My heart raced as I watched my best friend, Lizzie, cross the braid of traffic on her bike, following closely to the other riders in our group. Her mom would kill me if anything happened to her. I paused, considering the consequences. At least she’s wearing a helmet?
Hopping on a night bike tour with Grasshopper Adventures came highly recommended from our new friends we made from May Kaidee, a progressive vegetarian restaurant and cooking class near Khao San Road. As we stepped into the Grasshopper Adventures shop, Liz glared at me with wide eyes, reminding me that she hadn’t been on a bike in ten years. Adjusting her helmet was just the first of a few hurdles she would need to overcome to enjoy this evening’s activities.
This visit to Thailand was Lizzie’s first vacation in five years. We’d just left the rocky beaches of Koh Lanta and were ready to take on Bangkok by storm. I had been determined to get her out of her comfort zone, force her to let loose a little. She’d done well thus far, but biking through Bangkok traffic would definitely qualify as one of the more dangerous activities as of yet. I watched as Lizzie straddled her bike on the concrete sidewalk facing the car-packed Bangkok road, more nervous for her than for myself.
Amateur hour in full force, our ride down to the ferry to Wat Arun put us straight to the test. Lizzie and I giggled constantly, terrified by our ridiculously bad biking skills. As we dodged backpackers, children and dogs along the narrow city alleys, we were relieved by the first glimpse of the lit up, golden temple.
At this point in my trip, I had yet to visit the famous Temple of Dawn. I had planned to go twice, both times after visiting Wat Po and the Grand Palace. Both times, my crew and I had been too sweaty and cranky to get there. Lizzie and I wandered slowly through the empty temple grounds, stopping every few minutes to rest our sore bike bums and to admire each shining tile. As we strained our necks to get the perfect evening temple photos, we realized how lucky we were to get the VIP night visit to such a special place.
The next hour led us through Bangkok back alleys that revealed a tourist-free side of the city I had yet to see. Children raced up to run alongside our parade. Locals waved to the caravan from their doorsteps. Finally getting more comfortable with our bike-legs, we landed at the flower market. Before we could overwhelm our senses with fresh smells and bright colors, it was snack time. Impressed with the fact that were the only tourists in sight, I was charmed by the authenticity with the variety of street food snacks, all new to me. To my surprise, Lizzie attempted a taste of most of the offered treats. While they didn’t all please her, I realized then that my stomach had gotten quite used to the unique Thai street food and was proud enough that she took a few bites.
The market itself was packed with endless shades of pinks, yellows, and oranges, individual flowers and perfectly curated arrangements wrapped in newspaper. Famous for vending flowers used for religious purposes, the market is open all night long and is filled with mostly locals purchasing for the next day. I tested many a Thai market, but this one showed a fresh side, a welcome contrast to the masses of elephant pants and trinkets.
Alas, it was time for us to gather back on our bikes and head to our final evening sightseeing destination: Wat Po. Home of the reclining Buddha, which we were unfortunately unable to visit during this tour due to closing hours, this Wat is jeweled and glamorous and makes you want to run home to build a house made of gems. Equally as beautiful as Wat Arun all lit up, I was even more appreciative of the moderate temperature to ease the exploration. It was night and day (pun intended) to my previous two experiences at a place that, when packed with people in the heat of the afternoon, feels like a hike in the Sahara.
Bangkok is a city full of life, history and religion. It’s also a city that deserves to be explored slowly and deliberately. It’s not a place you can race through on foot, nor are you likely to stumble into anything spectacular without knowing where you’re going. The night bike sightseeing tour with Grasshopper Adventures allowed Lizzie and I to experience the Big Mango’s classic sights from a completely unique angle. While Lizzie might have feared for her life for a minute (or five), it was totally worth it.
Have you been to Bangkok? What’s your favorite way to go sightseeing in the Big Mango?
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