Dec 30 2012
Despite being tucked right behind Wat Pho and the Grand Palace, Saranrom Royal Garden (aka Saranrom Park) is one of Bangkok’s most overlooked green spaces. This distinguished patch of trees, ponds, flowers and gazebos once hosted Thai royal gatherings. Now a public park, Saranrom is a pleasant and convenient spot for a morning stroll, a picnic lunch, an afternoon of reading or a relaxing sidetrack from sightseeing.
The garden was established by King Rama IV in 1866 as a reception area where the king and his family would entertain guests and enjoy private dinners. In the late 1800s, King Rama V added a pond, three teak wood guesthouses, elegant high-roofed gazebos, ornate fountains that wouldn’t look out of place on the Champs Elysees, a three-tiered Chinese-style pagoda and a glass-roofed villa that for decades hosted an exclusive Bangkok club. At that time, only those in the highest echelons of society strolled through Saranrom.
All of these structures remain in excellent shape today, but the park’s most noticeable landmark is a marble monument tower dedicated to a wife and daughter of King Rama V — Queen Sunanda and Princess Kannabhorn — who drowned in a boating accident in 1880. Fittingly, a decades-old inscription is now partially obstructed by flowers and leaves; it explains how the royal garden was chosen to memorialize the Queen and Princess’ remains “because it was their favourite place.”
In 1960, King Rama IX (Thailand’s current king) ordered Saranrom to be given to the people of Bangkok and turned into a public park. Instead of kings, queens, princesses and hi-so guests in top hats, the space is now enjoyed by giggling uniformed school kids, lunch-breakers enjoying a few minutes of rest, young couples off for a romantic afternoon and the occasional wandering tourist.
Brick footpaths meander over bridges, under centuries-old banyan trees and past shady lawns complete with pond-side benches. Saranrom is just large enough to go for a jog, but an afternoon nap under a tree seems to be the favoured activity here. (If seeking aerobics, swan boats and basketball, head for Lumpini.)
Saranrom Royal Garden is located across Sanam Chai Road from the southeastern corner of the Grand Palace compound and the northeastern side of Wat Pho (see map). From Tha Tien express boat pier, walk straight out of the pier and head east on Thai Wang Road (you’ll pass Wat Pho on your right), cross the street at the roundabout, continue straight east, and the main park entrance is on the left. Open daily sunrise to sundown. Admission is free.
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