Why Jungle Lovers Should Visit Bangkok
Featured destinations: Bangkok
Published 30 March 2016
Bangkok is 24/7. It’s Thailand at its most vivacious. The one thing it isn’t is tranquil – lovers of peace, nature and wildlife understandably shy away from this bold, brash metropolis. But are they right to do so? Flee the slums of Khlong Toei and take a short water taxi from the chaotic centre, cruising along the Chao Phraya River for a mere 15 minutes. Here you’ll discover Bang Kra Jao – a haven amid the madness. It feels far beyond the high rises, honking cars and choking smog; you can’t even see, hear or smell them from here…
The ‘Green Lung of Bangkok’
Take a deep breath… Silence. The air is clean and quiet in this sleepy peninsula, earning it the moniker the ‘Green Lung of Bangkok’. It’s a confection of mangrove-tangled waterways, palm-fringed boardwalks and Mon-inspired temples – a treasured labyrinth alive with nature. Weirdly, this car-free paradise has remained untouched by developers, despite being one of the biggest green spaces any metropolis can lay claim to. Think 2,000 hectares of jungle once populated by Thailand’s earliest tribes.
Blissful bike rides
With no cars in Bang Kra Jao, the best way to get about is on two wheels – especially with no hills, no congestion, just serenity. You can join a tour (usually a half day affair) or go it alone. A guide will show you the small villages, temples and tropical flora that make up this secret garden, where beauty and photographic opportunities abound.
If you’d prefer to explore under your own steam, beware the narrow pathways and stilted boardwalks – it’s easy to topple, especially if you’re not keeping hydrated. As for the bike, you can hire your transport on the peninsula – expect to pay about 100 baht (£2) for the day – or in Bangkok, which works out a bit cheaper. Let’s face it though: £2 isn’t exactly breaking the bank.
Giant monitor lizards and glowing fireflies are the big draw in this verdant peninsula. You’ll need to take a night boat to seek out the latter, but it’s a great way to see the swamps and canals, illuminated by these incredible creatures.
Whatever you do on Bang Kra Jao, don’t miss the Bang Nam Phueng Floating Market. A complete contrast to the touristy riverside markets around the capital, Bang Nam Phueng has plenty of authentic local foods, sweets and wares to try, and boasts a charming enclave of stalls both on and off shore. As with the whole peninsula, it’s relaxed here, so you can meander past the thatched roofs without too much hassle.
There aren’t any over-the-top five-star resorts here: homestays and treetop living is the only way to stay. That said, the eco-friendly Bangkok Treehouse is all about eccentricity and making a bold statement: there is a room without walls or ceilings and a river nest, which is essentially a floating mattress. Everything is nature inspired, from the organic food to the outdoor showers, boasting water heated by sunlight. It’s an enviable escape from reality, one where you can share river views with white cranes and blue kingfishers in their natural habitat.