With a potential departure looming, Alex is on a mission to knock off all the Bangkok Bucket List experiences.
The Green Lung has been on my list of must do’s since we arrived.
I had never heard of it until we moved here and I was intrigued by how to get there, where was it and this was exactly what was putting me off venturing there I just did not know how. One Sunday morning following, what I have to admit was a lazy Saturday, hungover, post-birthday celebration and way too much movie watching, I reeled off a list of excursions to the family to garner some enthusiasm. Biking around the Green Lung was unexpectedly met with reasonable enthusiasm and within minutes, teeth were cleaned, clothing adorned, sun cream applied and bikes loaded into the back of the car, we were off. A quick recci on the internet and a confirmation with a friend who had ventured this way only the previous bank holiday and we were trundling down Bangna Trad towards Bangna pier. In no time at all we had alighted on the other side of the Chao Phrao River, hired bikes for the adults and were on our way. The pier on either side of the river are alongside or back onto a Wat and it felt somewhat auspicious that we departed with the sounds of chanting in the background only to arrive to similar sounds. The kids were keen to visit the Siamese fighting fish so we headed in that direction. The roads were pretty clear and easy to navigate and there are also elevated walkways through the ‘jungle’. Being of adventurous spirits we quickly embarked upon one of these narrow wooden glorified bridges.
My daughter who is 6 immediately lost her nerve and was much less impressed with the adventure and tried to walk/balance bike her way along wobbling worryingly. I coaxed from behind secretly kicking myself for being such an intrepid explorer so early in the day. With enough coaching and encouragement, she did perk up and even cycle but I was waiting for the inevitable, ‘This is the worst day of my life.’ comment, always one to go for over the top, melodramatic effect. I don’t know where she gets it from! Finally, we found the Siamese fighting fish gallery. It was not as I expected if I am honest. And therein lies the problem especially when flying off piste in Thailand: things are rarely as you expect them, having no expectations works as well in Thailand as it does in real life, if only I could remember that mantra.
However, just because it wasn’t as I expected, it also did not disappoint. First snacks and drinks were purchased which put a smile on the little people’s faces. Then we found the ‘gallery’. Now I have made this mistake in Thailand before. Looking for a gallery to buy some art with some friends earlier in the year we had chanced upon a gallery café. The café was great but the gallery was actually a rather weird toy collection, no art to be seen.
This too was the same … a collection of small jars with a Siamese fighting fish in each. Some looking, it has to be said spritelier than others. There is no denying that they are beautiful fish and of course they could not be all displayed together in a beautiful tank because, as the name suggests, if they were they would kill each other.
The surroundings with a teak Thai building, gardens and views of some of the Bangkok skyline, were also lovely. But a morning’s entertainment it does not in itself make. So, we headed off to the grandly named Sri Nakhon Khuen Khan Park. Here we saw the elaborate curtain figs, suicide trees, coconut island and if you are so inclined you can go birdwatching in the tower but with my 6-year-old, whose volume control is suspect, along for the ride that was not a pursuit worth embarking upon, doomed from the start as it would be. Again, absolutely lovely and the shade was desperately appreciated but not much more than half an hour’s cycling in total. Longer if you took a picnic, we hadn’t.
So, the next stop was lunch. We had seen random signs tacked to trees advertising Appletree Café. Hopeful of some A/C and ideally no chicken feet we set off to find it. By now the heat was intense, the blood sugar levels falling dramatically and the whining on the rise. Vain attempts to change the mood with ‘let’s have a quiet few minutes and just listen to what we can hear, shall we’ failing as passing mopeds and the occasional car drowned out all the sounds of nature. Thankfully it was not a long cycle until we happened upon this café and oh hurray and hurrah and a million more: it was air conditioned. Once bellies were full, spirits rose again and we decided to head to the floating market. My son and I took the lead and we rather kamikaze style headed back to the main road, which was suddenly a lot busier than it had been an hour earlier. We missed the turning for the floating markets and when we realised our mistake retraced our steps and tried to find Mr P and Indie. We failed but found the market, parked up our bikes and called them. They were apparently at the other end of the market. Mr P was reluctant for us to leave Akiro’s rather nice mountain bike unattended and unsecured and even more reluctant to take on the crowds and try and find us so we agreed to meet back at the pier. We would return and next time bring locks for the bikes and hit the market first thing. We were given directions on how to find the pier but mummy being mummy thought it would be more fun to go via the elevated walkways.
We came across another Wat and a serene monk nodded and said ‘yes that way to the pier’and we trustingly complied only to end up at the other end of the market. But I trusted him, he was in saffron after all and looked so kindly, so we took the back route through the forest, literally off piste. When I realised my mistake I was turning my bike around on a narrow muddy path when I slipped mid-calf deep into the mud. As I freed one foot I realised I was sinking deeper with the extra weight on the remaining foot. There was no foothold or anything to grasp onto as the nearest tree was swarming with giant red ants. We both got the giggles and then Akiro dumped his bike and came to my assistance just as I managed somehow to free my foot and clamber free in the most ungainly fashion. We then got sidetracked spotting a giant centipede, which wasn’t actually squished and was really moving and alive unlike all the others we had seen that day. Another hopeless attempt to seek directions sent us off in the wrong direction and Akiro announced probably more optimistically than he actually felt that he knew which way to go, ‘Yes, now I finally get to go in front,’ he said, mentally fist pumping himself. I know he was doing that, I do it all the time too, I know the signs. To give him his due between his boyish innate better sense of direction, Google maps finally recognising our location and yet another call to Mr P for confirmation we eventually got back to the pier where the bicycle hire guys greeted me with howls of laughter and got the hose out on my feet. I was mightily relieved on removing my socks not to find any leeches or any other critter latched onto my tootsies. All in all it was a really fun day. I love giving the kids a chance to see real Thailand and it is. There are a few farang but it is not a touristy spot. The market was busy but with locals and Bangkokians who had driven over. Cycling around, especially in the morning you get a sense of days gone by and it is not a great leap of faith to imagine what it was like there 10 years ago with hardly any cars and only a handful of motorbikes. It feels cleaner and fresher there – although not according to my daughter, ‘I wish I didn’t sweat, Mummy, it makes me itch.’ There are probably better days to go than mid May days but then I figure most days in Bangkok, you
end up hot and sweaty and actually I don’t mind that so much. There is usually a pool to dip into at the end of the day and an ice-cold Singha to sip, so it’s all good. And although I have technically crossed off another thing on the bucket list, actually I do desperately want to return to do the floating market and possibly even stay at the Bangkok Treehouse, apparently one of the most eco-friendly guesthouses in Bangkok. Alex Bannard and her family have lived outside the UK for more than 10 years. Alex teaches yoga to private clients and group classes and can be contacted at [email protected]