Do you have a day off, or are you looking for something to do with some time in Bangkok? I want to share with you a day trip to Thailand History where I took time to see the historical beauty of the city outside the downtown area.
A wonderful adventure by motorbike and ferry, exploring and learning, doing many things cheaply, or for free. I traveled 82 kilometers and never left the Bangkok Metropolitan Region!
Today, I’ll share with you my experiences so you can try them yourself next time. So, ride on!
Bangkok has an amazing diversity of landscape, culture, and history.
One of the best ways to escape downtown and explore the city is a motorbike tour of the outlying areas. I would suggest a ride through Bang Nam, Bang Kachao, Phra Samut Chedi, Phi Suea Fort, Chulahomkao Fort, and back.
By using the ferries, you can cover all these kilometers on a fast-moving but relaxed day. And there is so much to see on the way to the forts! Stop for a visit to Wat Bang Nam, tour the “Green Lung”, and pass through a Thai Navy Base.
The Forts are of particular significance in Bangkok’s early history, perfectly maintained, and free to enter. Special attractions include a fascinating temple near one fort and a unique ship museum at the other. I may also have some recommendations on stops for coffee & food, and tips on getting around.
From Sukhumvit, there are many points to cross over to Bang Kachao so it depends on where you are staying. I chose to go from BTS Udom Suk near our office on Sukhumvit 68, and cross at Bang Na Pier. The first stop is Wat Bang Nam, a simple place in pristine condition with a Stupa next to the ordination hall. It’s free to get in and there is a great view of the river and skyline from the top floor.
After that, I looked for a pick-me-up to keep going and found Beehive Coffee nearby, serving delicious cakes and rich coffee to give us the jump-start I needed. I got back on my motorbike and had a leisurely ride through the trees taking in the fresh air. The island is an oasis of oxygen for the entire city, that is why it is called the Green Lung.
#2 - Road to Phra Samut Chedi and Phi Suea Samut Fort Museum
After taking the time to cross Bang Kachao, I went over the bridge and onto the main road to head south. This takes me to Phra Samut Chedi where things really start to get interesting. It’s free to enter the Chedi (Temple) and inside is an amazing ornate Wat and a Pagoda 40 meters tall!
Inside are golden Buddha images, fantastic statues, and Buddhist relics to enrich your understanding of Buddhist culture. I spent another half-hour there and then continued over a bridge into the Phi Suea Samut Fort Museum, passing through a fantastic forest of mangrove trees.
Phi Suea Samut Fort is the smaller of the two Southern forts guarding the entrance to the Chao Phraya river estuary. The fort saw action only once, in July of 1893, against the French in what is called the Paknam Crisis.
#3 - Through the Thai Navy Base
I was on the road again, heading south down from Phra Samut to go to the much larger fort Chulachomklao. However, in order to get there, tourists need to pass through the Thai Navy Base just ahead of the fort. They don’t stop you, but with a motorbike, you need to get off it and walk about 50 meters.
It seemed kind of funny for me because cars could drive on with no problem, but at slow speed. Bikers had to walk for no apparent reason. I presumed this is for security reasons. The cars looked like a much bigger threat so it just felt kind of silly to me.
It did end up being fortunate for me though, because as I walked and came across another coffee place. This one is called “Hall of Fame, Mine Coffee House”, so I took note of that for the way back!
#4 - Pom Chulachomklao
“Pom” means Fort in Thai, and in old days Chulachomklao was the main defense of the river entrance to Bangkok. The two forts rose to prominence in the 1890s because of the purchase from Britain of 7 large breech-loading naval guns. They were very high-tech arms for the time called “Disappearing Guns.”
The cannons were mounted on a swing mechanism that allowed them to pop up, shoot, and then hide back down. Five of them were positioned at Chulachomklao, and two emplaced at Phi Suea. These cannons saw action in a fight against French gunboats on July 13th, 1893.
The French ships took some hits and one was badly damaged, but the others managed to pass. Then they took up blockade positions against Bangkok which ended the short war. Of modern interest is that territories east of the Mekong were ceded as part of Siam’s concessions. This is now Laos.
The HTMS Mae Khlong, decommissioned in 1997, is mounted on land for tourists to visit for free at the forthwith all the original armaments still there on board. Mae Khlong carried 4x 5-inch guns, depth charges, mines, and torpedoes. The ship was commissioned in 1937 and has the distinction of being the world’s second longest-serving combat vessel.
The Mae Khlong performed many duties over its 60-year career. It was used for patrolling coastal waters, laying mines, and as an officer training ship. It served as personal transport for King Rama VIII, and even King Bhuminbhol watched river parades from her decks. Standing on the bridge, you get the feel of a Navy commander. Also, it is always so cool for kids to run around a real navy ship! You can play with the guns, steer the wheel, check out the engines and see how the sailors lived.
It’s late afternoon on Sunday, and time to head back home. But my day trip to Thailand History is not done yet.
Going through the Navy base again, I stopped off at the Hall of Fame (Mine Coffee) for refreshments. This time I actually went on to the Navy compound, so I had to get passes. I turned in my regular ID, went for coffee, and picked them up on the way out. After charging up with caffeine, I got on the main road north going back the same way I came down.
There was no traffic by now, so it was actually faster this time. Once I got there, I boarded the ferry at Phra Pradaeng Pier to take me back to Bang Na. River rides are much better than Bangkok streets!
After a great day like this, I was in a good mood for a bar stop before going home. There is nothing better to do after a day trip to Thailand History while riding around Bangkok’s tourist sites than visiting a sports bar. I went 1 km past Udom Suk BTS to go to 101 Sports Pub. I had a beer and a good chat.
This is the perfect place to relax and talk all about the things I saw during my trip. I remembered the little curiosities like Thailand’s first telegraph pole, old cannons, grand statues, and all the beautiful trees everywhere.
As someone once said, “Travel is not the destination, it’s the journey” and today was a perfect example. Next time you are looking for something to do for a day in Bangkok, try your own journey like this.
The waypoints here are just an outline, the rest of the tour is yours to create and discover.
So, until next time... Rumble on!
Hi, I'm Big Bear. I love to hit the road with the motorbike for the long haul. Join my adventure in one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
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