I had a little adventure with Lara Stone last Sunday as we explored Bangkrachao in Phra Pradaeng, the so-called "Lungs of Bangkok". It's not in Bangkok per se, it's part of the province of Samut Prakan, but it's close enough to Bangkok. We spent some time on Google Map to find the area (link to map).
Bangkrachao sits on a kind of peninsula (or is it called a delta?) in the Chao Phraya River. Just across it rises the massive buildings of Bangkok and not far from it one can see a crowd of tall cranes jutting from the Klong Toey port.
Phra Pradaeng (where Bangkrachao is part of), on the other hand, is a verdant, swampy land that is a sharp contrast to the madness of the nearby city. It is called the "Lungs of Bangkok" precisely because it's simply teeming with plants that perhaps rids in some way the city's contaminated air.
We only needed to take a two-minute ride across the Chao Phraya from the Klong Toey pier to Bangkrachao pier where we rented bicycles for the morning. We immediately went on exploration mode. We had no maps of the area (there was a map in Thai in the pier) and there were no English signs either. We followed the two-lane road from the pier and once we found small alleys we ventured into them.
Well, they're not technically alleys but more of ramps, about two meters wide, over the marsh. They meandered around concrete and wooden houses, some of which are standing on stilts as protection from the rising water during the rainy season.
The residents were very friendly, hollering "hellos" from their verandas or giving us directions whenever we got lost. It was a generally genteel atmosphere, with nearly zero commercial spaces except for small stores selling chips and drinks.
The weekend scene in the residential areas were quiet aside from a few screaming kids swimming in the canals. At one time we bumped into a school ground abuzz with the excitement of a soccer game, but other than that it's nearly bucolic all over, obviously a slower pace of life compared with Bangkok.
In our wandering, we tried to avoid the main road so we pursued every ramp we found. We did not have any route in mind and I was just happy to be disoriented completely.
Nearly most of the time ended up in a trove of towering palm trees and bamboos, as well as what looked like fruit orchards. It was nice to be under the cool shade of palm fronds, with only the buzz of insects piercing the stillness of the afternoon.
Lara Stone was of course continuously fascinated by the "wildlife", in particular the tiny fish swimming in the murky water. I swear I could not see the fish but he insists they're there. He also noticed some huge fish raised beside temple grounds (which I saw at least).
Fish aside, there were of course the friendly soi dogs, but dogs in general scare the hell out of me, so I could live without them, thank you very much.
After three hours of biking, we magically found our way back to the pier. I swear I could've rode that bike until sunset, but we had a schedule to stick to. I felt we had more exploring to do, but that should be for next time.
For more articles about Phra Pradaeng, you may check these links to articles on Travelfish, My Krung Thep, Bangkok Day Trips, and Fah Thai Magazine.
Travel notes: To get to Bangkrachao, ask the taxi to take you to Klong Toei Pier, close to Wat Klong Toei Nok (we had to mention the name of the temple to the driver) and from there you can take a small boat, 10 baht. Bicycles are available at the pier in Bangkrachao. Bicycle tours are also offered by tour companies based in Bangkok.