Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of receiving a snail mail that isn’t a telephone or credit card bill, being with your loved ones on a beach, or riding a bike. The latter is much emphasized when staying at Old Capitol Bike Inn, a quaint and nostalgic, bicycle-inspired bed and breakfast in Bangkok, Thailand. Bangkok is a bicycle-friendly city and the Bike Inn has the distinction of being known as Old Bangkok's only heritage bike B&B.
My maiden visit to the Land of Smiles is quite memorable because the moment I arrived, I can see that the whole country is still mourning the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (after more than seven decades of reign) and because the first accommodation to welcome me has vintage bikes as a theme.
Opened in 2005, the Bike Inn is conveniently located in Rattanakosin Island, the heart of Bangkok’s historical and cultural quarter. It also has a colourful history for the property where it stands was originally a palace bestowed by King Rama V and for seven generations has been in the loving care of the family of Jason and Nantiya, who runs the inn.
I love the elegance and cheerful, good vibes-feel of the B&B. The common room lounge, where the reception area and the restaurant is located, looks chic and homey with all the bicycles, stylish wallpapers and murals of happy children, B&W and sepia photos of famous landmarks in Thailand. The small counter has bicycle wheels; and the chandelier is amazingly made from chain rings.
When I entered my room, stepped on the wooden floor, smelled the fragrant lemon grass, I fell in love with my sleeping quarter right away. The overhead wall has a mural of the Ministry of Defence, which I will be visiting later in the evening. I was also surprised to find on the bed, a sweet welcome note from the owners with a gift of an elephant keychain. How thoughtful of them to let their guests feel that they are home away from home.
The complimentary Thai breakfast set meal they serve is something beyond ordinary. I was fully satisfied with my hot chocolate, eggs and sausage, fried dough with coconut dip and the fruit platter, which is a plate of healthy heaven goodness.
The young lady named Alice who served my food was glad to finally meet me as she was also the one who patiently gave me the direction three days earlier on how to commute via the sky train from Suvarnabhumi Airport to the inn. Her information saved me more than 500 baht but I told her all the taxi drivers I hailed from my last train stop refused to take me to the inn because their location isn’t that familiar. I was lucky that one of the tuk-tuk drivers who passed by knows exactly the place.
Another perk of staying at the inn is the free guided night bike tours offered three times a week. I signed in together with two couples from the US and Europe. I’m not sure though if it was a good idea to bike around the city, knowing that the vehicle traffic in Bangkok is quite as notorious with that of Manila. Anyway, I enjoyed the sights and the hidden gems around the Old Bangkok area.
I also did a walking tour in nearby historical landmarks.
Almost everywhere are photos honouring King Bhumibol. His Majesty was known to be a Father of the Nation, whom the Thai people revered and loved dearly. That’s why his demise is such a great loss to the nation.
The King Prajadhipok Museum has permanent exhibitions devoted to the last born son of King Chulalongkorn. The King’s reign from 1925 to 1935, marked the end of the absolute monarchy.
Wat Saket or Golden Mount, an artificial man-made hill and sacred pilgrimage site, is one of the best places to view the city. It displays a series of bells that can be rung for good luck. It also has a spooky history as it served as the capital's crematorium and dumping ground for some 60,000 plague victims in the late 18th century.
The Wat Ratchanatdaram was built for Rama III in the 1840s, and its design takes inspiration from metal temples built in India and Sri Lanka more than 2000 years ago. The temple is best known for the Loha Prasat or Metal Castle, which has 37 gold metal spires symbolizing the 37 virtues that are required to reach enlightenment. Monks also have their daily ritual of prayer in nearby smaller temples.
The Grand Palace, a grand old dame made up of numerous buildings, halls, pavilions set around open lawns, gardens and courtyards, has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam (and later Thailand) since 1782. The king, his court and his royal government were based on the grounds of the palace until 1925. Today, the complex which is the spiritual heart of the Thai Kingdom, remains the most famous landmark of Thailand.
The most beautiful among the attractions I visited is Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha). It's one of the largest temple complexes in the city, housing over a thousand Buddha statues, including the famed 15 metre high, 46 metre-long giant reclining golden Buddha.
The Ministry of Defence Building occupied by the Royal Thai Armed Forces, is a former palace that’s why it looks so grand.
After seeing the historical and sacred parts of Bangkok, I didn’t pass by the opportunity to also witness its modern and kinky side.
The United Nations ESCAP is the regional development arm of the UN for the Asia-Pacific region.
I window shopped at Siam Paragon and Siam Discovery, popular shopping malls in Bangkok.
And I curiously explored Patpong, Bangkok’s red light district. Someone said before that you’ve never really seen the whole of Bangkok if you’ve never experienced Patpong. The infamous street with the landmark neon sign “Super Pussy” (sounds like superhero hehe) is lined with go-go bars populated with young scantily clad ladies who offer R-18 kind of entertainment. The main attraction of Patpong is the not so wholesome sport show ping-pong, which of course I did not watch. Promise.
Interestingly, there is also the Chao Mae Tuptim Shrine, a phallic shrine located behind the Swissôtel Bangkok. The shrine which venerates the female fertility spirit, is often visited by women who want but have difficulty in conceiving children.
I also joined a brief night tour to Pattaya, a resort city, a little over two hours from Bangkok. It is perfect for those who want a pulsating and vibrant beach night life jam-packed with tourists.
After all my enlightening, fun-filled adventure, I always look forward returning to Bike Inn. On my last night, I dreamt of Ayutthaya.
I think that would be my next (mis)adventure.
Old Capital Bike Inn
#607 Pra Sumen Rd.
Pra Nakhon, Bangkok
Tel. No.: +662 629-1787