Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Green Lung of Bangkok

Residence of the Respected Scholar
I just found out that Bangkok means City of Angels or Plum Orchard Village, depending on who you want to believe on the interwebs. Hum. I found this factoid out when I was trying to research what the folks here refer to themselves as, for my installment on the Green Lung. I will continue to call them, Bangkokians, even though the Guinness Book of World Records state that Officially, it has the longest name of a city in the world and the populace refer to the city as:

 Krung Thep.
“Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit.”

Which means:
The city of angels, the great city, the eternal jewel city, the impregnable city of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarma.

Image from Nasa of the Green Lung (could be a kidney)
Back to the Green Lung…..
The green lung had been mentioned on a few posts of “things to do” while in Bangkok. It is one of those diversions that not too many people put on their itineraries. In fact, several blogs mentioned that one could be hard pressed to find many native Bangkokians who would know of it, unless they were biking enthusiasts.
Harv stylin' on his ride
The Chao Phraya River rambles around Bangkok like a snake. At one point, the river almost makes a complete loop- a horseshoe and an island when it floods. Settled by Burmese Mon peoples, who migrated to the Bangkok area after the fall of Ayutthaya in the 1750’s, the land was officially given to them after WW2 for their help to the Thai Government during the Ayutthaya times. Because of their lifestyle and the fact that like all governments who give away land give away bad land, Prapa Daeng (official name) is mostly swampy, easily flood-able land which has been used solely for agriculture thru out the years. Thus it remains green in a sea of a concrete city. To get around, the inhabitants have constructed a large system of elevated sidewalks. A spider web of sidewalks if you will, thru the lush green forests and swamps. There are only 2 real roads here.

Bike path thru the jungle
 Getting to The Green Lung was difficult. There were no exact directions in any the blogs I had read, except go to the Wat Klong Toey Ferry in Bang Kachao Provence. It took 3 people at the desk at the hotel to figure out where this Wat was and then, because it was so out of the way, no taxi wanted to take us there. When we finally negotiated a ride and arrived, the ferry was a huge car transport. No resemblance to what had been described. After wandering around (you can’t ask because no one speaks English), we finally found the Wat and the proper ferry. The ferry turned out to be a longboat. Very small, low in the water and fast. We zipped across the Chao Phraya River to the dock, where the bike rental was. We met a nice Frenchman, from Montpellier (hello, do you know Theirry?) who has lived on The Lung for 5 years on the ferry.

Beautiful, but it looks like Florida
 We got our bikes. Each bike came with a bottle of water and a hat. Nice. There was little or no traffic on the island, except for bikes and motorcycles. It was lush, green with beautiful breezes from the surrounding river. After inspecting several of the elevated sidewalks, we decided to stick to the road. Know your own and your bikes limitations!
Air Conditioning! Ice Cream!
There was a great botanical park, Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park which had winding nature trails, formal ponds and arched bridges. We explored the park and surrounding countryside for about 2.5 hours, until the heat and humidity finally got to us. Luckily, we found the only air conditioned store on the island and stopped for cold water and a green tea ice cream before beginning the journey returing to the bike/boat pier.
The main roads.
Prapa Daeng/Bang Kachao attracts many locals. We returned to the pier to find a local bike club waiting for the “bike” ferry but we took the regular longboat which loaded with 7 people really made it sit low in the water, back across the wide expanse that is the Chao Phraya River. The bike ferry beat us to the pier, but our Captain was not to be deterred that there was another boat already docked. He just banged right up to the side of the bike ferry (with much screaming back and forth between the Captains) leaving us to scramble across 2 boats to hoist ourselves onto the floating dock.
The bike ferry has a top/shade.
The view toward Wat Klong Toey

Oy. Welcome to Thailand.

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