Not many visitors to Bangkok get the opportunity to venture to the unknown outskirts of the city. One attraction found on these seemingly unexplored lands, however, is Bang Krachao. Otherwise known as the capital’s green lung, this makeshift island is one that lacks beaches but makes up for it in character, and it is a great weekend destination for nature lovers and cyclists alike. Here, everything you need to know about the island of Bang Krachao.
History of Bang Krachao
No name would better suit this island than the green lung (though we did read that the island, to locals, is known as a ‘pig’s stomach island’). It is referred to this for some reasons, the first being that Bang Krachao actually resembles the shape of a human lung. The second reason it is known as such is because visitors feel like the green oasis gives them some much-needed breathing room from the polluted streets of the city.
Some two decades ago, the island was covered in nothing but coconut farms and fruit orchards. These were cared for by local horticulturalists, but keeping up with these took a lot of work. After locals started to abandon these farms, the island became inhabited by dense grass, reeds and number mangrove trees, which are still found around the island today.
Where is it
Bang Krachao is in the southern end of the lower central plain in Samut Prakan and is found in the horseshoe bend of the Chao Phraya River, the main artery of the city. The river surrounds the islands for some 18 kilometres, and the island itself is almost 19 square kilometres in size.
Cycling the island
The best way to explore Bang Krachao is by bicycle. These can be rented for an entire day for only ฿50 (approximately $US1.50). Each is equipped with quaint baskets in the front, making shopping convenient. Bicycles can be rented around the island, though you can also bring a bicycle to the island on the ferry. After renting a bicycle, there are plenty of things to see and do on the island that can be reached on two wheels. We suggest blocking out an entire afternoon to see them all.
Cycling the island is no walk in the park. The trails are certainly slender and will cause even the most experienced of cyclist to slow down. A fall off one of these trails could mean a nosedive into the jungle, so be careful as you round the narrow and sharp curves of the paths. There are plenty of sights to see around the island, and one could spend the entirety of an afternoon exploring on two wheels.
Shop at the floating market
Though not the most flamboyant of floating markets, the Talad Nam Peung floating market is certainly worth a visit. It is only open on the weekends, so be sure to visit early Saturday or Sunday morning to get a glimpse of the abundance of items here.
Unlike its competitors, Talad Nam Peung floating market is genuine and caters to locals as opposed to tourists, and this is obvious in the knick knacks and eats it sells throughout. Items are cheap, vendors are ready and willing to barter, and the vibe encompasses one that lacks any foreign influence.
Be sure to work up an appetite before visiting the floating market, as the vendors and stalls lining the narrow, elevated walkway are chock full of tasty finds. The market is known for its tasty kanom, or Thai desserts, which are found in abundance here. There are also a plethora of herbal remedy shops, one too many food stalls, and, of course, fresh produce for sale for dirt cheap prices.
Take photos of the temples
There are not one but a total of nine temples on the island. The Buddhist temples are scattered throughout the green oasis and make for neat stop off points as visitors cycling around the island. The most memorable of them all is the Wat bang Nam Pheung Nok, found near the main pier of the island.
Visit the Bangkok Tree House
Though the service was a letdown, the Bangkok Tree House is certainly worth a short visit while cycling the slender trails of Bang Krachao. The venue stays true to its name: the Bangkok Tree House is actually adorned to look like the wooden structures tucked up into the trees of childhood homes around the world, however, without the wooden ladder entrance.
Hanging bamboo poles fall gracefully from the wooden ceiling, and there is ample seating to choose from, each of which sports a memorable view of the surrounding forest or Chao Phraya River from its quaint rooftop. Also, the smoothies here are incredibly refreshing, with coconut, watermelon, pineapple, orange and more choose from for only ฿99. The restaurant also specialises in Thai cuisine, though there are a few international dishes sprinkled throughout its menu. There is beer, cocktails, and even wine on the menu, as well.
Cycle the Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park and Botanical Garden
The Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park and Botanical Garden is Bang Krachao's oasis within an oasis. The name of the park was actually graciously bestowed by the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and it was officially opened in 1997. The park bears a number of the island’s original fruit orchids, and once inside the park, visitors will find that the vast area has plenty of cycling paths they can take to on their bicycles and explore.
The park is some 100 acres in size and is certainly the island's largest and often most favourited spot to frequent. Wooden bridges criss cross the park's handful of lakes, which visitors can take to and feed the abundance of fish residing just beneath the murky water. Oftentimes, locals will lounge under nearby trees selling bread for cheap, and visitors can purchase this and feed it to the fish. From picnic areas to food, pavilions and more, this park is certainly worth exploring.
Go bird watching
If you are into bird watching, Bang Krachao is apparently the place to do so. The Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park and Botanical Garden is home to a towering bird tower, and though it lacks incredible views, it is apparently one of the best places to be on the lookout for rare bird breeds like the Rufous woodpecker and more.
Head down flower lane
Though a bit lackluster, the flower lane on the island of Bang Krachao is certainly worth a photograph or two. Known as Flower Road and the Green Lane, the cute stretch of road is adorned with flowers: and we are not talking about real foliage. Instead, this elevated bicycle lane is painted with orange, green, white, and red flowers for some 10 metres or so. With railing on either side of the walkway, visitors do not need to worry about falling off on this particular stretch of the sidewalk on the island of Bang Krachao.
Getting to Bang Krachao
In comparison to the competition island of Ko Kret, Bang Krachao is much more convenient and quicker to reach. Visitors will first take the BTS Skytrain to the Bang Wa station. From there, you will want to get a taxi to the main pier where the ferry is. We have found that not many locals know the name, ‘Bang Krachao,’ so it is better to tell a taxi driver Wat Bangna Nok, which is a temple that sits just adjacent the pier. From there, it is a ฿4 ferry ride to the island.