If you’ve spent any time in Bangkok, or any of the other big cities of Southeast Asia for that matter, then you might be surprised to know that getting around this sprawling metropolis on two wheels is a great way to see the city and many of its attractions. While hitting the roads on a bicycle on your own isn’t the best idea for those new to the city, taking part in one of the organised bicycle tours of Bangkok strikes the perfect balance between adventure and recklessness!
When we booked our place on a bike tour of Bangkok I must admit I was a bit apprehensive. We’d been here for a while and I’d gotten to know the notorious Bangkok traffic up close and personal from the back of taxis and motorbikes. However, the tour we went on was well organised and for the most part, the route mainly avoided the heavy traffic of the city, although there were a few white knuckle moments to keep us on our toes!
Overall it was a great way to experience another side of the city and see some interesting sites and despite the warm weather, it is something I would definitely recommend to those looking for something to do in Bangkok that is slightly different to the usual temple and shopping mall visits on foot. A tour of this kind can be the ideal way to make the most of a stopover in Bangkok and therefore comes highly recommended.
For those of you who are tempted by this idea, here are our pick of the best cycling tours operating in Bangkok:
Spiceroads Cycle Tours
Spiceroads have been running since 1990 and now offer cycling tours all over Asia. Opting to use a touring company with a long history in the field can help give you some reassurance that everything will go ok when dealing with the sometimes dangerous drivers on the Bangkok roads. Spiceroads have a number of cycling tours operating in Bangkok ranging from half day trips through the city to full day tours exploring the countryside surrounding it. There are also longer two and three day tours of coastal town Hua Hin and the beautiful wine trails of Khao Yai.
When we took a cycle tour with Spiceroads, we did the Bangkok Jungle half day trip which starts off in the city with a quick jaunt through the busy traffic before crossing the river by boat. The main part of the tour takes place over the river in what seems like a parallel universe compared to Bangkok. There is little development here and the group cycles though jungle, small villages and past temples and local markets. The total ride of the Bangkok Jungle tour is 25 km and it is a leisurely ride over flat ground that includes stops for snacks and drinks.
There is also a tour of Chinatown, and a Bangkok Sunset Ride, as well as trips through the Bangkok Countryside. For more information visit the website at http://www.spiceroads.com/
Running tours since 2004, Grasshopper Adventures offer a number of full and half day bike tours of Bangkok as well as a selection of nine to 17 day tours around the rest of the Thailand. One of their most popular tours is the one day Bangkok Countryside bike ride which starts in town but then quickly heads out into the jungle farmland and canals that usually remain hidden from tourists and visitors to the City of Angels. It’s a great way to see another side of the city and at a leisurely pace with interesting commentary from the tour guides. While the ride is mainly flat, it can get hot so bear that in mind when signing up for a full day tour.
A less rigorous option with Grasshopper Adventures is the Bangkok Night Bike ride which takes place after sundown and avoids the draining heat of the day. This ride offers an excellent opportunity to see the familiar sights of Bangkok in a new light as they are lit up for the evening and are for the most part, devoid of the bustling tourist crowds of the daytime.
There is also another half day tour called the Bike Historic Bangkok ride which delves into the backstreets and winding tiny lanes that remain hidden to outsiders at all other times. With the intrepid guides of Grasshopper Adventures you will be able to see a whole different side of Bangkok on this tour.
For more information visit their website at http://grasshopperadventures.com/
DIY Bike Tours
If you are a confident cyclist who is used to hitting the roads of big cities and towns then you might want to try exploring the city on two wheels (and pedals) without the aid of a tour guide. It certainly is a way to see exactly what you want to see without waiting for the slowest member of the group to catch up. While the guides usually know the best routes and the whereabouts of hidden gems located around the city, just aimlessly cycling around on your own can uncover some unexpected treasures and sights.
Also, having the freedom to stop whenever the mood takes you and enjoy a snack or cool drink can’t be overemphasised. If going it alone does sound appealing, there are a number of places where you can hire a bicycle in Bangkok. Spiceroads, mentioned above, also offer bike hire in Bangkok as well as bicycle tours and will even drop the bike of at your hotel or apartment for a small fee. Cycling Bangkok also offer bicycle rentals at affordable rates and have helmets too which we highly recommend you use at all times!
Safe Cycling in Bangkok
As I’m sure you are aware, the traffic in Bangkok is unlike that of most Western cities. While the driving isn’t as out of control as in places like Cambodia and Vietnam, it can still cause gasps and shudders from even the most hardened expats and visitors to the city. While most locals don’t use helmets when riding motorbikes, the phrase ‘when in Rome’ should not apply to this aspect of Thai culture!
Doing everything you can to minimise any injuries is highly recommended so wearing a bicycle helmet is a must, as is proper shoes and long sleeves if you can bear it in the heat. If you do come off your bike and hurt yourself, there is not much chance of an ambulance coming to scrape you off the tarmac anytime soon, so the more you can do to ensure you are able to walk away from any minor collisions the better!
Don’t let this put you off but with the right safety precautions and road awareness, exploring Bangkok by bike can be a great way to see parts of the city that you might never get the chance to otherwise. If you do decide to go it alone, make sure you tell someone where you are going before you set off, just in case.