One of the first things we like to do after arriving in a city following a long-haul flight is stretch our legs and get some fresh air, which generally sees us heading to the nearest park or garden.
If we’re exploring a city, we’ll always find an excuse to check out a local park, even if it means a detour. In a city where we’re settling in for a while, like Bangkok, we try to build a walk in a park into our daily routine, especially if we’re spending long periods sitting at desks writing.
What I love about kicking back in a park or garden are the restorative effects of all that fresh air, those natural fragrances, the sound of water trickling in a pond or a fountain spraying on a lake, and all that green, all that lush green foliage, especially in a tropical city like Bangkok. What is it about green that is so calm and soothing? That time to stop and slow down and take a deep breath is essential in a big city like Bangkok. It’s essential when you’re travelling.
I also love the insight into everyday life, and how locals live their lives, that we get from visiting a park. If we didn’t take our regular walks around Benjakiti Park in Bangkok, there would be a lot of things about Bangkok’s locals that we wouldn’t know. That Thais (like anyone anywhere I suppose) like their regular exercise – we would often see the same people out power walking, jogging and cycling around the park every day. That they don’t only like eating at street food stalls, but they like their picnics in parks as much as the next person. That young Thai couples are like romantics the world over, enjoying a row in a boat – or a pedal in a swan. And that Bangkokians find their parks to be the perfect place to simply sit and reflect a bit. Just like we do.
Our favourite Bangkok parks and gardens:
Bangkok’s beautiful, luxuriant Lumphini Park, our favourite, is the city’s largest park. And it’s as fascinating and as full of life as Sydney’s Centennial Park, London’s Hyde Park or New York’s Central Park. Elderly Bangkokians come here to practice tai chi or buy breakfast congee. Office workers retreat here on lunch breaks to exercise or eat. Couples canoodle on blankets by the lake or laugh on a pedal boat. Families picnic and play games with their kids after school and on weekends. There’s an outdoor gym, a basketball court, and free mass aerobics classes in the late afternoon. I’ve seen people doing yoga, practicing fencing, and even ballroom dancing in Lumphini. There are food stalls outside the park entrance near the Rama VI statue, where vendors cook pad thai and hot pot, and sometimes there are markets and music concerts. A stroll here is easily one of my favourite things to do in Bangkok.
BTS Saladaeng, MRT Silom & Lumphini
This is our local park in Bangkok, the park I look at every day from my desk when we rent an apartment at Somerset Lake Point. From the park, the city skyline across the water is one of the most striking in Bangkok. With its separate jogging and bike tracks, directional arrows, and signs measuring the distance of how far you’ve walked, this is a park for serious fitness fanatics. Walk in the wrong direction or don’t keep up the pace and you’re in trouble. The rowboats and Swan-shaped pedal boats are kept busy with Bangkokians of all ages out for some fun and a laugh. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen people row around in circles and lose their oars.
BTS Asok, MRT Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre.
Adjacent to the Emporium Shopping Centre, this is a lovely park to retreat to when you need to escape the fluoro lights and air-conditioning of the mall and get some fresh air and see blue sky. Featuring some fine (and strange) examples of Thai sculpture, including one titled ‘Hansa’ (Ecstasy) by Thai master sculptor Mesium Yipinsoy, it’s a park for art buffs and photographers. No boating here, unfortunately, but there’s a basketball court, tennis court, and skate park, and markets, concerts and festivals are occasionally held here.
BTS Phrom Phong
When the crowds, sticky heat, and stresses of shopping Bangkok’s busy Chatuchak Market become too much for you, rather than call it a day, retreat to this tranquil expanse of green in between the market and train stations for an hour or so. Every time I stroll through here on my way to the market, I say to myself that next time I’m going to sit down here for a while. I haven’t yet. Next time…
BTS Mo Chit, MRT Chatuchak Park
Do you make time to hang out in parks when you travel? Do you have any favourite parks in Bangkok or any other cities around the world?