bangkok’s busy commuter traffic we started our tour just after sunset. Follow the recommended route as far as possible – but feel free to enjoy every detour you have to make. The puzzled faces of the locals in the minor side streets are absolutely worth it.
We considered the pedestrian bridge, crossing an eight-lane street, especially magnificent. You won’t come upon with such things in Europe – even big cities like Berlin appear like a sleepy village compared to such constructions. Don’t forget to bring your camera!
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It took us (detour and getting lost included) 1 ½ hours for about eight kilometers. Subsequently, you’re most likely longing for food like we did – JJ Green Market’s culinary pleasures won’t disappoint you. We enjoyed ourselves that much we started our way back eventually at 00:30 in the morning. That late, it took us way less time to get back for (as mentioned) all the boulevards were empty.
A solid rental bicycle plus a navigation device – that’s all you need for your personal cycling adventure
Cycling in Bangkok by night is a challenge for your sense of direction for the city is massive. You’re doomed as soon as you leave the touristic areas without a good map. Therefore, we purchased a prepaid SIM card and used Google Maps or the offline navigation app HERE WeGo for orientation – which worked perfectly.
At Velo Thailand in Banglamphu we got our rental bicycles. We decided to choose the 24-hours-option – so there was enough time for bringing the bicycles back next day. The bikes’ condition was quite well, and they were equipped with enough gears (which is rare in Southeast Asia) and seat posts, long enough for European body dimensions. Additionally, Velo Thailand’s staff is terribly supportive, quite funny and really sophisticated in terms of insights.
The most popular sights like the Grand Palace, Wat Pho or the infamous Khao San Road are quite enough for a trip to Bangkok. But, only checking off one sight after another would withhold one of the most exquisite experience: undergo the city, witness the locals and their everyday life, making spontaneous detours through the maze of streets and lanes.
Therefore, mount a bicycle and get your individual Bangkok experience – a city which is even more impressive if you take a second glance at it. We wish you a marvelous time.