The first time I actually paid attention to Bang Krachao was a year ago, a group of visiting European friends told me about this urban island that was at the top of their Bangkok bucket list. Though not a fan of the great outdoors, it’s always a real bummer that foreigners knew more about your hometown than you do. So I did myself a favour and went on a hike to the island also known as Bangkok’s green lung. It truly didn’t disappoint and is now my go-to when the need to escape the city manifests itself.
Home to preserved parks, plant and fish nurseries, bicycle trails, a floating market, coffee shops, restaurants, and a good number of temples; Bang Krachao (also called Bang Krajao) is hugged by a curve of Chao Phraya River, which stretches down south towards Samut Prakarn’s sub-districts of Phra Pradaeng. Some may not agree, but we think it is fair to call Bang Kachao an island as the Lad Pho canal cuts completely between Bang Kachao and the mainland. The only connection is a small bridge from Phetchahung Alley, making boats and ferries the most selected means of transfer to this green oasis.
Getting to Bang Krachao is not as difficult as it may seem, but if you’re a wanderer like us, ditch the Bangkok traffic and opt for one of the three routes we highly recommend. Keep in mind that choosing the perfect route depends on what you would like to do most while you’re on the island.
If gliding along a 10-kilometre cycling track and inhaling all that fresh oxygen for free are two of the best reasons to be in Bang Krachao, hop onto the MRT and take the first exit at Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre station. Take a metered taxi or a 30-baht motorbike taxi to the Klong Toei pier, where you’ll hop on a ferry (10 baht). This is the quickest way to get to Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park and the Botanical Garden.
Happening only on weekends, the lively floating market is situated on the eastern part of Bang Krachao. Morning might be when the market is the busiest, but it’s also the best time to make a stop here as the place is filled with cheap street food stalls and local craft shops. Take the BTS to Bang Na Station and take exit two and get a taxi (approximately 70 baht) to Wat Bang Na Nok (Bang Na Nok Temple). When you arrive at the temple, walk toward Klong Lad Pho pier and take a two-baht ride ferry to “Wat Bang Nam Peung Nok” (Bang Nam Peung Nok Temple).
For those who prefer to make their way in air-conditioned comfort, driving or cabbing there directly is feasible as there are small roads that will lead you to most attractions on the island. Parking is inexpensive and getting to Bang Krachao from the centre of Asoke should take you around half an hour without traffic. Unfortunately, it takes an hour with usual traffic and up to two hours on Friday evening.
As soon as you arrive at one of the piers, the first thing you want to do is get yourself a bicycle. Bicycle shops are scattered across on the island and rental rates range from 30 baht per hour to 150 baht a day. Some vendors might even throw in a complimentary bottle of water, a map of Bang Krachao, and a wet tower copy of Bang Kachao map, and a wet towel for you without extra charges. Just remember to bring some form of ID, as it’s required for renting.
The thing we love about Bang Krachao is that it’s so free and easy. If you have a full day to spend, the floating market is worth a visit to get fuelled up before you explore the 320,000-square-meter nature park. The cycling trails will take slightly over an hour and you’ll be pedaling through tropical greenery, a seven-meter high bird watching tower, and interesting distractions like a Siamese fighting fish gallery dedicated to these aqua warriors.
There are some good coffee shops along the way where you can make a quick pit stop of coffee and pastries. The whole island is fully protected against commercial development so all buildings are low-rise. Instead of skyscrapers and the noise of traffic, the endless shade afforded by the trees, dappled sunlight, and birds chirping take centrestage here.
Leaving Bang Krachao can be difficult for some, especially when it’s back to the grind tomorrow. Thanks to Bangkok Tree House, you can now stay overnight on the island in one of their treetop nests. Built with rustic materials and eco-friendly decor, and the fact that you’re sleeping in the middle of the jungle just 30 minutes away from the city center, will leave you oddly buoyant. The homestay’s coffee shop and restaurant are one of the most popular sunrise and sunset hangout spots for visitors. They also offer nighttime boat rides for firefly watching! The homestay is immensely popular with Bangkokians, so if you’d like some solitude, it’s best to avoid Bang Krachao on the weekends.
Got a couple of hours to spare before leaving the island? Baan Toop Hom is located right next to Bangkok Tree House; they offer basic incense-making and tie-dying workshops for 100 baht per person – and you get to bring your creations home with you. One-day advance reservations for the workshops are required.
All images courtesy of Narisa Pokunchanan