After finishing our tour of Bangrek’s hottest Eateries, Nushi (our food guide) took Mina (My New York companion) and I to the Follow Me Club house. As soon as we arrived we were welcomed warmly by our bubbly tour guide and offered fresh Mango steens and bottled water. First on the agenda was a video explaining how to “Follow Me” on the bike tour. The humour in the video was a pretty big hint about how this tour was going to go!
In Bangkok, biking is not a supremely popular past time, the crazy traffic and good public transport links make it more of a tourist activity than part of daily life. Follow Me’s concept of cultural tour is to take tourists into the heart of Bangkok, and they certainly succeed.
We started off by biking in a reasonably normal fashion, single file, following our camera wielding guide. Nek minit, we are careening down a narrow alleyway trying our best to avoid boxes, scooters, people and steer the bicycle. The tour continued in much the same fashion for the rest of the four hours, along with the jingling of our tour guide’s bell. It is certainly not for the faint hearted.
This tour took me to places I never thought a bike could go, our first stop was outside the Bangrek Fire Station, housed inside the Old Customs Building. The building is known for its’ architectural significance, as the first European style building to be built in Bangkok in 1880. It is a popular venue for Vogue photo shoots because of its’ ugly duckling grimy appearance, which hides it’s inner beauty.
We continued on, weaving our way through pedestrian and car traffic alike. Until we arrived at the apparent peace and tranquility of the first Catholic Church, Assumption Cathedral, built in 1809, on the same grounds as a school in Bangkok. Catholicism was bought to Bangkok by the Portugese, who the Thai people have continued to have a good relationship with over the years. Buddhism is the official religion of Thailand and around 95% of Bangkok’s population recognise it as their official religion, despite this religious freedom is prevalent and some of the best schools in Bangkok are run by Catholics.From here we made our way to Bangkok’s infamous Chinatown, I was at the back of the pack and would only glimpse our tour guide before he took another tight turn into an even narrower alley than before. Eventually we came out into Chinatown, a bustling metropolitan area, it is characterised by its’ wholesale markets selling anything from designer counterfeits to fuzzy slippers. Impossible as it may seem we took our bikes through here, and ended up in the flower market. I have never ridden through a flower market, but I guess there is a first for everything.
It was getting pretty hot at this point, the mid afternoon sun was beating down on my shoulders and sweat was winding it’s way down my back. Even our pause for water did little to quench my thirst for air con.But we were off on a ferry to visit Wat Arun – the temple of dawn.
At 50BAHT for entry, this is one of the least expensive temples to visit and one of the most beautiful. It is also one of the most terrifying to climb, virtually vertical steps ascend the side of the temple. It is not a climb you take on lightly, as you can see from the pictures.
Just when I thought we were finishing, it was back on the bikes to another temple. This one had the biggest Gold Statue I have ever seen, a Buddha. It must be at least five stories high. Buddhists come to temple twice per day to worship and after they have finished, they go outside and hit a bell three times. Traditionally this is to remind the Buddha that they are there and asking for his help.
After this temple, we made our way back to the clubhouse.Our trip back was full of twists and turns, upturned boxes, crazy traffic lights that do little to assist pedestrians. The tour was certainly an eye-opener of how people live in Bangkok, there is such juxtaposition between the impoverished and the wealthy. When you see people bathing on the side of the street and washing their dishes, it is humbling and makes you realise just how much we take for granted.
I have to admit, I was pretty wasted after such a long day out in the Bangkok heat. One of the services the tour provides is a complimentary dinner at their clubhouse, however due to my fatigue and the fact it was our 8 month wedding anniversary I decided to forgo it. It was an amazing, terrifying and humbling tour.
Ginga musings out.
- Bustling Bangkok; the Grand Palace, Gold and Giggling (gingamusings.com)
- Baking Bangkok; Pandanus, Pork Buns and Papaya Salad (gingamusings.com)