Category Archives: Biking in Thailand

International Car Free Day 2011 in Thailand

22nd September has been designated as International Car Free Day. All around the world, people have been making the effort to not use their cars today, but instead use public transport or even get on their bicycle. Thailand has been taking part in World Car Free Day now for the last five years. To begin with, only major cities such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai organized bike rallies in order to promote alternative modes of transport. However, as word has spread, many more provinces have organized their own events.

Last Sunday, Samut Prakan organized their first Car Free Day Event. Nearly 800 local cyclists came together at the City Hall and then took part in a cycle rally around the city. Never before have so many bicycles been seen on our streets. It was really a great feeling to be a part of this. As you know, I have recently bought my own bike and have been using it a lot around town instead of taking my car. It has given me a lot more freedom as I don’t need to worry about where I can park my car. Nor do I get stuck in traffic jams any more.

In the past, if you rode a bicycle people felt sorry for you as if you didn’t have enough money to buy a motorcycle. But, attitudes are changing. You see more people cycling these days. You also see a lot more cycle clubs where people go out on trips in groups. For myself I am not that serious about it. It is more about convenience for me. I have a bag on the back of my bicycle so I can go out and buy some supplies at the local mini mart. The last few weeks I have even started to cycle to school instead of walking.

So far I haven’t been very far on my bicycle. The longest distance that I have cycled was about 25 kms. I am not exactly that fit so I am not sure if I can keep going all day. But, I am playing with the idea of cycling to Samut Sakhon for the day and then maybe come back by train. Another thing that I have been doing more often is putting my bicycle into the back of the car. I have to take off the front wheel but it is very quick. This is making some of my Bangkok day trips a bit more interesting. I have even been going into Bangkok with my bike on the sky train. I am beginning to enjoy that too.

According to the Energy Minister, quoted in The Nation, “If only 10 per cent of 4 million vehicles in Bangkok is parked at home and the owners use public services once a week, this could save fuel by 1.6 million litres a day or about Bt64 million.” It is doubtful that they will manage to get 10% of cars off the roads any time soon. For that to happen we need an extensive public transport system. It also doesn’t really help much that the government are offering tax rebates for first time car buyers.  The billions in lost revenue could have been spent elsewhere. Maybe even subsidising bicycles and more building bike lanes!

A Cyclist’s Paradise in the Heart of Bangkok

There are not too many places in Bangkok where cyclists can go with their bicycle and feel safe. It is true that the BMA have built more cycling lanes around the city but many of these are either blocked by parked cars or are being used by motorcyclists. I know we shouldn’t complain as they are at least making an effort to make Bangkok a haven for cyclists. Indeed, the Bangkok Governor has been very supportive of the monthly Car Free Sunday events that have been taking place over the last three months. He has even promised more cycle lanes. With more people taking to the roads each month on bicycles, I hope in the future that Bangkok will become safer for cyclists.

I have tried cycling at some of the parks in Bangkok but the majority don’t allow bicycle or they restrict the hours which you can use them. So, I was really pleased to find out about Suan Rot Fai, or The Railway Park, which is a cyclists paradise in the heart of Bangkok. The park covers an area of about 150 acres and used to be part of a golf course belonging to the State Railway of Thailand. I was there for the first time at the weekend and it was great to see so many people out enjoying themselves cycling around the track. The main route around the park is about three kilometers long, but there are a number of interconnecting tracks. The place is almost big enough to get lost for a short while.

One of the best things about Suan Rot Fai is that it is very family friendly. In fact, when I was there at the weekend there were many youngsters cycling around. Some of them were obviously with their friends and others were with their family. Cycling is not the only activity as there is plenty to see for nature lovers such as the botanical gardens and there are also bird watching opportunities. I also spotted a Butterfly Garden which I will check out next time.  In addition, there are a couple of play areas with swings and slides as well as a swimming pool. I also spotted a basketball court where the hoops were lower than normal . Another popular activity seemed to be eating a picnic on the grass in the shade of a tree. All very nice and I think I will be going back soon with Nong Grace.

Suan Rot Fai is very close to Chatuchak Weekend Market. I went there on the BTS and got off at Mo Chit. You can take your bicycle on the sky train for free. Just make sure that you travel outside rush hour and use the end carriage. From the BTS station you head North-West through Chatuchak Park (see map). Incidentally, you cannot ride your bike in this park. The Suan Rot Fai is open from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. I don’t recommend being there at night as there isn’t enough lighting and it could be dangerous. If you don’t have your own bike you can rent one for as little as 20 Baht for the day at a row of shops outside the Northern gate. There are also many food stalls here if you want to buy something for your picnic.

The Giant Krabak Tree

I’ve been a way for a while, but here I am with a new travel report. I planned for several months to visit Taksin Maharat National Park (named after a former king of Thailand) in Tak province where the Giant Krabak Tree is growing. Some previous research told me that the Giant Krabak tree (anisoptera costata) is a species of plant of the  dipterocarpacease family. It’ s the largest  tree  growing in South East Asia – Costata in Latin (costatus) means  ribbed and describes the venation of the leaf blades. Krabak trees grow in lowland evergreen and semi evergreen forests.

Enough talking for now…. let’s hit the road to one of northern Thailand’s lesser known national parks.

Taksin Maharat National Park is located in the Mae Sot district of Tak province, about 3 kilometers off the main road. It’s a well paved winding mountain road. I was surprised to the park’s access road which was in real good condition, and so I was cherishing the hope that all the park would be just as clean. And yes, after entering the park’s main entrance, I was taken-aback by a well maintained park where there was no litter to be found, amazing. This is very rare in Thailand. The Head Office is about 500m from the  main  entrance and I was welcomed by the ever-friendly ranger. The ranger told me that the krabak tree was  approximately  2,5 kms  away  from the office – the first 1,700 meters could be done by vehicle and  the rest  on foot. The ranger told me that the krabak tree in this  park, towering 58 meters high  above the ground with a circumference of  approx. 16 meters, is the  largest of its kind  in Thailand. I couldn’t figure out  the age of the tree but it is probably more than 100 years old.

Stage 2  of my visit  was a quick visit to the  longest natural rock bridge  (saphan hin) in Thailand. I wasn’t aware that there were natural stone bridges of this size in Thailand. The  bridge is about 10 km away from the  headquarters, but again a couple of hundred meters have to be done on foot. The natural rock bridge is a massive rock bar  spanning  a gap  between two cliffs . The huge  rock bridge  measures about  30 meters in length and about 25 m wide. A stream flows  around 25 meters  beneath the huge rock structure. Heading towards the hot season, the riverbed was nearly dried out. The beautiful surroundings are ideal for picnicking and enjoying your day out.

There are several waterfalls  to explore too,  The Pang-an – Noi Waterfall is only 1 km away from the Giant Krabak Tree and certainly worth a visit. Several species of bird can be seen in the park. There is also an interpretive trail for hikers available with the  path starting at the Visitor Center. It descends gradually into a savanna forest and then eventually into a Dry Evergreen Forest  until it reaches the krabak tree 2,5 kilometers later. The trail then climbs up  the road  and follows the back to the head quarters .

The  park  has  9 lodges  available for rent and also  a canteen campground. As the campground is at the top of a mountain you can enjoy the view of amazing surroundings. I would really recommend a visit to this park.

The park  is about  480  km away from Bangkok  towards the  north. Take  the high road to  Nakhon Sawan then  turn left in the direction of  Tak. Upon arrival in Tak, follow the road signs to Mea Sot.  At  about  45 km from Mae Sot  you’ll see several signs pointing to the park .

If, after this park, you are interested in seeing more of the north, you can carry  on to Chiang Mai following high Road 105  to Mae Sariang in Chiang Mai province. This is a breathtaking  mountain ride and a perfect alternative route to going to Chiang Mai. A truly relaxing  outing for tourists who want to go off the beaten track. See  you again in a next episode of  UNSEEN THAILAND  

Bicycle Tours in Bangkok

On Sunday, we went for an enjoyable bicycle ride in Bangkok. At first glance, this would sound like a crazy idea. But, it is amazing that after only a short boat ride across the Chao Phraya River, we were surrounded by lush green vegetation and almost complete silence. In fact, for most of the 25 kilometre route we cycled through jungle, along canals and down some side roads. There were only a few stretches that ran along major roads. The area that we visited has the nickname of “the lungs of Bangkok”. Due to a giant loop in the river this area is virtually cut off from the mainland and access is limited. The only way to go there by car is over the bridge at the southern end. This crosses a short-cut canal which is centuries old. From Bangkok you can cross the river by boat from the Klong Toey Port.

There are many companies in Bangkok that can arrange cycle trips for you. You can easily find most of them by doing a quick google search for “Bangkok bicycle tours”. We decided to go for Recreational Bangkok Biking. They are a very professionally run organization with quality bikes and talented guides. I was impressed with the information on the website and also the managing director, Andre Breuer, who quickly answered all of our inquiries. We decided to go for their “Colours of Bangkok” tour which runs twice a day at 8 a.m. and at 1 p.m. Unlike some of the other tour groups, Recreational Bangkok Biking limit tour groups to only eight. It is advisable to book in advance so that you are not disappointed. In theory, it does sound that the morning session would be cooler, but really, in Thailand, it is already maximum temperature by 8 a.m. So, just go at a time convenient to you. In fact, if you go in the afternoon you might find yourself with a smaller group.

The tour guide we had was called Mon and her English was excellent. In our group we had the full number of eight people. Andre gave us the briefing first telling us that we were about to see a side of Bangkok that not many tourists have ever seen before. He wasn’t really exaggerating. The tour would take us to Bangkrachao in Phra Pradaeng District of Samut Prakan. I have explored this area half a dozen times already. But it was like I was seeing it for the first time. Going by bicycle not only lets you see things from a different viewpoint, but it allows you to go down narrow lanes and canal paths that aren’t possible for cars. After the briefing, Mon helped us choose a bike and gave us some instruction on how to use them. It should be noted that these are not cheap bikes bought from Tesco Lotus. They are heavy duty bikes which are both comfortable and easy to ride. Before you set off on the tour you should take the time to familiarize yourself with the bike and gears and to make sure everything is in good working order.

Once were all ready, Mon led us off for our tour which would last about 4-5 hours. It may sound daunting to cycle for so long, but really, it is all flat in Bangkok and so you don’t have to be a sportsman to join this tour. It was really easy going. We had regular breaks where Mon would buy us some drinks. I couldn’t believe that after we got back she told us that we had cycled 25 kilometres! That just shows you how comfortable the bikes were. The office for the bicycle company is down a small lane off Rama III Road. Fortunately for us, Mon knew some back lanes so we were able to avoid the busy main roads for most of the time. We did have to cross the busy Rama III Road at one point in order to get to the boat, but luckily there was a subway under the road. At one point, Mon took us through some slums. Here, like in other places in Thailand, it is always amazing how people in mansions can live right next to slums. There is no segregation here and everyone lives in harmony. In the slums everyone was very friendly as we passed by down the narrow lanes. The kids shouted out “hello” or wanted to give us a high five.

One of the things that I was impressed about this company is their sterling efforts in giving back to the communities that they visit. In the case of the slums, they help sponsor one of the schools there. Over the years, they have helped to raise millions of baht in donations. They also use the services of people along the route, whether it is buying drinks or snacks or hiring a boat. This is responsible tourism at its best with a very low carbon footprint. After the slums, we ended up at the river where our bikes were loaded onto a boat for the crossing to the jungle on the other side. I always enjoy boat roads as it provides natural air-conditioning and grand views. Once on the other side we were back on the bikes and heading down narrow lanes and along raised concrete pathways that passed through banana trees and nipa palms. Our first stop was the hidden oasis of Sri Nakhon Khuankun Park. This is a lovely park tucked away in the middle of no-where. There is a lake here where we fed the fish. If we had time, we could have also rented a boat on the lake. From here we continued our journey around the artificial island. Our pace wasn’t very fast and Mon allowed us to stop to take as many pictures as we liked. She even took us to an old temple and explained about the different buildings and Buddha images.

Lunch was pad thai (stir-fried noodles) at a river-front restaurant. This meal and all the drinks were included in our package price of 1,000 baht which I think was really worth it. Although you could come to this area with your own bikes, it would be advisable to join a tour for the first time to see what the place has to offer. It has certainly opened my own eyes to this region and inspired me to think about buying my own bicycle. There are definitely more areas to explore which you would need to do with a sense of adventure. This is because there are no maps and few signs. It would be easy to get lost without a guide. Obviously if you are in Thailand for a short time or even an expat, it is not always practical to have your own bike. You might want to consider taking one of their other tours. After all, a quality bike like the one I used on this tour would set me back nearly 25,000 baht. It would be cheaper to pay 1,000 baht for a tour or maybe rent a bike from them which costs from as little as 250 baht per day. I really enjoyed my morning on this tour. I was a bit tired by the end of the trip but I had already decided that I would love to join them for another tour in order re-discover another area of Bangkok. Bicycles certainly allow you to see familiar streets in a different light.

More information can be found at their website I have also posted more pictures in our Samut Prakan Photo Album over at

Biking to Krasieo Dam, Suphanburi

(Hardly a local insight… let alone a foreigner)

Last Saturday, I had a strong desire to mount my Tiger Girl again; I think I’m starting to become addicted to her. Krasieo Dam is about 85 km away from Suphanburi town in Dan Chang district the northern most point of Suphanburi province .

After doing a bit of research, I found out that Krasieo Dam is the largest earthen dam in Thailand. It is a storage dam holding a massive basin under her control, which contains about 393 million cubic meter of water. The water in the reservoir is mainly used for agriculture and water supply during the dry season – kind of a vast reserve tank.
I reached the park after a one hour ride only from Suphan town. It is not allowed to ride any vehicle on the dam but I was able to witness breathtaking surroundings. The clouds put a bit of a dampener on the day, because there wasn’t a blue sky. On the other hand, the skyline was filled with a nice range of mountains.

Fish farms are scattered all over the lake. The farms are all small scale fish farms, probably to maintain and respect nature’s prettiness. Only two species of fish are farmed here .The well known ‘pla nin’ (tilapia) and Plat thap thim’ (ruby fish. I had a short conversation with an ever friendly local farmer who told me he had to pay 100 baht tax, which allows him to farm fish for one year – ridiculously low.

(Time for lunch…… then take your pick)

At lunchtime I left the dam to search for a local restaurant near the lake. After only five minutes I was successful enough to find a nice fish one right next to the lake. I went for a grilled ruby fish. It took about 30 minutes to grill the fish. It had thought that everything was done here instantly with a fresh ruby fish from the lake. And I was right, nothing was prepared beforehand – my way of thinking was confirmed. When the dish was served there was a 1,2kg fish which filled the tray. This was one of the best fish dishes I have ever eaten in my entire life. Total damage for lunch was the ridiculous amount of 370 baht all in.

With my belly full, I went back into action with my Tiger Girl. The lovely restaurant holder told me there was a dirt road around the lake. I was eager to know just how long the reservoir was, as there was hardly any information available on the Net about this place. The scenic dirt road is covered with pebbles and holes some of them quite deep, a bit of caution is advised here. A 4x 4 car or a large tired motorbike as mine is well in place here. Riding along the dirt road, you can witness dazzling views and experience total silence, which is hard to find in this era of machines and technology, even in the countryside. The average speed on this dirt road was only 25 km/h. I had to decide against my previous idea to go around the lake, as it wouldn’t have been possible anymore to be back home on the same day. I noticed that the total length of the reservoir is about 15 km long.

I finished my visit to this great lake with a great feeling; another beautiful day well of the beaten track in Thailand. I’m a bit disappointed though, that there is hardly anything to find on the Internet about unspoiled nature like this in Thailand. Nearly everything is geared towards the well known tourist attractions. Thailand has a lot more to offer than that..
Hope you enjoyed the read and hope to bump into you again on my next exploration.

If you don’t have your own transportation, you can simply ask a tuk-tuk driver in Dan Chang to take you there. To get to Dan Chang there are direct buses from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal and Suphanburi Town.