For the first day of our two week active trip through Thailand, we started with the activity I was dreading the most – a half-day bike tour of Bangkok. As soon as I landed and saw the manic zig-zagging traffic of this city, I immediately started worrying about this bike tour I knew I’d be doing in a few short days. When I woke up this morning, I couldn’t muster an appetite for breakfast and just sat in silence, working up the courage I would need to mount myself on two wheels and compete with massive tour busses, tuk-tuks, street food carts, motorbikes for pavement space on the streets of this vibrant but often hectic city.
When we got to Grasshopper Adventures, a company that runs bike tours in many major Asian cities, I was started to calm down as I strapped on my helmet and took my bike for a spin down the sidewalk.
Let me be clear – I do know how to ride a bike. I did it all the time as a kid in my suburb in Texas, navigating the neighborhood, racing my younger brother and even doing occasional “jumps” off of small ramps that our neighbors had. But as an adult, I’d done very little cycling, especially not in LA for fear of the infamous traffic and aggressive drivers that seem to have very little patience for those on two wheels. I’d rented bikes in San Fran a couple years ago and discovered how out of practice I was as I wobbled my way up and down the bike paths (no cars nearby!) to the Golden Gate bridge. I’ve stuck mainly to stationary bikes at the gym, where I don’t have to worry about being hit by a bus or an unapologetic studio exec on his way to an important meeting.
So cycling in a big, fast-paced city like Bangkok terrified me, but I wasn’t going to let a few nerves ruin my epic Asian adventure, no matter how much my knees were rattling when I mounted that bike. That’s why I’m here right? To turn and face my fears in the face, to challenge myself, to discover what I’m capable of, to seek out some real adventure.
And that is exactly what riding a bike in Bangkok was – a real-life adventure. Even following a guided group, it was terrifying at times (at least for me), especially when we entered a large busy traffic circle or changed lanes between giant tour buses. But it was such a thrilling feeling knowing that I was experiencing the city as a local might.
Even better though, we saw so much of the city that I never would have seen wandering around on my own. Thankfully for my own nerves, we stuck most of the time to less crowded side streets and a good deal of the ride was spent navigating narrow alley ways, where we saw locals cooking breakfast and hanging laundry, vendors setting up at small markets and children chasing stray cats. We crossed the river on a giant suspension bridge and crisscrossed canals, making our way to little out-of-the-way temples that had no other foreign visitors and whole areas built entirely on stilts over the canals in the traditional Thai way. We rode past food carts emitting glorious smells of curries, tom yum soup and kebabs and stopped to eat some small Thai sweets covered in coconut.
My heart was pumping with bursts of adrenaline the entire time, and I was actually sad for the tour to be over 4 hours later. Well, most of me wanted to keep going anyway. My ass that isn’t used to sitting on a bike saddle was happy to be finished. But guess what? I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. What an incredible experience!
After our tour we hopped in a bus and made our way a few hours North West to Kanchanaburi to a resort that will be home for the night. We swam in the pool and ate a delicious dinner on patio overlooking a sunset on the River Kwai, and I feel so grateful that my group is made up of such amazing people that are so similar to me. Tomorrow we do another bike tour and this time I have a feeling I’ll be able to eat breakfast in the morning. BRING IT ON!