Of all the myriad forms of transport available in Bangkok, electric scooter has not been high on my list historically. I still count the electric scooter firmly in the new-fangled contraption box, despite being an increasingly common sight on the streets of Bangkok.
Mainly I was scared – my startling lack of both coordination and courage coupled with the unforgiving streets of Bangkok made for unhappy bedfellows. Thankfully I easily cave in to peer pressure, and not wanting to look like a big wuss I wholeheartedly agreed to a tour of Talad Noi and Chinatown by electric scooter. Plus one for peer pressure, because it was honestly an amazing way to see this intriguing and historic area. Also the friends who we went with and who recommended it are usually right on most things, so that helps.
Our tour began in a side street in Bang Rak with Go Scoot Bangkok. We chose the GoPink tour although they have many options. After a safety briefing and the dishing out of some truly stylish helmets, our extremely chipper and knowledgeable guide introduced us to our rather impressive steeds for the day. Insurance is included as long as you keep your helmet on so you’re well covered.
I have never ridden an electric scooter. The last time I rode one was in the mid-90s when I was about 8 and those micro scooters – the ones with zero ground clearance – were all the rage. After repeatedly being thrown from said scooter while navigating tiny bumps (zero ground clearance), I was pleased to see the tech has come on a bit,
The scooters have big chunky wheels well-suited to Bangkok’s pot holes. They’re easy to get used to and a trigger or handlebar grip controls the motor. These ones had a top speed of about 20km/h, so you’re not in danger of flying off. The scooters are a doddle to handle.
After a few wobbly laps of the car park it was off into the mean streets.
The back streets by scooter
The streets, it transpired, were not mean at all. We kept almost exclusively to side streets and back alleys with no traffic, giving ample time to enjoy the scenery. Once you get used to the scooters they are a whole lot of fun, and they open up the possibility to see a lot of Bangkok in a very short space of time. You can also race your friends if you are immature and irresponsible like us.
Our guide – whose name I think was O but whom I may also be grossly misrepresenting – wove a path for us through the back sois of Bang Rak, hugging the river and stopping off at the various street art locations around the area.
We lived just over the water from Bang Rak for two years and saw more on this whistlestop scooter tour of the back streets and community than we did in those entire two years.
From Bang Rak we worked our way into the narrow alleys of Talad Noi. Having the scooters rather than relying on the pesky and energy-sapping use of our own legs allowed us to take in a whole hit list of Talad Noi’s most photo-friendly destinations, from Mother Roaster’s unique combination of high grade espresso and oil-stained car parts to the 250 year old mansion-cum-scuba diving centre of So Heng Tai mansion.
We were lucky to have an absolutely glorious day weather-wise. Our tour was at 3pm so the worst of the heat had backed off slightly, and we alternated between light, shade-giving clouds and huge, clear blue skies with a whisper of breeze.
With options for outdoor activities in Bangkok limited right now, this was a great way to get outdoors and enjoy the open air. The route was some 16km all in all which would have been a push on foot but was eminently comfortable by scooter.
It’s still a workout as your body takes on roughly the same properties as a plank of wood, and the resulting nervous energy burns a few calories. You have to haul the scooters around a bit and our legs were a little tired by the end, but it’s pretty gentle going. Obviously this is outdoor in Bangkok, so wear something you don’t mind getting sweaty and bring some water (GoScoot do provide bottled water if you need it).
The scooters and the tour really came into their own as we cut through the warren of alleys and gaps between Yaowarat Road and the river. I went from having some idea of where we were to less than zero in about three minutes.
Our guide knew the area like the back of her hand and I could not even begin to piece together the maze we completed on this trip. Nor could my Garmin which is still insisting we spent a good amount of time in the river. At points we were cruising down alleys barely as wide as our handlebars, only to pop out at another picturesque destination.
We also saw a good slice of quiet Bangkok life as we rolled around the back streets. I couldn’t get any pictures on the move because of my will to live, but we rolled past some great tapestries of life as it was and is for many in the capital.
Three old shirtless blokes leaning out of their neighbouring doors, drinking Leo and chatting. A tiny girl shouting and waving excitedly to us as we tried not to bounce off the walls. An old aunty with typically magnificent hair and a zimmer frame giving a particularly regal wave and hello. The most tattooed man I have every seen trying to get a lorry down a gap it was not designed for.
The scooter tour was a great way to explore these tiny streets and alleys that you may never otherwise see.
Our trip even included two ferry crossings as we worked our way up to Ratchawongse Pier in the heart of Chinatown and then back down the other side of the river through Klong San.
A stop at Lhong 1919 was bittersweet – it’s still a beautiful space but barely anything is open at the moment as Covid continues to bite.
Again, this is an area we used to live in – yet on our scooters we took a route I never even knew existed through the riverside communities of the area on bike paths. After a whistlestop loop round Bang Rak, Talad Noi, Chinatown and Khlong San, it was back on to another ferry and back to base.
Our trip was two hours but it went by in an absolute flash. We covered a ton of ground in a short space of time and truly saw sides of Bangkok we have never seen and could probably never find on our own.
The cost of our expedition? 490 baht. An absolute bargain – the price on the website is listed as 800 baht per person which would still be a great price but there must be some kind of deal on at the moment. I can’t remember spending 490 baht – about 12 quid – so well.
So if you are looking for a great value, slightly offbeat outdoor activity in Bangkok, we would highly recommend an electric scooter tour and definitely recommend GoScoot Bangkok. They have a wide range of other tours too, some of which also include canal tours or trips over to the green lung of Bangkok – Bang Krachao. We all said at the end of our tour that we’d gladly come back and do one of the other itineraries.
This was a brilliant blend of sightseeing, adventure and a great laugh, and I’m absolutely converted to the electric scooter.