When it comes to becoming a biker-friendly city, Bangkok has a long, long way to go. However, while the roads are still fairly inhospitable for those on two wheels, there are signs that bike culture is clanking up a gear. Recently, the BMA (Bangkok Metropolitan Authority) launched Pun Pun, a project allowing the public to “borrow-rent” bikes using an automated system (the pilot stations are MRT Sam Yan and BTS Siam). As for the people power side of things, there are even more reasons to be cheerful, the opening of Old City cycler pitstop Café Velodome being just the latest.
Located on Tha Prachan Road, just in front of Thammasat University, it’s a coffee and cake shop within easy peddling distance of all of the flagship tourist sights. Wat Phra Kaew, The Grand Palace, Wat Mahathat, Wat Arun and Wat Pho included. A minimally styled, glass walled concrete shell, there are racks to lock your bike up at outside, and long pine wood benches and tables where you sit down with groups of students who look like they’re working (but probably aren’t) inside.
Unusually, it’s self-service: if you want a cup of coffee (B45-80) or iced expresso (B65), here you just walk on up and fix yourself one. Even more unusual, though, are the free bicycle tours of the city offered by the owner, cycling fanatic Nonlany ‘Nan’ Ungwiwatkul. She knows the disorientating yet fascinating maze that is the Old City’s network of sois inside out and leads groups out on expeditions of them each weekend. And if you don’t have your own wheels, no matter: there are ten bikes reserved for customers. To borrow one, all you need do is buy a cup of, you guessed it, coffee.
In a city in dire need of initiatives to coax us out of our cars and on to two wheels, Café Velodome is at the vanguard of the community-driven side of things. Our advice: come, bring a helmet and leave your coffee intake until arrival.
More reasons to get on ‘yer bike:
A cute café pitstop in the Ari area.
18 Soi Aree 4(North), Paholyothin Road | 081-821-9603 |www.facebook.com/aranbicicletta
Bangkok Bicycle Campaign
Fights for your right to bike.
Bike to Work
A support group for those brave/crazy enough to commute by bike.
A bicycle-friendly restaurant in the car-filled Ploenchit area.
Mahatun Plaza, 888/5-6 Ploenchit Road | 02-651-5188 | Mon-Fri 7am -3pm, Sat 8:30 am – 4:30pm | www.cafebicycle.com
The biggest importer of bikes and parts in town.
237/2 Rajadumri Rd. Lumpini | 02-253-3384 | www.probike.co.th
Thammasat University Tha Prachan, Phra Nakhon | 02-623-6340 | 8am-8pm | http://www.facebook.com/cafevelodome
photo by Atthapol Yanyonglert