Today was simply epic – a definite “best day” for 2015. Strangely enough, it was dedicated to sampling Bangkok’s local transport. It saw Ben and me dodge the traffic in a tuk-tuk; navigate the streets of central Bangkok by bicycle, foot and ferry; and then hitch a knuckle-biting a ride on a motorcycle taxi. But these experiences were only part of the fun. I will never forget the things I saw along the way…and the way they made me feel: captivated, delighted, thrilled, curious, happy. Perfect.
At the heart of everything was the Follow Me Bicycle Tour. It was a feast for all of our senses, an energy boost for our weary bodies, and a taste of Bangkok life for our hungry imaginations. My hubby, Ben Southall, took some beautiful photos throughout the tour, which really captured the experience. So, jump on your bike and let us take you on the journey…
Upon arriving at Follow Me Bike Tours‘ home base, Ben and I were encouraged to try the Siam Boran Tour, a popular choice amongst Bangkok first timers. The 22km, 4.5 hour journey promised to reveal the old-world city to us and provide more photo opportunities than we could poke a Nikon at. We were sold.
Our intimate group of five sprang into gear and got its rusty legs peddling. We wandered through the charming backstreets of Sathorn like kids in a giant maze. Around every corner we encountered a boldly coloured character wall, each more enchanting than the last. Busy Thais with untold stories caught our eye as we zoomed past, giving us a mere moment to feel the embers of intrigue before something in the distance stole our attention.
It wasn’t long before we arrived at our first temple. We enjoyed the calm after the storm of the previous tour group (which was much bigger). There was nothing to do except explore the temple in happy silence and appreciate its ornate, narrative-rich walls.
Our next stop was China Town, which didn’t originally make it on to our “must see” list. We figured it’d be like any other China Town around the world. How wrong we were. It was China Town on steroids – huge and loaded with energy. The traffic (pedestrian and otherwise) moved an inch a minute. But, it was awesome. There was so much to take in, the hustle and bustle didn’t affect my stress levels. From the freaky foods, curious smells and vibrant colours, to the intense street negotiations and utter disorder, it was a multi-layered experience like no other. We had to make it back someday.
Next, it was time to turn the energy down a notch and park our bikes at another majestic temple. Our guide, Matthew, taught us how to open lotus flowers like pros. We then offered them as gifts to Buddha, along with a silent prayer for good luck. Ben got excited when it came time to ring the giant bell, which reverberated its song through our entire bodies. There was a beautiful spiritual mystery about this place.
Our next stop was the highly anticipated flower market, Pak Khlong Talat. Bags of petals where packed sky high, creating a rainbow mountain range down the street. I couldn’t believe nature had given birth to such intensely beautiful colours: sunshine yellow, rose madder red, velvety fuschia. But the sweet aromas that danced through the air said they were real.
After a speedy ferry ride across the Chao Phraya River, we were ready to make the journey back to Follow Me Bike Tour’s home base. This meant navigating the backstreets again, which were just as entertaining as the major sites we’d visited.
At one point, we crossed paths with the most comical police officer we’d ever seen. His “siren” sounded like something out of a kid’s toy truck and his mode of transport was… questionable (see image below). Ben almost wet himself with laughter. After exchanging a friendly wave with the cheerful police office, we moved on.
Throughout our bicycle tour, we encountered many Thai children who were eager to cheer us along. It seems like the first thing they’re taught to do is say “Hi!” to strangers (the complete opposite to what they learn in Western cultures). Babies too young to walk, waved enthusiastically at us and it was heart-warming. We felt like local celebrities or family friends.
Finally, we reached Follow Me Bike Tours and it was time to head back to the Shangri-La. Unfortunately, it was peak hour. The only way home was to jump on the back of a motorcycle taxi. The experience was genuinely one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I would’ve felt safer if I’d been blind folded. As we weaved through the traffic, I’m convinced there was a millimetre between me and death. Yet, oddly, it was one of the highlights of my day. Such a thrill! Who knows what tomorrow will bring?