Bicycling back into the past | Bangkok Post: learning

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Bicycling back into the past

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Memories of a ride to Tobacco Lake thirty years ago (now: Benjakitti Park), take a swim in the lake and partake of other childhood adventures. 

Benjakitti map

Click button to listen to Benjakitti Park Cycling to download

FREEWHEEL: Larking about at the lake by Pongpet Mekloy

Benjakitti parkThirty something years ago, my bike was a BMX. Back then, my friends and I rode from our neighbourhood near the western end of South Sathon Road all the way to the Tobacco Monopoly in Klong Toey.

Nope, we weren't there for the cigarettes; we knew smoking's not good for kids.

We just went for a swim at the lake there which in those days was known as Bueng Yasoop (Tobacco Lake). Why didn't we just go for a dip in the Chao Phraya River, which is much closer, some of you who know that part of Bangkok may well wonder.

The reason we chose the lake, despite the much longer ride and the tobacco stench in the water, was simply because in the evening after the swim, on our way back home, we could also drop by Lumphini Park, which in those days was a popular place for men and women looking for a peaceful spot for making out. The park had many thick bushes and secret corners that, perhaps, in certain ways were just as good as a motel room.

Of course, we also knew that, like smoking, peeping at people in their amorous moments was not good for kids, either. But the temptation was too much to resist. Somehow, at such an "innocent" age just catching a glimpse of a man and a woman startled by the realisation that they were not all alone as they had thought, as we swooped our BMXs close to their bush and sped off as fast as possible, was so fun and exciting that we kept laughing and laughing throughout the rest of our ride back home.

Well, more than three decades have passed. I've long moved to another side of the metropolis and have no idea where all those childhood friends of mine are now. But the Tobacco Lake we used to cycle to on Saturday afternoons now attracts so many cyclists each day.

It is now the main feature of a public park called Benjakitti which, unlike most Bangkok parks, welcomes cyclists throughout its opening hours, from 5am to 9pm. Besides, it's the only park in the city that has a dedicated path for cyclists, separating us from joggers and other park visitors. And that means, at least in theory, you can ride at your full speed along the 2km-long trail which goes around the lake without worrying much about hitting people. In real life, however, you have to expect to sometimes see something blocking the way. And that could range from slower riders and unaccompanied children to monitor lizards which thrive in the area thanks to the fact that the lake is teeming with fish. Always be ready to slow down and keep in mind that safe braking is a skill a good cyclist must master

Unlike at Lumphini or Suan Rodfai, the other two public parks that allow cycling (although they have no real bike-only lanes), the trail at Benjakitti Park is not all flat. Here, there are a few points with a slight inclination, which is another reason this is a good training ground for city cyclists.

And did I mention the view.

In the evening, even though you can not see the setting sun from here because the western horizon is obscured by the tree canopy and the tall buildings further out, above the park and its lake an open sky is there for you to enjoy. Add to that a nearby forest of skyscrapers that are lit up against in the darkening heavens in the background, and you get one of the most scenic vistas of Bangkok from ground level.

I rode to the Benjakitti Park again the other day; this time not on a BMX but on a road bike. On the way back, I did not stop by to fool around at Lumphini Park, either. After all, I'm no longer a naughty boy but a mature man who leads a responsible life and pays utmost respect to other people's privacy and personal rights

Besides, unlike at Benjakitti Park, these days they no longer allow bikes in Lumphini in the evening.

Well, see you here again next Thursday. Until then, if you have questions, news or cycling insights you wish to share, please feel free to send an email to or go to the "Freewheel Bangkok" community page on Facebook.

Pongpet Mekloy is the Bangkok Post's travel editor and a mountain bike freak.

(Source: Bangkok Post, FREEWHEEL, Larking about at the lake, 11/08/2011, Pongpet Mekloy, link)

nope - no (informal, casual) 

go for a dip - swim

you may well wonder why -
you may question this and ask "why" (very reasonably) 
reason - an explanation of an event, why an event happened เหตุ ; เหตุผล ; สาเหตุ

tobacco stench
- the bad smell of tobacco 

drop by
Lumphini Park
- visit Lumpini

spot - peaceful place

making out -
kissing, hugging (as teenagers often do ... ) (See Wikipedia)

peeping - watch someone secretly without them knowing แอบมอง, แอบดู (a person who does this is called a "peeping tom")
amorous moments -
a short time of love

temptation - something that you may like to do, but shouldn't

- not having done anything wrong บริสุทธิ์ harmless; not intended to hurt anyone ไม่มีพิษมีภัย
innocent age - a young child (so still very innocent)

- when you see something or someone for a very short time เหลือบดู, ชำเลือง, ชายตามอง

startled - surprised and frightened a little
realisation - learn, coming to understand or know something
startled by the realisation - surprised when you learn something

swooped -
moved quickly in a certain direction (example: the hawk swooped down on its prey)

decades - periods of ten years เป็นสิบๆปี
metropolis - a very large city, often the most important city in a large area or country มหานคร

- a bicycle 
cyclists - people riding bicycles

feature - to include something as an important part ทำให้เด่น

- used for only one kind of work or for one purpose
dedicated path for cyclists - a path that only bicycles can use

- one or more ideas that explain how or why something happens สมมติฐาน
at least in theory - at least according to ideas or rules (but maybe not in reality, in practice)

- a path through the countryside, often made or used for a particular purpose ร่องรอย

lizards - large reptiles with "long necks, powerful tails and claws, and well-developed limbs," most live on land, but some live in water and land and even in trees (See Wikipedia)

- do well and be successful and strong

teeming with fish - full of fish, very many fish there
master - a man who is very good at something ปรมาจารย์

inclination - a rise, going uphill
training - learning how to do some activity or job การฝึกฝน

horizon - the line in the distance where the sky seems to meet the earth ขอบฟ้า

canopy -
a covering (that provides shade, protection from the sun and rain)
tree canopy - many trees together making something like a canopy 

skyscrapers -
very tall buildings
heavens - the sky at night
in the background - what you can see behind the things just in front of you  
scenic vistas - beautiful views

fool around - play, joke, do non-serious things

naughty - mischievous, playful ซน ซุกซน,
naughty boy - a boy misbehaving himself (doing things his parents would not like and might punish him for)

- behaving in the sensible way that you would expect an adult to behave มีวุฒิภาวะ fully grown เติบโตเต็มที่

- to accept the importance of someone's rights or customs ความนับถือ
pay respect (verb) - act as to show respect to a person or thing  นับถือ
pay utmost respect - pay the highest level of respect to something

privacy - the freedom to do things without other people watching you or knowing what you are doing ความเป็นส่วนตัว

- something you are legally or morally allowed to do or have (See Wikipedia) สิทธิ์
community - all the people who live in a place and know each other (have something in common and are friends)

bike freak - really likes bicycles a lot (very much a bicycle enthusiast)

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