Chronicle of a bike tour that literally took our breath away.
Leaving Hanoi we arrived at 11am to BangkokDomestic Airport, Don Mueang Airport. After filling in several forms, including the health control, we thought that the best way to go to the hotel was to take the local train outside the airport. We bought the tickets at 15 baht each (0.15 usd) and waited for to train for more than an hour with a stifling heat. Obviously it was not the best idea. The train, with ceiling fans, had to make several technical stops.
At about 14hs pm the train reached Hua Lampong station. We still had to get to Khaosan Rd. A man came to us introducing himself as a taxi driver and he told us that he would take us to Khaosan for 300 baht. Fortunately, a policeman took us to a taxi stop so at the end the trip worked out 70 baht (just over US $ 2).
In our way from Hua Lampong to the hotel, we saw hundreds of flower arrangements and huge pictures of the Thai royalty. We arrived to the hotel at 15hs. The bike tour Where Bangkok Began started at 15.30hs and we didn’t have enough time to get to Grasshopper Adventures, so we run to get to the shop on time to meet William who generously invited us to participate in this unforgettable experience.
With our tongue hanging out, we got to Grasshopper, the meeting point for the departure of the tour that takes you to ride around different neighborhoods inhabited by the descendants of the communities that came centuries ago to the capital of the Kingdom of Siam.
Palida, our tour guide, summarized our tour and took us to where the bikes were. In our group there were two American girls, a couple of Taiwanese and us.
With the helmet on, we left the shop and we crossed Ratchadamneon Klang, one of the most important avenues of the city, where the Monument of Democracyis placed and the beginning of the adventure. We rode along pretty small streets to get to a pier to take a boat at Chao PhrayaRiver, the main river in Bangkok. Then, on the other side of the river, we arrived at the Chinese -Thai Buddhist temple Kalayanamit, built in 1820 by King Rama III for his best friend. There we could see the largest Buddha in Thailandwith 15 metershigh and 12 meterswide. Facing the huge Buddha, Palida taught us to thank Buddha and she showed us a jar with 20 rods. We had to shake it and make a wish until one of the rods fell out of the jar. Each rod had a number that referred to a presage about the future, a sort of horoscope, which in this context was stronger than the one on the Sunday newspaper.
After being fascinated by the beauty of the Great Buddha we went to the Santa Cruz neighborhood, where the Portuguese arrived hundreds of years ago. There, we stood in front of the church that bears the same name. It is one of the few Catholic churches in the Asian country where Catholicism is a religious minority. Around it, there were dozens of kids playing some game a lot like the play tag.
It was tea time and we had skipped lunch because of our tragicomic arrival. So the next stop would save us. The Portuguese not only brought their religion, but also their exquisite pastry: after passing through many small streets and mini bridges, we found Thanusingha, a bakery run by the same family for five generations which make Khanom farang kuti jin, an amazing cupcake to enjoy with a glass of iced tea.
Feeling more energetic, we went to the mosque Masjid Bang Luang, Bangkok’s oldest and the only one built in Thai style, by Muslim Thais in 1767. Its exterior it’s decorated with Chinese flowers. The funny thing was when one of the American girls went to the altar and opened the Koran. The Iman, the Mosque authority, was astonished. He run towards her and asked her to close it immediately.
Wat Arun or Temple of Dawn was the next stop. This amazing temple is a must in Bangkok, it can be seen from the bank of the Chao Phraya river and was built under khmer style architecture. It was magical visiting it at sunset without hundreds of tourists in every corner. Palida told us the history of the temple and its impressive architecture.
The timing of the tour is perfectly planned. By that time we were hungry again and the next stop was exactly what we needed. We visited a family descendant of the first Chinese who settled in Siamand they were waiting for us with traditional dishes to have dinner with them. In fact, when you look the typical photo of tourists in the house of the locals, you can´t imagine how interesting that experience is. Chicken curry, chicken vegetable soup, omelette stuffed with pork and the traditional sticky rice with mango dessert were the delicacies prepared by the family. We will never forget this dinner while watching through the window of the house boats crossing the river.
After lunch we went to the flower market where hundreds of people prepare floral arrangements and wreaths, centerpieces, decorated bouquets, etc. We couldn’t understand the speed of those hands to make tiny and perfect ornaments in record time for restaurants, hotels, and events. The market is open every day of the week, all year round.
Finally and to crown the great experience of the tour we went to Wat Pho or Temple of the Reclining Buddha, we couldn’t see the Buddha because of the it was nearly 21 pm. The most rewarding of the experience was going to the temple at night with the moonlight reflecting at the facade of the temple. In addition, we were able to admire the rows of Buddhas and the Thai massage sculpture just for us.
So now you know, if you are thinking about travelling to Asia, don´t hesitate to contact the people of Grasshopper Adventures. They know how to combine a bike ride with the fascinating temples in Bangkok, cuisine and they show you how their original communities live and so, get to know and understand when Bangkok Began.