On our first visit to Bangkok, we couldn’t wait to leave. We may have given up on the Thai capital a bit too quickly after a combination of being scammed and the need to escape floods that were due to hit the city any day, but after just a few days, we headed down south for a few weeks of island hopping instead. Last month we booked flights to Bangkok again, ready to give the city a second chance. This time we would be checking out a new part of the city: Bang Nampheung. Good thing we did, too, as it was love at first sight.
Had we not stayed at the fabulous and brand new Bangkok Tree House, we would have never set foot in that area of southern Bangkok, on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. After having spent a few days in the Sukhumvit area, home to mega-malls, hotels, high-rise apartment complexes and bars and nightclubs, we crossed over the Chao Phraya River and within five minutes we were worlds apart from the buzzing metropolis, surrounded by palm trees and silence, save for the chirping of birds. No bridges connecting Bang Namphueng with the east side of the river means that developers are reluctant to buy up land in this part of Bangkok, which has helped it maintain its village feel.
The area along the banks of the river forms miles of lush green swampland. Although the land seems uninhabitable, the amphibious locals have created raised cement sidewalks that snake in and around neighborhoods that all eventually connect up to large main roads. We took out a pair of bicycles to explore the area and within just a few minutes managed to see one of the largest lizards we have ever seen scrambling back into the water as we rode by.
This happened just a hundred yards from the Wat Namphueng Nok, with its big fat Buddha statue and little market stalls surrounding it filled only filled with locals. There was not a single tourist to be seen anywhere. – entirely out of character for most other areas of Bangkok.
From the temple, we followed along what appeared to be a main road for a while before eventually getting lost in a neighborhood, quite a few of which were offering homestays. The whole time, we find ourselves in the untouched wilderness; Bang Namphueng truly lived up to its nickname ‘the green lung of Bangkok’ with its wildlife, jungles and waterways.
Deep in the center of one such neighborhood we came across the Herbal Joss Stick house, privately run by an adorable husband-wife duo who immediately welcomed us and gave us a tour of their home and gardens. The woman showed us how she makes herbal joss sticks, which are like incense to ward off mosquitoes, not letting us leave without a pack of her handmade joss sticks each. She also runs Thai cooking classes, while the husband offers cycling tours through the area in his down time from teaching at a Bangkok university. This older couple was remarkably geared up for tourism, but we are not sure how many tourists ever come here, as didn’t spot another western face the entire afternoon. In fact, the entire Bang Nampheung area feels almost completely undiscovered, save for the newly created Bang Nampheung floating market, which is said to bring quite a few visitors to this part of Bangkok every weekend.
Even though we were not there during the weekend to experience the Floating Market, we were lucky enough to see a ‘Riding Market’ for the first time – because many of the neighborhoods are so far from any major markets and supermarkets, a pick-up truck goes up and down the main roads every day selling fresh vegetables and fruit to the locals of Bang Namphueng.
After a couple of hours of exploring, we were ready for coffee, as usual, but dreaded the thought of attempting to find a proper coffee shop in this neck of the woods. We should have known better, as Thais love their coffee! We actually found a trendy coffee shop called Coffee Professionals. The barista served us two perfectly prepared coffees, and we scarfed down home-made cookies and sunk in to some serious people-watching before heading back to our tree house. We arrived just in time to see the sun set behind the palm trees and couldn’t believe that we were actually still in Bangkok.
- Take the Skytrain (BTS) to Bangna BTS station, take a cab from there to Bangna Nok Temple. There is a ferry boat to Nampheung Nok Temple on the other side of the river for only 5 Baht.
- From the ferry landing right at Wat Bang Nampheung Nok, you can catch a motorcycle taxi to Bang Nampheung floating market for 10 Baht.
- The market is open every Saturday and Sunday from 8am to 2pm.
- You can rent bicycles at the Floating Market for 30 Baht per day.
- SpiceRoads Cycling Tours offer a Bangkok Jungle Tour that covers Bang Namphueng and the Floating Market..