Biking through Bangkok.
When we told Dutch friends we were going to Bangkok, we often heard: do the Co van Kessel-bike tour! So we did. We booked the “Co Combo” online, a five hour boat/bike tour through Bangkok. Later we found out we could have booked it also through the “City Guru” of the Sofitel SO Hotel. But we thought it was really a Dutch thing.
The text on his website:
(scroll down if you want to see our 53 pictures)
Co van Kessel was an innovative and adventurous Dutchman, who pioneered bicycle tours in Bangkok more than 30 years ago. As a longtime resident and self-professed lover of Bangkok, he understood very well the picture of accelerated urban development that has plagued the recent image of the city. He also had a hunch that this was not what Bangkok or Thailand was all about.
Making it his goal to re-discover Bangkok, Co spent thousands of hours on his mountain bike exploring the vast network of local streets, alleyways, footpaths and canals between the main urban thoroughfares. What he found, lurking behind the facade of modernization, were hidden worlds of peace and tranquility, a picture of “real” Thai life that has remained unchanged for countless decades; an identity of a city that is true to the Thai people, yet largely unknown to outsiders.
Whether it’s the colorful sights and smells of the local markets, the fascinating life of locals along the canals, or the surprising existence of bountiful green belts, Co discovered the essence of what makes Bangkok one of Asia’s most captivating cities. Since then, it has been his mission to share these discoveries with the rest of the world.
Sadly, with his passing in July, 2012, Co is no longer with us to see his vision through. However, armed with not only his inspiration, but also his bountiful knowledge, the CVK team will now carry on the torch of bicycle-based discovery in Bangkok… just the way Co would have wanted it!
The night before our ride we went clubbing in the Bangkok gay area. We did not know this was so much fun! Nice bars and disco’s playing vocal house. We met two nice guys from Brighton: Amit and Remi. But as I told you before, Bangkok nightlife finishes around 02:00 AM. So we ordered the 200 euros bottle of Vodka in our big living and before our new friends left our hotel it was almost time to go to the breakfast buffet, which opens at 06:00 AM. Johan and I stayed awake for a while before we went to the breakfast floor.
At 06:30 AM we finally went to bed for a 5 hours nap, because our bike tour started at 01:00 PM. Our group consisted of only 10 people. Our guide was Noona and her assistant was Suzy. Noona always biked in front and Suzy was the tail gunner.
Right away we went through narrow alleyways and small side streets, market places and stopped at a temple where you could offer oil at a buddha for good luck.
After bustling China Town we went to the 24-hour-open flower market.
We took the ferry across the river to the North part of Bangkok. This used to be the old Bangkok, but because the area was flooded so often there, the King pushed the people to move more to the South, to the modern Bangkok we all know now. Still a lot of workers from the markets live in this Northern part because it is cheaper living.
I must say we liked this part better. The streets are cleaner, the air less polluted. Lots of green en colorful houses, classical wooden-framed homes on stilts, mothers doing their daily laundry, and kids waving at us or splashing away the tropical heat. A lot of smiling people we saw on the way.
After an hour of biking we went to explore the ‘Venice of the East’ by longtail-boat which introduced us to the charming canal lifestyle of the Thai, much as it existed in bygone eras. From the boat we saw a Asian water monitor, a giant lizard of 1,5 meter, sunbathing on a dock.
We arrived at a cosy terrace near the water where we enjoyed a tasty Thai-style meal.
Following this pleasant break, the cycle tour continued to a temple where the monk was a fan of cock fights.
After that through luscious green belts where we explored the forgotten plantations of Bangkok. We could not believe this was just a bike ride away from Bangkok. Lots of coconut and banana trees. You need to have good balance on your bike as some of the paths are narrow. Sometimes I regretted: Why all those drinks the night before and only 5 hours of sleep?
We crossed the river again, this time wearing life vests, because the trip was kinda rough. Back in Chinatown we arrived at The Co van Kessel-building. What a great excursion! We think the price for this tour is really reasonable: for 1650 bath (42 euros) per person you bike for maybe 4 hours, go by ferry boat twice, twice by long tail-boat, have a great lunch and most important: you see places you never would have seen by car or bus.