Saturday, March 30, 2013

Amazing mazes: Riding the sois around Phra Sumen Road/Grand Palace/Golden Mount Temple (Wat Saket)

I just have to start by saying: Cafe Velodome is my new favorite bicycle hangout. It is a true bike cafe, in that it is always full of happy sweaty (or soon to be sweaty) cyclists, friendly staff, and bike books and paraphernalia everywhere. Right on the Thammasat University campus across from Sanam Luang, it is also super convenient for a lot of really cool rides in the surrounding neighborhoods. I highly recommend.

A couple weeks ago, I went to check out Velodome for the first time, and got caught up in a group ride where K. Nan took us on this fabulous, twisty-turny hidden Bangkok route. I think she runs a group ride for new cyclists (meaning, an awesome tour of sois with little traffic) every Sunday around 11am. But check with Velo to make sure it's happening before you go.

The thing about this ride is that you see parts of Bangkok that seem stuck in time. That you wouldn't really ever know existed if you stayed on the main roads. And you see people truly living their lives. Some of the passages are very tight, and you get right into peoples' living space, but little politeness, a sawatdee-ka, and some chit chat makes it a great experience for both sides. So far, most of the locals seem pretty excited to see people on bikes coming through their backyards, and they're happy to give directions (is there a way out if I go down this way? yes? thanks so much!!!). But I'll let the pictures tell the main story. Full Picasa album here with more great shots: Picasa

Julia, at Velodome, looking lovely

Me, at Velodome, looking excited

Walkway on the Chao Praya, parallel to Th. Phra Athit

Back soi not far from Phra Sumen Fort

Soi chess-ckers?

Temple of the Golden Mount. 

I swear it is the most beautiful temple in Bangkok

Leaving the temple campus

Riding through peoples' laundry into a market

Canal ways

I don't know what that is but it was cooking outside by the canal so I photographed it. And then was embarrassed when the chef came out and caught me doing it. "Sawatdee ka, du aroy ka...." "Hi, it looks good..." blush, blush

Goddess of Bike

Goddess of Bike and Tree

I don't know what it means. Still, it is cool.

Phra Sumen Fort

Before I sign off, I have to share a quick anecdote about a conversation with a truck on my way to meet Julia at Velodome before doing this ride. It isn't so much funny due to the content as due to the fact that I believed I was having one conversation, while the driver of the truck behind had a totally different understanding of the nature of our communication.

So I was rolling along at a high rate of speed, as is my wont and habit for safety and pure personal preference reasons, down a smallish soi with this truck behind me. This soi is so small and full of speed bumps that cars have no business going any faster than that. But I had this truck tailgating me for over a kilometer. Here's how the conversation was going in my head until a key moment at a traffic light changed the whole thing:

Me: gosh this guy is so impatient can't he see how fast and cool I am why does he need to pass me
Truck: Why is this bicycle in my road. Foreigners! Doesn't she know that bikes are toys?
Me: I'm riding faster! Faster! Please don't pass me you will slow down and annnnoyyyyy me as soon as you do.
Truck: What the. I would have passed that bike if not for that tuk tuk in the oncoming lane. Rage.
(And then we get to a light)
Truck: Finally. I will hit the accelerator and leave this bike in the dust as soon as the light changes. Let me just edge a little further up so she can't jump in front of me...
Me: Oh yeah? You think you're going to beat me off the block at this light? You think you can accelerate safely into this intersection faster than me? I WILL SHOW YOU HOW FAST I CAN GET MOVING INTO THIS INTERSECTION.
And then it happened. He rolled down his window, snapped a picture of me with his iPhone, and gave me a huge grin and a big thumbs-up. The below picture, while obviously of me on my couch writing this blog in my pajamas, is a reenactment of my astonishment.
You mean you don't hate me?

The next picture is a re-enactment of how delighted I was as soon as he made it clear he just thought I was beautiful and amazing and wanted to have a better look at me on my bike:

Hi, Friend!

So that is actually what has been happening kind of frequently lately, as I spend more time biking on smaller streets and less time on the big ones full of traffic. I get lots of high-fives, photo ops, and thumbs-ups. Moral of the story? Sometimes, maybe I don't need to ride so fast. Perhaps it's worth slowing down and taking the scenic route. That's pretty deep, right? Me<---bike philosopher.


View Amazing Mazes ride in a larger map


  1. Nice little blog. I live in the same area so I will try some of your rides. Cheers.

  2. Wow, awesome! Thanks for the comment. I'm glad you like it! Leaving from Ari I really like the ride I mapped of Dusit/Memorial Bridge. It's really easy to cut over Rama VI and then from there head over in the direction of Samsen and south towards the Grand Palace area. Hope you have some good rides!

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  4. Rocking the Rattanakosin!

  5. Gonna try your route today :D Thankss!

  6. SO cool will try in Saturday! do you know Bang Krachao?

  7. Great article!
    We are also a couple writing about places we love and this post really inspires us! We have made several in-dept pages about Bangkok and some places you would find interesting, check
    Marcel and Denise