City guides

Green city guide: Bangkok

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The most frantic and enigmatic city in south-east Asia is no environmental saint, but sustainable options do exist.

Bangkok is the capital of Thailand in every sense. More than 12 per cent of the national population live in the coastal city, where most of the country’s political, economic and cultural institutions are gathered. Here old wooden homes blend with a cityscape of booming skyscrapers symbolising Bangkok’s status as a major business centre. High-tech conference centres mix with temples and Buddha statues that reflect strong religious values.

The city’s environmental image is not the best. Traffic congestions are notorious and the infrastructure struggles to serve the city’s 9.3 million inhabitants. Overdevelopment is evident. The concrete buildings are a million miles away from your typical dreamy forest cabin. (In your mind, that is. One such resort actually lies very close.) But green facilities do exist for those who look. Here are a few examples.

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Bangkok by bike

Driving is madness in Bangkok: it consumes time, patience and clean air. Urban biking trips allow you to skip the traffic and discover countless stalls and markets. Walking is good too, but Bangkok is large and biking enables you to see more. Pedal down charming streets and alleys, or follow the waterways.

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Take a Tuk tuk

For those uneasy about biking, tuk tuks are the perfect compromise between two wheels and four: they have three. The bad news is that they follow the road and are susceptible to traffic clogs. The good news: they cause less pollution than regular cars. And let’s be honest – they’re a lot cooler too.

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Dream and be green

Bangkok is no haven for sustainable hotels, but they can be found. The family-run Old Bangkok Inn uses low-flow showerheads and toilets, energy-efficient lighting and a solar water heater system, among other things. Even better is Bangkok Tree House; a cluster of wooden huts religiously dedicated to organic materials and eco-friendly behaviour.

Visit Bang Krachao

This area is nicknamed ‘The Lungs of Bangkok’ and not without reason. It lies just across the Chao Phraya River, outside the smoke-filled city centre. It is a pristine green area filled with bicycle rentals, small villages and homes built on wooden stilts. Visitors are rare but locals welcome those who arrive.

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Explore Buddhist temples

Amid a hectic and fast-paced city life, the peacefulness of Buddhist temples offers a welcomed antidote. Slow down, immerse yourself in history and learn religion. Recommended sites include Wat Kalayanamit, Wat Suthat and Wat Benchamabophit.

Facts

Location: central Thailand

Area: 1,568km2 (605mi2)

Population: 9.3 million

Currency: Bath (฿)

Time zone: GMT+7

Photos: beboy, wikanda, 1000 Words, zAxe, Sombat Muycheen [all via Shutterstock.com].

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