While many might think of Bangkok and nature in the same sentence as being an oxymoron, they probably have never heard of Bang Krachao. Bang Krachao is a vast area of green space just across the Chao Phraya River from Klong Toey. The area is also known as “the lungs of Bangkok”, due to the unusual shape the forest takes if seen from a plane, but perhaps also due to the fact that it is the breathing area for a city that is normally horrendously congested, polluted, and overdeveloped.a girl walks along the elevated embankments of Bang Krachao — Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis
Originally a settlement for ethnic Burmese Mons, Bang Krachao is made up of orchards and gardens, with only 40,000 residents. A strict local planning code which prohibits things like high rise buildings and factories has kept the area in its pristine state. Just a five minute ferry ride over from the pier in bustling Klong Toey, it is rather strange to look back at megalopolis Bangkok, at a view featuring skyscrapers, a giant portrait of the King, and lots of busy urban goings on, while feeling like one is on a small island somewhere in the south, or perhaps out on a rural country road somewhere up north.
From the Bang Krachao pier, bicycles are available for rent, a perfect way to explore the small raised embankments and elevated pathways that meander around the area. Some of the narrow walkways go through small villages with homes built on wooden stilts, and all having a sense of feeling how Bangkok must have looked fifty or one hundred years ago. Tourists are very far and few in between out here and residents give a very warm reception to visitors.
The main feature of this area is the 100 acre Sri Nakhon Kuenkhan Park, a giant oasis of trees, lakes, and shaded pavilions located just a kilometer down from the ferry pier. The park has walking trails, bike paths, and rents out bikes, kayaks, and paddle boats at reasonable prices. There are several food vendors and drink stops interspersed throughout the park for having a picnic and enjoying the tranquil surroundings.open green space in the Sri Nakhon Kuenkhan Park — Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis
If you are here on a weekend, it is well worth visiting the Talad Nam Peung Floating Market while in Bang Krachao. As opposed to the extremely overtouristed and cheesy floating market in Damnoen Saduak, this is a genuine floating market that is for locals, and few tourists know about it. Known as the honey market, Nam Pheung is a traditional Thai floating market offering a dazzling array of Thai confections, food, herbal based cosmetics and organic produce. Stalls are lined up one on top of each other selling rice and meat steamed in banana leaves, sweet safflower and mulberry teas, quail eggs, fresh strawberries, spicy kanom jeen noodles in curry sauce, and roasted duck’s beak, to name but a few. Along the canal, one can rent little wooden boats to wander around in for 20 baht, and tables are set up serving som tam papaya salad, grilled chicken, and all the usual delicious Thai market fare.vendors at the Naam Peung weekend floating market — Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis
To get here, take the MRT subway to Klong Toey, and a taxi from there to the Klong Toey Pier at Wat Klong Toey Nok Temple. It is 5 baht to cross the river on a small boat. Once across, bicycles can be rented for 100 baht a day, or one can walk to the Sri Nakhon Kuenkhan Park and rent bikes and kayaks for 20 baht an hour. Motorcycle taxis at the pier will take you the six kilometers to the Bang Nam Pueng Floating Market for 30 baht a ride.