Bangkok, like all other big Asian Capitals, is a mix of many things: culture, chaos, dirty roads, skyscrapers, spicy, good and cheap food, huge shopping centers, historical sites, traffic jams, smiling people, and so on.
For some of these reasons, is difficult to think of Bangkok as a green tourism opportunity. Well, there are not many options, but the situation is improving time by time and a responsible traveler can find a bunch of city tours that support the ecological cause.
Getting around in Bangkok
Bangkok is a stereotype of cars, buses, tuk tuk and taxis lined up in the traffic, honking, while countless scooters with at least three people on, zip through the only little space available.
By and large, that's the kind of situation you are likely to find, especially during the rush hours, but bear in mind that Bangkok has got its chances to provide some green travel tour options.
Urban Adventures is a tour operator that offers a couple of interesting ones.
With the first one, it is possible to discover Bangkok by bike, through backstreets, along waterways and finally in the very historical centre of Bangkok.
This is a concrete chance to spot real lives in Thai communities, experience the city without its traffic and view the Mae Nam Chao Praya.
By the way, using one of the Chao Praya Express Boats is also a convenitent way to exlpore Bangkok, as it stops at, or very close to different historical sites, like Wat Arun, or city hot spots, such as Chinatown or Dusit Park.
With Urban Adventures is also possible to go for a tuk tuk experience, in a safe way, avoiding scams. A tuk tuk is a small vehicle, originally pushed by pedals, pretty comfortable and free from the unbearably cold taxi aircon. Yes, when it stucks in the traffic (it is small, but it is not a bike), you do inhale smog, but at least you won't catch a cold or a neck twist due to the extreme temperature differences. And getting around with a tuk tuk is an experience anyone visiting Bangkok should have. The driver also represents a wealth of information, describing all the attractions you call into, such as Wat Po, the Golden Mountain with its 318 steps or Phahurat Market.
Green accommodation in Bangkok
When it comes to rest exhausted muscles, travelers have just a few green option to choose from.
The Old Bangkok Inn is a ten-room hotel located in the centre of Bangkok, but yet environment friendly. All linen and curtains are hand made locally and recycle wood has been used for fixtures renovation and hot water is provided by a solar energy system.
Another, cheaper option, is Sukhumvit On-nut Guesthouse, which tries to reduce as much as possible its impact on the environment. For example, all equipments are selected to reduce energy consumption, the garbage is separated by materials and there is a plating project to absorb a good amount of CO2.
Organic Food and Vegetarian Dining
Official religion in Thailand is Buddhism, so it is very easy to find vegetarian and vegan food, all around the country, with a peak in Bangkok.
Anotai Restaurant provides fresh vegetarian and organic food at a reasonable price, using local ingredients and products. Menu is written in English and here is a brief example of the prices: Thai Green Curry Soup with Vegetables and Tofu costs 110 baht, while Vermicelli in Spicy Soup Tom Yam costs 95 baht. Desserts are superb, as it is also a bakery.
Dosa King is an alternative: a strict vegetarian Indian (both north and south food) restaurant, with quite reasonable prices. The dosas are considered excellent and and a complete meal for two persons costs around 600 baht.
Shopping in Bangkok
Bangkok is a paradise for shopping lovers, as it is possible to purchase any kind of product at a very cheap price, but is better to be very careful, because scammers are always in action and try to cheat people with excessively low prices. This usually doesn't happen in regular shops, so attention needs to be paid in markets and with streets vendors.
Buying local and fresh food is possible almost everywhere, as the city is full of markets, especially in Chinatown. For silk purchase, a good option is Pahurat Textile Market (Little India), in Chakraphek Road, Chinatown. It is less known than other markets by tourists, so here you are more likely to make good deals. Besides silk, also wooden, cashmere and cotton can be found in Pahurat Textile Market.
Another good way to shop is buying OTOP, One Tambon One Product, products (Tambon means sub-district), a sustainable project started nationwide by the Thai Government in 2001. Its goal is to promote local communities handcrafts, made using raw materials and natural resources.
If the temptation to purchase in one of the big and luminescent Bangkok malls is still strong, a sustainable choice would be the green Siam Paragon Shopping Mall, designed by the famous architect Patrick Blanc in 2005. It features lush, rainforest-like cascade of vegetation (moss, ferns, vines, etc.) which surrounds the internal walls.
Bangkok is not the typical environment friendly city, but something is moving on and people are slowly getting more conscious of the beauty of their city and country.
Anyway, an ecologically minded traveler doesn't have to struggle that much to find a place that fits his/hers sustainable needs.
Main Photo Credit: Taiger808