I’ve taken many cycling trips to Phra Pradaeng, Bangkok’s so-called “Green Lung”. But I can still get lost in its maze of elevated paths and mud roads that slither through the forests and villages.
Sitting across from Klong Toey Port’s rows of gritty, busy docks and industrial complexes, this green clump of rural Thailand offers almost endless scope for navigational confusion.
It’s small and enclosed on three sides by the river, but packed with natural attractions and villages. Some spots on this peninsula are so pretty you might even forget you’re surrounded by an urban sprawl.
The weekend “floating” market is Phra Pradaeng’s most popular spot. The name is misleading though, as with the exception of the odd boat serving soup, the market is on raised concrete walkways. But a “concrete walkway market” would struggle to fill tour buses.
During a visit to the market or while pedaling around the many paths, visitors often remark on the relaxed lifestyle led by the Lung’s inhabitants. A large number of people appear to pass their days staring blankly into the distance while cradling a caffeine drink or bottle of rice wine, rather reinforcing the feeling that one is exploring a rural backwater rather than a normal suburb.
Cycling the Lung
I keep two bicycles near my closest ferry stop, at the end of Bang Na, although most city folk approach the Lung from the Chao Phraya port at Klong Toey. By coincidence, my rather refined silver bikes are the same ones used by the organized cycling tours — I didn’t steal them, I swear — meaning I am often mistaken for a tourist who has lost the rest of the group.
But having my own transport means I can stop off for an hour of cycling on my way into the city from my home, rounded off with an exhilarating 40 baht long-tail boat ride between the tankers on the Chao Phraya.
Several local bike companies offer tours (see below). Phra Pradaeng explorers who are not afraid to look a bit silly, and perhaps even a bit lazy, can also tour the island on a Segway. A six-hour tour costs 4,900 baht.
If independent biking is preferred take the boat to the main Phra Pradaeng pier from Klong Toey and rent a bike there.
Fat snails and dead reptiles
One of the highlights of Phra Pradaeng is its large park near the main pier. Canoes can be hired for small change and there is a bird hide to survey the forest’s fauna from.
The exotic wildlife living in the peninsula’s waterways and forests is impressive. Fist-sized snails inch across the bike paths while monstrous monitors and chunky snakes can be seen wriggling across the road. There is also a huge array of migrating birds that stop off in the wetlands.
On a recent trip I saw a dead snake, fat as a child’s torso, bobbing with the flotsam in the Chao Phraya while I was waiting for the four baht ferry back to civilization.
Frightening serpents aside, after a lengthy cycling excursion I can’t think of a more relaxing free attraction in the city, while I’m sipping a beer as the sun sets over the river, with the gentle twang of banjos in the distance.
Boats cross from Klong Toey pier to Tha Bangkrachao, the main pier in Phra Pradaeng, for five baht per person. Or, from Bang Na pier, there is a larger passenger ferry that goes to Wat Bang Nam Peung Nok in Phra Pradaeng for four baht.
Travel by car is possible, though the road into Phra Pradaeng is challenging to find. Access from Bang Yo at the southern end of the peninsula via the Bang Na expressway.
Sukhumvit Soi 24/1, BTS: Phrom Phong, tel +66 (0)2 665 6364
14/1-B Soi Promsi 2, Sukhumvit 39, BTS: Phrom Phong, tel +66 (0)2 712-5305
Baan Sri Kung 350/127, Soi 71, Rama 3 Road, tel +66 (0)2 285 3955
By William Baldwin