Reading various urban planning studies for Greater Bangkok, I became intrigued by mention of an oxbow in the Chaophraya River. Therein was reputed to lie a land that time, and developers, had forgotten, albeit that it is within sight of the City centre skyline.
To visit, I had two pieces of concrete information to go on. Firstly, technically, this area of jungle and small villages lies within Samut Prakan Province. Secondly, the area could be reached, within a couple of minutes, by taking a boat from behind a temple in Bangkok.
Leaving Bangkok’s Klong Toey
Whilst trying, unsuccessfully, to locate any remains of the Mosquito Club, where the Bangkok bar scene began, I took advantage of being in Bangkok’s Klong Toey port district. I had a hunch where that temple would be.
Sure enough, if you go down to the main gates to Klong Toey’s deepwater port, all will be, relatively easily, revealed. The port entry is at the very end of Soi Kasemrat, itself a turn off Sukhumvit Soi 26, its final stretch known as Ari. Soi 26 begins quite close to the BTS Skytrain Phrom Phong stop, best known for its proximity to Emporium Shopping Mall.
Facing the dock gates, watch out for a small side soi to your right. It starts as a sea of food hawkers and impromptu outlets. Look out for the IMF Sea Food Sign, following the soi past the Seaman’s Mission and further on past Wat Klong Toey Nai. Have 5 Baht ready for the boat trip. The landing stage to Bang Krachao is just past Wat Klong Toey Nai.
Arriving in Bang Krachao
Your landing point across the Chayophraya is Ban Mae. You wander along a walkway, where there is a restaurant, eventually arriving at a point where you can hire a motorcycle and driver. Just beyond this, you turn, to the right, into the village.
Of course, you might have stopped to negotiate a price with the motorcyclists. Potential places to visit include an incense factory and several temples, particularly Wat Bang Nam Phung Nok, which is four or five kilometres distant. The ride to the temple costs about 40Baht each way.
Close to Wat Bang Nam Phung Nok is Bang Nam Phung Floating Market. Note that this takes place weekends only, so making this trip on a weekend day makes sense.
That said, one of the joys of this visit is doing nothing in particular. You can wander around on foot taking in the jungle flora and fauna, noting also a degree of cultivation. You will particularly see mangos, bananas, guavas and coconuts growing.
Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park
Another aim, on foot, might be to visit Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park, which includes a botanical garden and wetlands area.
Wildlife is abundant throughout the park. Last time I visited, I saw a monitor lizard of eye-popping dimensions.
A very large lake dominates the park. Surrounded by well-manicured lawns, it’s a good place to set up day camp, play badminton. Hire a boat, feed the fish.
The park has an extensive network of cycleways. It has become very popular with cyclists, especially at weekends.
Cycling in Bang Krachao
In fact, cycleways are a major feature of the whole Bang Krachao area. They are, normally, narrow concrete structures, barely elevated above the mangrove swamps. There are no safety rails, so you must take great care not to lose your concentration when riding.
Getting lost should be less of an issue. There are good route markings with arrows and bicycle icons.
Bikes may be hired at the pier, when you arrive in Ban Mae. You may hire by the hour or by the day.
Alternatively, you may join an organised, led cycle tour, provided by one of two companies on Sukhumvit Soi 26. Spice Roads may be contacted on +66 (0)2-7125305, Real Asia on +66 (0)2-6656364. Both companies run half-day tours starting from their offices.