Bangkok's Green Lung: A DIY Bang Krachao Day Trip
I can't remember the last time I rode a bike in my hometown and yet somehow I always end up bike riding during my travels. Our latest bike trip was through Bangkok's lesser-known urban oasis: Bang Krachao. If you've got a day to spare in Bangkok and are eager to escape the bustle of the city, we're sharing our tips so that you can DIY your own Bang Krachao day trip and explore Bangkok's so-called green lungs.
One of our biggest hacks throughout our travels is the DIY tour. I have no shame in admitting that I look up what tour companies are offering in the area and break it all down until I've constructed my own version for a fraction of the price. It can be a stressful and time-consuming task but our wallets are grateful for it. I'm not bashing on tour companies but I know that there are a lot of fun experiences the budget traveller can enjoy with a few helpful tips. And that's basically the whole purpose of this post!
While looking for inspiration on tours to DIY near Bangkok, I stumbled upon an Airbnb 'experience'. It's a new feature offered on the platform that allows travellers to book unique experiences with local hosts in a destination. We love meeting locals who reach out to us on our YouTube channel and have found that they're the best way to really see what a city has to offer. But in this case, the 'experience' was outside of our budget and I figured this Bang Krachao day trip was something we could do ourselves. In hindsight, a guide would have help because we got way lost. For an inside look of how our day went down, you can check out the video on our channel linked at the bottom of this post.
Bang Krachao Island, Bangkok
While in Bangkok, we visited our fair share of parks in the city but none compare to the environment at Bang Krachao. It honestly does feel like a world away from Bangkok and you're able to see how the local community differs from the neighbourhoods in the city. The Chao Praya River curves around the island while several small canals run under the bike paths and small bridges. Locals go about their daily routines at a different pace here and it reminds me of life in the countryside, Thai style.
You won't see any cars along the trails because they're specifically for bicycles or scooters. I was actually amazed at how quickly the scooters would whip past us on the narrow pathways while I nervously rode along trying not to get too distracted by the missing handrails on one side.
One thing worth mentioning is that, even though this area is more green and tropical-like than any other region in Bangkok, there's no escaping the fact that we still a saw a fair amount of garbage along the trails, river bends and in the water. No matter how long you have to search for a garbage bin throughout your travels, please don't litter!
How to get to Bang Krachao
I'll admit, getting here will likely be the hardest part of your Bang Krachao day trip. It seems like everywhere we went in Bangkok required at least an extra 30 minutes of travel time on top of Google's estimate. The city has frequented many worst-traffic-in-the-world lists and we can attest to that after spending two months in the hectic capital. Anyways, there are a couple of different ways to get to Bang Krachao for your day trip because you can start at the top of the island and make your way down or at the bottom and make your way up. Either way, you'll have to circle back to drop off your bike where you picked it up.
This is the option we took. Use Exit 2 at Khlong Toei metro station on the blue line and make your way to Klong Toey pier (via tuk-tuk, scooter or taxi). When we got out of the station, we didn't see any tuk-tuks (only taxis) and decided to walk a bit and check out the area before getting into one. In hindsight, this was a bad call and we should have just hailed a tuk-tuk right then and there because this is not a day trip that needs any more 'exploring in unbearable heat' than it already calls for! After a quick 7 Eleven AC refresh, the tuk-tuk dropped us off at the pier. Our ride came out to 70 baht for the both of us which I thought was a bit much for the short distance but we had already bargained down from 100 and just decided to settle. Oh, Bangkok.
At Klong Toey pier (also referred to as Tha Pa-Sri pier according to our map from the bike tour), we were waved down by a local who didn't understand any of our questions but at the same time knew exactly where we wanted to go: across the river to rent bikes. He was operating a small long boat that would barely fit the three of us. "Free, free, free!" he exclaimed when we asked how much the boat ride would be. With some skepticism, we got in thinking we'd pay the price on the other side of the river in some way or another. But as it turns out, this little long boat ride actually was free! On the way back, we took a larger boat from the exact same spot for 10 baht.
We were conveniently dropped off right at Pae Jeob Bike Hire and greeted by a friendly local lady who rented us our bikes for the day at 80 baht each (2017). We were also given a map (that I still can't make sense of!) and little water bottles but no helmets. M-Bike rental is also nearby but our boat dropped us off directly in front of Pae Jeob so that's where we rented from. And then off we went to (literally) get lost in Bangkok's green lungs.
Another option would be to start your Bang Krachao day trip from the southern part of the island. You can take the BTS to Bang Na station on the Sukhumvit line and cross the river via the ferry that departs from Sanphawut Pier. This drops you off closer to some of the main attractions on the island but farther from the park/botanical garden which is a definite highlight in my opinion. You'll still be able to rent bikes from a spot right by where the ferry unloads if you choose this route.
Despite being given a free map (the most confusing map of all time, we ended up lost on Bang Krachao. Our phones were acting up so Google maps wasn't working in this jungle, our actual map was not to scale at all and we completely missed the park entrance the first time around. We tried to make the best of it but being lost on bikes in the sweltering heat is usually a recipe for disaster. To help all fellow travellers looking to make the Bang Krachao day trip, the map above highlights some of the main spots to check out on your bike ride.
Locals in the area might not speak English but they nearly always seem to know the tourists are looking for the 'bike park' so don't be afraid to ask for help. In all honesty, and if you're anything like us, it is fairly easy to get lost on the island. Few signs are in English, there aren't always people around to get help from and you'll come across many forks in the road. But, at the end of the day, it's a good time if you're up for an adventure and a great day trip from Bangkok when you're needing a break from the city.
Sri Nakhon Khuen Khan Park
This was the highlight of our Bang Krachao day trip and we would have spent more time here if we hadn't spent half the day trying to find it. Sri Nakhon Kuen Khan Park and Botanical Garden is a free public park with bike trails, fish ponds, picnic spots and lookout points. The park is quiet and has tons of sections worth discovering. It's a popular attraction among birders and there were times when the birds and critters were so loud that I felt like we were biking through a legit rainforest.
There's a parking lot at the main entrance and we noticed that cars and motor bikes weren't allowed in the park but bikes were fine. It was great to see local families enjoying the trails and feeding the fish. It wasn't crowded at all and I can't say we saw many tourists on the day that we visited.
You may also notice signs near the park that lead you to the Siamese Fighting Fish Gallery but we decided to skip it and I don't think we missed much at all based on the reviews.
The Bangkok Tree House
I discovered this little oasis on Instagram first and was pretty excited to see it based on the photos. It's an eco-friendly boutique property with rooms that have you feeling like you're sleeping in the jungle without ever leaving Bangkok. We stopped here for a much-needed break and were so grateful for the A/C in their restaurant. Our snack was okay but I think we've been spoiled with our options of 50 baht street food so sometimes it's hard to pay 'regular' prices elsewhere. We must have been the only ones there at the time and the friendly staff let us roam the grounds and take photos. The property is right by the river and is decorated with bamboo and tropical flowers so I imagine it would be a great little hideaway for those looking to try something other than a city hotel.
Even if you're not planning to stay the night, it's a great place to pop in and grab a drink to recharge for the rest of your day. For an inside look at the guest experience, a vlogger I follow named Mari has a video from her stay at the Bangkok Tree House.
Wat Bang Nam Pheung Temple
I won't lie, we stumbled upon this temple entirely by accident while looking for the Bangkok Tree House. We didn't go inside but hid out in the shade while enjoying some coconut ice cream from a local vendor. There's a large Buddha nearby and, well... it's another temple in Bangkok.
Bang Nam Phueng Floating Market
Every Saturday and Sunday, there's a local market on Bang Krachao. It's often referred to as a weekend floating market but if you're expecting a traditional Thai floating market with dozens of longboats, you won't find that here. Instead, it's more of a market by the river but still a great place to enjoy some great local food and an ideal spot to take a break on your bike trip. Stalls will be set up early in the morning and start to get packed up as early as 3pm. We missed out since we decided not to visit on a weekend thinking there would be crowds of other tourists on bikes. But I really can't imagine many would be as crazy as we were to take a full-day bike trip in 30+ degree weather with over 50% humidity!
Even if you're not visiting on the weekend for the local market, there are still a handful of spots open for food and drink on your Bang Krachao day trip. It seems that most maps given by tours in the area always highlight the same ones: Coffee Home, Bike & Cafe, Rose Apple and Mom & Me Coffee Bar. But at the exact moment that we needed a drink, we rode by Oz Coffee and were greeted by Oz himself. "Do you guys want some coffee?" was all he had to ask to get us to pull over. Oz is a Turkish man who loved this region so much that he opened up his own coffee shop. Locals refer to it as 'farang coffee' since he's the only foreigner around making coffees and we had a nice little break chatting with him before hitting the road again.
Tips for your Bang Krachao Day Trip
Regardless of the season, a bike ride in Bangkok will likely be on a hot day. Pack your sunscreen, wear light, breathable clothing and a comfortable pair of shoes. Be sure to pack plenty of water and you can also seek out your nearest 'drinking water' station to fill up empty bottles throughout the day. These things are honestly so handy and you can often get a full litre refill for only 1 baht.
Our bikes had small baskets so we were able to store our bags there and not have to wear backpacks the whole day. Some rental companies may ask you to leave ID as a 'deposit' but ours didn't. Bikes aren't in the best condition (mine was pretty close to having a flat tire by the end of the day) but they'll get you around. When we arrived at Sri Nakhon Kuen Khan Park, we did come across a few mosquitoes so bug spray would definitely come in handy.
Total Costs of our Bang Krachao Day Trip
Not including transportation to Khlong Toei station (this will vary significantly depending on where you're staying in the city), our costs for the bike trip came to 170 baht per person. Snacks and drinks not included.
- Tuk-tuk ride from Khlong Toei station to the pier: 70 baht (35 each way per person)
- Boat rides to and from pier: 10 baht (10 each way but our first ride was free because of the small boat that we didn't plan)
- Full day bike rental: 80 baht each for the full day
- Fish food: 10 baht for a small bag