Bang Kachao, Bangkok’s Green Lung

So folks, we find ourselves with another holiday (and another three-day weekend, at least this year) in Thailand. On May 14th, the birthday of the newly-crowned Thai queen, June 3rd, was declared a public holiday. Since we got out of Bangkok a couple of weekends ago and learned how bad the traffic is on three-day weekends and just found out that June 3rd is a holiday on May 31st (we’re not often the first to find out what’s going on here), we decided not to waste the day but to spend it in the sweltering heat of Bang Kachao.

Bang Kachao, otherwise known as Bangkok’s Green Lung, is actually an island formed by a sideways U-shaped bend in the Chao Phraya River and a canal at the mouth of the U. It is accessible by car, but it’s more fun to take a boat.

It’s also more fun when you walk through the monks’ quarters at the temple you think the pier is behind, be told by two of them where to go, have to ask a really nice woman preparing food for help because you’re not quite sure what the monks said and then follow the really nice woman out of the temple only to be interrupted by another really nice woman who wants to tell you about another pier but then decide to stick with the first really nice woman because her pier is closer. It’s always best to involve as many people as possible when traveling in Thailand.

Let’s back up a little bit. After doing a little bit of internet research, we decided to meet our friends at Khlong Toei MRT (exit 2) at 9 AM and then take a taxi to Wat Khlong Toei Nok. So far so good, but we made the mistake of entering the temple complex instead of going past the temple entrance to the end of the road. So, to be clear, if you take a taxi, it’s a good idea to get out at the entrance to the temple, but then you need to walk straight down the road to Khlongtoeynok Pier. (As the second really nice woman said, there is another pier further down — further away from the temple — where we saw long tail boats taking people back and forth from Bang Kachao.)

The road leading to Khlongtoeynok Pier
Wat Khlong Toei Nok, in case you’re interested

So we get to the pier and the woman manning the counter points out her bikes. From what we understood, the bikes come with an 80-baht round trip. We decided we did not want to take bikes on the boat, so we paid 40 baht each (I’m thinking we could have paid 10 baht for the narrower long tail boat but the woman may have decided not to tell us this) and waited about 5 minutes for the boat.

Khlongtoeynok Pier
On the boat to Bang Kachao

I love the feeling of being on the water — even if it was for about two minutes — and am thinking we need to rent a (covered) long tail boat and cruise along the Chao Phraya soon.

Bang Kachao Pier

It took us — 8 people — a while to choose our bikes from M-BIKE, which is the only option on this pier. Bikes are 60 baht to rent. M-BIKE has bikes with 2 seats (where the person in the back doesn’t pedal) and bikes with toddler seats in the front. Only 1 ID was required for all of us.

I didn’t actually plan where we would go on Bang Kachao, though I knew there were temples, a weekend-only floating market, a park with a botanical garden and a tree house hotel. Sometimes you just want to be a little more spontaneous and not spend half the time glued to Google Maps.

We took a left at the first intersection and quickly came upon the Siamese Fighting Fish Gallery, which is better for pictures than it is for fighting fish (there are a few, mostly small, fish in glass vases and aquariums — that’s it).

The Siamese Fighting Fish Gallery
A bridge over the pond at the Siamese Fighting Fish Gallery
The pond at the Siamese Fighting Fish Gallery

It was only around 10:30 AM at this point, but we stopped at Suannaodd Restaurant for lunch. Suannaodd is a covered, outdoor restaurant with a pretty extensive Thai menu and a few Western food options, like chicken nuggets and French fries. Their drink menu was also pretty extensive (I’m not talking about alcohol), with lots of milk drinks, teas, herbal drinks and smoothies. It was a little more expensive than it should have been (the 50-baht chicken fried rice Worchihan ordered looked like a child’s portion), but you don’t have a lot of (nicer) options. The woman who took our order spoke some English and there’s a nice garden in the back for — what else? — taking pictures.

Suannaodd Restaurant
Suannaodd Restaurant
The garden behind Suannaod Restaurant

We got back on our bikes and when we came to a junction where we could only turn right (turning left meant ending up at the river), we turned right and found ourselves on the main road around the island. A short time later, we saw a sign pointing to Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park, which we discovered is the best part of Bang Kachao, and turned right (we could have started our cycling trip here if we had gone straight at the first intersection instead of turning left).

Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park is pretty big; we probably could have spent our half-day trip just riding around it. The best word for it? Lush. Everything was green, including the water.

Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park
Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park

We climbed a 23-foot bird watching tower from where we saw one bird.

The bird-watching tower

By this time, we were all really hot. REALLY HOT. When we were on the bikes, we were ok, but when we weren’t moving or were just walking, the heat was unbearable. We knew before going it would be hot and we are glad we went, but it might have been better to go in November or December. Or maybe we’ll go again in November or December.

After we dropped off our bikes, we sat together at a table next to the river with our free (frozen) wipes from M-BIKE and cooled down. Then we waited for the 10-baht boat and headed home.

Crossing the river

A law passed in February of this year makes any new construction built for commercial purposes illegal on Bang Kachao, which is good news for Bangkokians and tourists alike. Don’t miss one of Bangkok’s few natural adventures.

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