As much as I love Bangkok, sometimes it’s nice to get out of the city for the day and do something active. Right in Bangkok, there are two “islands,” each of which you can spend a day biking around. These two islands are very different, though both really fun day trips. If you only have time for one, I’d definitely choose Bang Krachao, but if you live in Bangkok or are here for an extended period, you should definitely check them both out.
Bang Krachao (บางกระเจ้า): Bang Krachao is known as Bangkok’s “Green Lung” and is very close to the center of the city. You can get here by taking the MRT to Klong Toei, a taxi to Wat Klong Toei Noi (a temple right next to the pier, should be 50-60 baht), and then a 5 minute boat ride across the Chao Phraya river (10 baht per person, per way). As soon as you get off the boat on the island, there will be a bike rental, 80 baht for the day. The rental place will give you a map and tell you to stay on the main road so you don’t get lost, but half of the fun of this place is exploring and getting lost riding around the narrow, elevated walkways. Going around the whole island is about 20km, but you can really bike as much or as little as you’d like.
As you’re riding around, you’ll begin to feel like you’re in a whole other world. Before our day here, we thought Bang Krachao was going to be very similar to Ko Kret (see below) in that we’d just ride around for a few hours, grab lunch, and other than that there’d really be nothing else to do or see. Boy, were we wrong. This “island” is actually really lively and there are tons of people living there. There are houses, stores, markets, and just a lot to see while riding around. There are even local buses, taxis, and motor taxis running around the island. It’s very pretty too and definitely earned its “Green Lung” nickname.
The main “attractions” on the map you’ll be given are several temples, Sri Nakhon Khuan Khan Park, and the Bangkok Tree House (which is a fancy hotel/restaurant on the island). Definitely check them all out, but even more interesting and fun for us was just riding around and checking out all of the local stuff going on. The highlight of Bang Krachao, however, is the Bang Nam Pheung floating market (it’s only open on the weekends). I thought it would be a tiny floating market where we’d be able to get a good local lunch, but once again, I was mistaken. It was huge! You first walk in to the floating market portion, which has tons of great little restaurants set up on the river where you can order food off one of the boats (we had the tom yam noodles and a red pork and rice dish – 70 baht for both. That’s $2!). Then, as you continue walking along the river, you’ll see that you can turn left into another section of the market, which has two huge aisles with vendors selling pretty much everything you can imagine. This turned out to be one of the best food markets we’d ever been to and we ended up spending much longer walking around and making purchases than we’d anticipated. We’d actually already defrosted some meat for dinner later that night, but realized there was no way we could leave this market without picking up a dinner for later. In fact, we ended up with 3 dinners. Not only was there a huge variety of seafood, meat, desserts, and more, everything was really cheap. We got a huge whole fish for 160 baht and then a big container of grilled shrimp (150 baht), scallops (60 baht), squid skewers (100 baht), and some other goodies too. We thought we were done shopping for the day, but then later on, we found another great (more local) market with a vendor selling whole ducks (we can’t remember anywhere we’d seen that before) and we couldn’t pass that up either. We’re suckers for good food, what can I say.
Originally, we thought we’d be in Bang Krachao from 10am until around 2pm, but we ended up staying until about 4:30. Maybe this was because we spent so much time at the market, but this was definitely a full-day activity (and a great one). I can’t believe it took us three years to find this gem, but it was worth the wait. This was honestly one of my favorite days I’ve spent in Bangkok and I would highly recommend this for any visitor who has more than a couple days in Bangkok and is here on a weekend. Bang Krachao is most definitely getting added to my 4-day suggested Bangkok itinerary!
Ko Kret (เกาะเกร็ด): Bangkok’s other island is quite a bit further and a little more difficult to get to, but still can be done as just a day trip from Bangkok. To get here (there are a few different ways, but this seems to be the easiest/most reliable), take the BTS to Victory Monument and then bus #166. The bus trip is about an hour and will drop you off in Pak Kret near the pier. Then, a 10 minute boat ride over to the island (if I remember correctly, I think it’s like 2 baht pp).
You’ll be dropped off at a big market which I believe is just a weekend market. Ko Kret is known for its pottery and the market also has tons of great food and snacks. At the end of the market (wherever you exit it), you’ll be able to rent a bike. Unlike Bang Krachao, which has a lot of action and a lot of people living there, Ko Kret is very small (about 2km on each side) and feels pretty sleepy. The market near the pier is the most action you’ll find here, but it’s definitely a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. Similar to Bang Krachao, it’s filled with many elevated pathways that you can ride your bike around. It took us less than an hour to get all the way around the island on bikes and I think you could even walk it in around 2 hours.
At the end of our bike ride, we stopped at Chit Beer, a trendy craft brewery. This place feels somewhat out of place on Ko Kret but it was really nice sitting outside overlooking the water and enjoying a good beer. When we went (later in the afternoon), they were out of a lot of their drafts, but I guess that can be expected when pretty much every tourist is stopping at your place for a drink.
While Ko Kret was definitely not as exciting as Bang Krachao and quite a bit harder to get to, it’s still a nice getaway for a day and is something I would recommend to anyone living here. If you’re just visiting, however, I think there are probably better day trips from Bangkok and better ways to spend your extra time.