Photo: Bright lights, big city.

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Benjakiti Park

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With a small lake rimmed by abundant flowers and some of the most attractive fountains in Southeast Asia, Benjakiti Park is arguably Bangkok’s prettiest green space.

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Though Lumpini Park is far more popular, Benjakiti also offers a range of activities and, in particular, has become a cycling haven in the often gridlocked city. Above all, this is the place in central Bangkok to enjoy peace and quiet or a romantic sunset stroll.

This is the busy time of day.

This is the busy time of day.

One reason Benjakiti is not as popular as Lumpini or even Chatuchak Park and Suan Rot Fai is that it’s a relatively recent addition to Bangkok’s growing number of green spaces. Opened in 2004 in honour of Queen Sirikit’s 72nd birthday, the park came to be when the Thai royal family decided to level a large swath of old buildings previously rented out to the Tobacco Monopoly. Benjakiti occupies 130 rai (some 21 hectares) and is part of a larger master plan to improve Bangkok’s overall livability.

The park’s centerpiece is a relatively large lake (for Bangkok at least) surrounded on all sides by well-groomed flower bushes and trees. Go for a cruise on a pedal-powered swan boat, or just enjoy the photogenic reflections of surrounding skyscrapers.

Bangkok shows off its pretty side.

Bangkok shows off its pretty side.

A walkway that attracts a fair number of joggers every morning and early evening stretches for two kilometres around the lake. Unlike at Lumpini — where bicycles, walkers, joggers, aerobics dancers and blissfully unaware three-year-olds on scooters all vie for space — Benjakiti boasts a separated bicycle lane that makes it possible to cycle as fast as you like with little interference. Bikes of all sizes can be rented for 40 baht per one hour. Although the city’s “green lung” to the south is a must for cycling enthusiasts, you won’t find a better place in central Bangkok to ride than Benjakiti.

Separated bike lane -- yes!

Separated bike lane — yes!

The west side of the park includes a stretch of grassy slopes with several seating and activity areas shaded by low-hanging palms. A couple of small playgrounds, a skateboard/freestyle bicycle ramp, meditation area and basic exercise equipment can all be found here. Benjakiti lacks the energetic fitness groups that dance to thumping techno in Lumpini every evening, and the overall atmosphere is quiet and not-at-all crowded. Lumpini is great for people-watching, but if you need a respite from the crowds and noise, Benjakiti is the place to be.

There's another, bigger playground, but this one gets points for being adorable.

There’s another, bigger playground, but this one gets points for being adorable.

Impressive views over the flower-lined lake would probably be enough to win Benjakiti the prize of Bangkok’s prettiest park, but two stunning fountains seal it. The first is situated atop a platform surrounded by marble walls and accessible via long stairs with Japanese pagoda style entrance-ways on either side.

Benjakiti doesn't mess around when it comes to fountains.

Benjakiti doesn’t mess around when it comes to fountains.

Between this Japanese pagoda fountain and the lake is another, even more beautiful fountain that would be better described as a human-made waterfall. In a vast half-circle around a courtyard and shrine to the Queen, water flows gently over ridges in the sloped walls. With pink flowers on either side, this fountain feels like it belongs to a serious memorial. Contemporary Thai designers often lean towards the tacky, but this is one instance where elegance and grace were not overlooked.

This is one photogenic park.

This is one photogenic park.

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