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Peace and quiet in Bangkok

Finding peace and tranquillity in

Bangkok

When you think of Bangkok, you’re likely to picture busy streets full of taxis and motorbikes, sidewalks crowded with food carts and nightlife filled with Chang beer and some crazy antics a la The Hangover 2. While there’s no denying these things do exist in The Big Mango, there is also a softer side to the city. Blogger Megan Rogers explores the quiet spots of busy Bangkok.

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Megan Rogers

Megan Rogers is a photographer and writer trying to live a simple yet adventurous life in a complicated and routine-obsessed world. Megan is constantly on the hunt for interesting locales that are a bit out of the ordinary. She gave in to her gypsy tendencies a few years ago and moved to Thailand, but she doesn’t stay in one place too long. You can find out where she’s off to next on her blog, depaysementblog.com.

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Stretch your legs and your lungs

The “Green Lung” of Bangkok

While mental images of Bangkok conjure up busy streets and concrete, Bang Krachao is literally a breath of fresh air. Known as Bangkok’s “Green Lung,” this little island in the middle of the city is a special place. People here still live the elusive “slow life.” Once you arrive, there is an obvious shift in atmosphere; palm trees and swamps replace the skyscrapers and the air smells faintly of water and musty leaves. You get the feeling that this is how life in Bangkok used to be.

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The best way to get around? Two wheels.

Rent a bicycle when you arrive on the island pier. This is truly the best way to experience the Green Lung. Just be sure to go slow on the elevated pathways – they are about four feet tall – as a fall would leave you covered in swamp goop. It might look like a twisted maze – but don’t worry about getting lost. Take whatever turn looks interesting. Because there is only one road in and out of Bang Krachao and the rest of it is surrounded by water, it’s easy to find yourself back on a major road without even trying. Just enjoy being surrounded by all that green! Bangkok is not the easiest place to get an outdoor workout. One of the best things to do to combat travel weariness is actually to get your body moving. Take advantage of the lack of cars to really get your legs and lungs pumping. You’ll feel reenergized when it’s finally time to head back.

Perfect picnic place

Sri Nakhon Kuenkhan Park will be one of the first places you’ll come to after you arrive at the pier. This sprawling expanse of green is home to smooth bike pathways, rolling green hills, and a large lake. You may even spot a monitor lizard or two. Visit one of the small local shops and buy some snacks for your own little picnic. While it might not be anything fancy – most likely crisps and Thai cookies – you won’t mind when you’re reclining under a few massive trees next to a quiet lake. If you want to splurge a bit more, park your trusty bike at the nearby Bang Nam Phueng floating market. Here you can enjoy a more substantial Thai meal, buy a couple of souvenirs, and even pet a goat or two.

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Find yourself in a treehouse

Bangkok Treehouse is a beautiful hideout in the middle of the island’s jungle. It is the perfect place to stop for a break. The cosy hotel rooms transport you even further into nature. There are open-air showers and vine-covered walls greet you in the guests-only area, and nest-like structures perch above each room serving as ideal relaxation spots overlooking the river. Bangkok Treehouse is totally green - sustainability is their main focus. They remove a kilo of trash from the river with every booking and use renewable energy and other energy saving techniques throughout the entire hotel and restaurant. Staying here just might shrink your carbon footprint.

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The restaurant menu is mainly vegan and vegetarian, with some seafood dishes. Everything they use is fresh and in-season, meaning better for you and the environment. Bonus – the menu is based on local Thai specialties and is 100% delicious!

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River Cruising

Escaping the heat and avoiding traffic

One of the best ways to achieve that zen feeling is to get out on the water. Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River is easily accessible from various piers throughout the city, and there are many different kinds of boat to choose from. When looking for peace and quiet, it’s best to stick with a tour or perhaps rent your own longtail boat. Fighting the crowds on a commuter vessel might get you to the same places, but it lacks calm and tranquillity. Once you’re on board, you have a myriad of options when deciding how to spend your day.

Temple time

One of my favourite temples in Bangkok is Wat Arun. Less crowded than some of the other temples in the Old City, this temple, nicknamed Temple of the Dawn, is covered in colourful mosaic tiles. In Thai culture, walking around a temple in a clockwise direction is one way to earn merit. You can do this on multiple levels at Wat Arun. Pay close attention to the tilework and intricate stone statues. If you’re lucky, there may be a Buddhist ceremony or event happening while you’re exploring the grounds. Buy a fresh coconut from a vendor and sit back and listen to the calming chants, backdropped by this magnificent temple.

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Treat yourself

Trendy bars and eateries are popping up all along the river these days. Whether you’re craving a cold mixed drink, slice of pizza or an ice cream, you can enjoy your heart’s desire somewhere along the river.

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You may remember our temple’s nickname, Temple of the Dawn. However, dusk is an ideal time to enjoy a cocktail across the river at Sala Rattanakosin while the sunset turns everything a shade of pink.

Sit back and relax

Cool breezes are a dime a dozen here. It’s really the best way to get a glimpse inside the old way of Thai living along the old khlongs (canals) that still snake through Bangkok. No traffic here! Best to be careful and keep your head and hands inside the boat. Be sure to dodge any splashes – it might feel cool and seem like a welcome respite from the heat, but you don’t want to swallow any dirty water. Your boat may stop running in the early evening. But don’t worry – you can keep enjoying that mango and sticky rice for as long as you’d like. You can always grab a cab from any of these riverside spots.

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The neighbourhood of Ari

Where locals in the know go to chill

Ari is one of those up-and-coming neighbourhoods that have only been discovered by nearby locals and discerning expats. Full of leafy side streets and hip cafes and bars, Ari is highly Instagram-able, yet still retains its sense of quiet secrecy. Spend an entire day slowly exploring Ari, just don’t tell them I sent you.

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Food truck revolution

From Mexican food to DIY seafood grilling, Ari has all the food truck offerings you could want. Pull up a stool, grab a beer, and enjoy some time people watching. Ari may just be the new hipster hangout, but don’t let that stop you from checking out some of the area’s terrific and beautiful java spots. Porcupine Cafe is a favourite. The skytrain runs through Ari so it is still easy to get to. However, it isn’t central Bangkok and it is on the other side of town from backpacker central, Khao San Road, so you can be sure your visit will have all the chill vibes.

Getting around – there are options for that

The main draws in Ari are generally close to each other. Most people in this area are young entrepreneurs, lunching businessmen, and of course, the occasional brave tourist like you. Getting around isn‘t difficult. With all the great food and drink options here, why not burn a few calories by exploring the sleepy sois (streets) on foot or by bike? Bonus: I’ve found some of my favourite Thai scenes by accident just by wandering around. In more congested areas in Bangkok, riding in the back of a tuk-tuk can be a nerve racking and expensive experience. But among Ari’s leafy sois, tuk-tuks suddenly seem like one of the most relaxing ways to get around. All the locals do it!

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Some Thai living tips

While in Ari, it’s best to do as the locals do. Enjoy that delicious meal, turn dinner into an all-night affair, stop and look around you rather than at your phone. As we like to say in Thailand, mai ben rai, or “no problem!” Just look at these alleyways. So much charm and appeal here. Be sure to have your camera ready! Ari is the perfect place to spend a peaceful day. Speak with some of the locals here; people in Thailand are incredibly friendly. They will most likely let you in on a few more neighbourhood secrets if you just ask.

KLM

iFly Magazine

April 2017

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