Oct 09 2013
We’ve spotlighted the city’s smaller slices of green; now it’s onto the big boys. All of these parks offer long strolls on wide expanses of grass, several boast extensive activities and some have a few unexpected attractions. These are the spots where millions of city-dwellers and travellers go for recreation and respite from the concrete chaos.
Chatuchak, Rot Fai & Queen Sirikit
At 112 hectares, the city’s largest contiguous green space actually comprises three parks, collectively dubbed ‘Chatuchak Discovery Garden‘. Originally owned by the State Railway of Thailand, a golf course occupied much of the land until the late 1990s. An impressive list of activities and attractions includes lotus ponds, botanical gardens, bicycle and rowboat rental, football fields, weightlifting facilities, a driving range, butterfly garden, children’s museum, meditation centre and nature trails in a lush ‘city forest’. It’s an easy hop from Mo Chit BTS or Chatuchak MRT in north Bangkok.
Just west of Siam Square, this sprawling athletics complex lacks fish ponds and towering trees, but it’s a great choice if exercise is what you’re after. Fitness enthusiasts can choose from multiple pro-size football pitches, Olympic size jogging tracks, an Olympic size swimming pool complete with a high dive platform, an indoor muay Thai training facility, weightlifting equipment, basketball, tennis, volleyball and takraw courts. As one of Southeast Asia’s largest stadiums, 75-year-old Suphachalasai occasionally hosts pro football matches.
Despite its central location just south of Sukhumvit Road and adjacent to Queen Sirikit Convention Centre, one of the city’s prettiest parks seems to slip under the noses of many. Romantics can peep two exceptionally well-done fountains from the comfort of a swan boat on a lake rimmed by flowers. Other features include playgrounds, a meditation park, fitness equipment, a BMX bicycle ramp, a jogging track and Bangkok’s only separated bicycle lane for unheeded pedalling.
This humongous grassy oval serves as a sort of ‘front yard’ to the Grand Palace. Elaborate royal functions regularly take place here, including the King’s birthday festivities in December and Royal Ploughing (rice-planting) ceremony in May. When the pomp and circumstance isn’t going on, Sanam Luang is a fine place to sit back and watch the sun dip over neighbouring Wat Phra Kaew‘s sparkling spires. You won’t find exercise equipment or swan boats, but Sanam Luang does host a picturesque kite-flying festival each year in February and March.
Suan Luang Rama IX (Rama IX Garden)
Boasting 80 hectares of green expanse in Bangkok’s eastern suburbs, Rama IX Garden is more than just a public park. It includes gazebos, a large lake with pedal boats, fitness equipment and playgrounds, but the unexpected attractions are what make it worth the trip. After checking out a memorial to King Bhumibol (Rama IX) that looks like a flying saucer, visitors can explore the cactus garden, Japanese style Zen garden, elegant Chinese and Thai pavilions that stand over water lily ponds, and botanical gardens where you can surround yourself in rare, beautiful blossoms.
Reachable via a short ferry hop from south Bangkok, Bang Kachao is an agricultural preservation area spanning several square kilometres in Phra Phradaeng. From the air, it looks like a broad tear drop of green amid a sea of urban sprawl. Though it’s home to just one ‘official’ park, the lovely Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan, the entire area is crisscrossed by raised bicycle paths that ramble alongside coconut orchards, canals, modest homes and forest. If you need a dose of countryside but don’t have time for an excursion further afield, a day trip to Bang Kachao should be just the ticket.
Bangkok’s favourite park, centrally located Lumpini features pavilions, sculptures, playgrounds, a modern indoor fitness centre, an imposing statue of King Rama VI and swan boats on a lake that teems with fish. You might see a monitor lizard lounging in the shade of abundant trees amid the park’s 58 grassy hectares. Every day at dusk, Lumpini buzzes with group aerobics, tai chi, dance lessons, basketball, badminton, tennis, takraw, swimming, hundreds of joggers and often the music of local musicians.
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