Bangkok

Top 6 Parks in Bangkok

In the sprawling metropolis of Bangkok, with all its pollution and towers of concrete, who would have thought that there are pockets of green dotted across the whole of the city. The parks of Bangkok not only add to the diversity of this wonderful place but also provide a natural setting for the millions of people that call Bangkok their home to relax, exercise or simply to enjoy. Here’s a list of the top 6 parks in Bangkok for you to explore.

#1 Suan Luang Rama IX Park

Rama IX park is the most beautiful park I think I have ever visited and I go there a lot and out of the top 6 parks in Bangkok it’s my favourite. The park covers some 200 acres and has 2,300 plant species including trees, shrubs, climbers, foliage and flowering plants. The park is split into six different areas.

The Garden of the Great King with Ratchamangkala Pavilion at the centre with three ponds and different kinds of trees, plants and flowers lining each one. The layout reminds me of the Taj Mahal.

Rama IX Park, Bangkok
The Garden of the Great King

The Botanic Garden where many species of plants are used for research, conservation and education and Thakon Phrakiat Pavilion, a beautifully ornate temple that sits, all alone, in the middle of a lotus pond.

Rama IX Park, Bangkok
Thakon Phrakiat Pavilion

The Reservoir is a large lake created to reduce the effect of flooding in east Bangkok. People are able to enjoy boat rides on the lake or to practise Tai Chi on its banks.

Rama IX Park, Bangkok
The Reservoir

Romanee Garden with flowers and plants that have been taken from other parts of Thailand and used to re-create the different environments that can be found here so that people can imagine that they aren’t in Bangkok.

Rama IX Park, Bangkok
Romanee Garden

The Water Garden, a natural bog-like habitat which is home to a number of aquatic birds and animals including huge water monitors who lurk under the water waiting for their next meal.

Rama IX Park, Bangkok
The Water Garden

The Sanam Rasdara is used for outdoor performances and, at the end of each year, the lawn is filled with flowers and plants for sale, as part of the Magnificent Plants that Beautify the Suan Luang Rama IX Flowers Festival.

Rama IX Park, Bangkok
Sanam Rasdara

As well as these six areas, there is an International Garden which has different gardens from around the world. Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, English, French and Italian gardens have all been created to show the different garden styles of each country.

Rama IX Park, Bangkok
International Garden

Suan Luang Rama IX Park
Nong Bon
Bangkok
10250

Open: Daily, 5.00am-7.00pm
Admission: Free, 5.00am-9.00am and 5.00pm-7.00pm; 10 baht, 9.00am-5.00pm
Getting there: The easiest way to get there is to take the BTS to Udomsuk and take a taxi from there

#2 Lumpini Park

Lumpini Park is another favourite of mine. Located in the middle of Siam and Silom, it’s a wonderful place to relax if you are out and about. It is around 142 acres and, although not as big as Suan Luang Rama IX, it still offers a lake, where boats can be rented, paths for jogging, a wonderful variety of trees and flowers and around 30 species of birds. In the eastern corner there is a Chinese clock tower built by Italian architect, Mario Tamagno, for the Siamrath Phipitthapan Trade Fair that was held in 1925. Throughout the year Lumpini Park is host to a number of festivals such as the Bangkok Street Festival.

Lumpini Park, Bangkok
Lumpini Park, Bangkok

Lumpini Park
139/4 Witthayu Road
Pathumwan
Bangkok
10330

Open: Daily, 4.00am-9.00pm
Admission: Free
Getting there: From Sala Daeng BTS (exit 6) cross Rama IV Road

#3 Benjakitti Park

There isn’t much to Benjakiti Park, not if you compare it to some of Bangkok’s other green spaces, but located right in the middle of the city it provides some respite from the busy goings on of Sukhumvit and Asok. With a big lake in the middle and bicycle and jogging tracks that surround it, the 52 acre park sees exercise enthusiasts flock there each evening. For those that don’t fancy jogging there are bikes for hire at 50 baht an hour. There’s also a playground, skate ramps and swan boat rides for kids.

Benjakitti Park, Bangkok
Benjakitti Park, Bangkok

Benjakitti Park
Ratchadaphisek Road
Bangkok
10110

Open: Daily, 5.00am-9.00pm
Admission: Free
Gettingthere: From Asok BTS (exit 4) go down Ratchadaphisek Road and Benjakiti Park is on the right hand side

#4 Benchasiri Park

Located next to Emporium Shopping Mall is the humble Benchasiri Park. At only 11.6 acres, it is one of the smallest parks but, due to its central location, it’s still a popular place. Suan Benchasiri means Park Commemorating the Fifth Cycle Birthday Anniversary and it was built to honour the 60th birthday of Queen Sirikit in 1992. Surrounding a central lake, there are many species of trees and plants, as well as several sculptures, areas to skateboard for the younger generation and exercise or just to sit and relax.

Benchasiri Park, Bangkok
Benchasiri Park, Bangkok

Benchasiri Park
Sukhumvit Road (Between sois 22-24)
Khlong Toei
Bangkok
10110

Open: Daily, 5.00am-9.00pm
Admission: Free
Getting There: Phrom Phong BTS

#5 Chatuchak Park

Located in Chatuchak district, the park is around 75 acres and was opened in 1980, making it one of Bangkok’s oldest parks. There is a train museum in the park and a lake in the centre with a few bridges crossing it. It is a popular place, especially in the evenings, for people to go and enjoy the cooler temperature by the lake. It is situated right by the BTS and MRT stations and Chatuchak Weekend Market and JJ Mall are nearby.

Chatuchak Park, Bangkok
Chatuchak Park, Bangkok

Chatuchak Park
Chatuchak
Bangkok
10900

Open: Daily, 4.30am-9.00pm
Admission: Free
Getting There: Mo Chit BTS, or Chatuchak MRT

#6 Rot Fai Gardens

I happened upon this beautiful oasis by accident when I visited Chatuchak Park but it’s so much quieter than Chatuchak, almost as if not many people know about it. What used to be a golf course which was converted to a green space for the people of the city, there are actually three parks in one, Rot Fai Gardens, Wachirabenchathat Park and Queen Sirikit Park. It spans 150 acres and it feels like you are entering private property until the landscape opens up to green expanses with huge palm trees and flowers of every colour. There are fountains in the pools which dance to music and a butterfly garden, although there are plenty of butterflies fluttering around the park itself, as well as birds and other animals, like the water monitors that frequent these spaces in the city.

Rot Fai Gardens, Bangkok
Rot Fai Gardens, Bangkok

Rot Fai Gardens
Kamphaeng Phet 3 Road
Chatuchak
Bangkok
10900

Open: 4.30am-9.00pm
Admission: Free
Getting there: Chatuchak BTS. Walk through Chatuchak Park and cross over Kamphaeng Phet 3 Road

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A Walk Around Thonburi

From the 14th century to the mid-18th century, Thonburi was an important garrison town due to its location on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. It only became part of Bangkok in the 1970s, but has kept its name; Thon means wealth and buri means fort. Its full name is City of Treasures Gracing the Ocean. Indeed, there are many treasures there today and I set out in search of some of them. Plus it gave me a chance of getting there by boat on the Chao Phraya River, which is one of my favourite ways to travel in Bangkok.

I took the boat from Saphan Taksin and got off at Yodpiman Pier. The ferry from there across the river to Thonburi costs around 5 baht and it takes no more than five minutes. The first place I wanted to see was the Kuan An Keng Shrine, a wonderfully rustic looking building, said to be one of the oldest shrines in Bangkok.

Next was Santa Cruz Church, which I have visited before, but it always pleases me when I see the cream and brown colours of this Italian designed building against the blue sky.

Santa Cruz Church, Thonburi

I walked up Arun Amirin Road, and turned down one of the many narrow lanes that run alongside the canals, which are very much still in use in this part of Bangkok. I was looking for Bang Luang Mosque, but it was quite hard to find, so I asked a kindly gent and he told me where to go. This mosque is the only one in Thailand which doesn’t have a dome.

Back to the main road, the next place that I came across was Tonson Mosque. Dating from the 17th century, this mosque was the first in Bangkok. Outside, there is a cemetery where high ranking individuals from the Ayutthaya period are interred.

Over the road from Tonson mosque is Wat Kalayanamit which was established in 1825 and donated to King Rama III. There is a poem on the side of the temple which says “True friend temple was built by a close friend of the King, as glorious, beautiful, and prominent as the city of heaven, it is respected and worshiped by all people, because it is cherished by the Chakri Dynasty King.”

I continued my walk up Arun Amarin Road and found Wat Arun, also known as Temple of the Dawn. Its name comes from the Hindu god Aruna, who was embodied as rays of the morning sun. The central tower has been in the process of being renovated for the last few months, and is covered in scaffolding, but the seashells and pieces of porcelain, which were previously used as ship’s ballast, can still be seen.

I doubled back on myself and went to Wat Prayoon which was built in the 19th century by King Rama III. As I was wandering around, a friendly monk said hello and he told me that when the large white chedi was reconstructed, many amulets and Buddha statues were discovered. They are now on display at the museum there.

In the grounds, there is a large mound which is covered with shrines and spirit houses. Surrounding the mound, is a pool which is home to turtles which like to sun themselves in the quiet surroundings.

There were two places where I wanted to go. Baan Kudichin Museum, where you can learn about the history of the Thai-Portuguese who still live in the area. The second was Thanusingha Bakery House, which has some nice coffee and cakes on offer. But, could I find them? I had google maps and I knew I wasn’t very far away, but there are so many little lanes that twist and turn I just couldn’t fathom how to get there. So, I gave up. They can wait for another day’s exploring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How to Confuse a Bangkok Taxi Driver

One thing I have learned about living in Bangkok is never present your taxi driver with a map; it seems to throw them into a state of complete confusion.

www.talkingthailand.co.uk/confused

Call me old school, but I like to have a printed copy of a map, especially if I don’t know where I am going. I enjoy planning my route and following it to reach my destination. I have now progressed to google maps but, still, I always have a printed copy with me.

Sometimes, my destination has been too far to walk, so I have had to hail a taxi. Before jumping into the back seat I have shown the driver the map, which has the route marked out. Easy, right? Apparently, not so easy and the reaction I get is quite funny. They look at it, I point to the destination, they look again, turn the map upside down and back again. Sometimes, they bluntly say “no” they can’t take me, at which point I retreat from the vehicle, or sometimes they ask me if I know how to get there. Who’s the taxi driver? It’s not like the map is in English, all the place names are in Thai, so I really don’t know what the problem is. A few taxis have sat-nav, and they can follow that, but present them with a printed map and they go to pieces.

So, my advice is never, ever give your driver a map. Just get into the car and state your destination. That always works!

A Motorcycle Taxi Trip

Motorcycle Taxi, Bangkok

One of the most popular modes of transport in Bangkok is the motorcycle taxi. Although slightly more dangerous than normal taxis, they are quicker and cheaper.

I normally only get one from my home to the skytrain, about a ten minute journey. And, normally, I pick one up right outside where I live. However, this one particular day, the guys outside were not there, so I hailed one which was passing by.

I told him where I was going and agreed the price and off we went. About half-way up the main road, he shouted “police” and stopped so I could put the helmet on. If the passenger is not wearing a helmet, the taxi guy and possibly the passenger will be fined. Thankfully, every motorcycle I have been on has never been stopped by the police, so I have never found out what would actually happen.

But instead of giving me the helmet, he proceeded to take a black jacket out of the basket in front. OK, I thought, he’s finding the helmet, but no, he took the jacket and put it on and put the helmet back in the basket.

“Give me the helmet,” I said gesturing to it. He shook his head. “Give me the helmet,” I repeated and he, reluctantly, gave me the helmet. Weirdo! I sat there thinking why on earth doesn’t he want me to put the helmet on.

We continued up the road only to find it wasn’t the police and instead of letting me wear the helmet for the rest of the journey, he put his hand in the air and asked for it back. Maybe he thought I was going to steal it! I know I really should wear a helmet on the back of motorcycles and I know I am risking my own neck but it’s not something that occurs here, unless, of course the driver gets wind of a police checkpoint on the road.

Once at the skytrain, he took his jacket off, I paid him and he was on his merry way.

Most of the taxi guys are licensed and wear coloured vests but I’m sure he wasn’t one of them. He did have a vest on but he probably wasn’t licensed which is why he hid it with his jacket.

It’s all rather strange living in a city that’s different from your own and one where the rules and regulations are either non existent, or they change on a daily basis. You never know what’s going on 🙂

Going it Alone

www.talkingthailand.co.uk/alone

Recently, I mentioned to a male friend of mine that I was going to see a movie and he asked, “Is it a date?”

I replied “Yes, a date with myself.”

His reply, “Oh, man. You’re going alone?”

His reply made me chuckle to myself. I don’t know whether he found it hard to understand that I would even contemplate going out by myself or that he felt sorry for me.

I started doing things alone when I first went travelling 12 years ago. If you choose to travel solo you don’t have much choice. Yes, I met people and it was fantastic, I have some wonderful memories of those people and times. But, equally when you are alone you don’t have anyone to worry about. You can go where you want, when you want and do whatever you please.

The very first time I dined alone was in Kuala Lumpur in one of the hotel’s restaurants. I recall feeling a little self conscious and was thinking that everyone was looking at me because I was alone. They weren’t. I was made even more self-conscious when a group of musicians came over and sang to me. Maybe they felt sorry for me too. But I ended up not caring and left with a huge smile on my face.

Then, when I was travelling around Thailand, I met a woman called Sophia in Bangkok. She was travelling alone and I started chatting to her because my family and friends had just left me and I was feeling a little out of sorts. She really cheered me up and I will always remember what she told me. She said that doing things alone is very empowering.

Now, my home is in Bangkok and I go out everywhere alone. I have friends here but my working schedule means that it is not always possible to meet them. I take to the streets and wander around taking photographs, go to the movies, have lunch or dinner in my favourite bars, go to art galleries, or I just stay home and write, paint or cook, whatever takes my fancy. I have learned to love my own company. What Sophia told me was true; being alone and actually loving it is a surefire way to boost your confidence.

Start small. Next time you agree to meet your mate at a bar. Don’t wait outside. Instead, go and ensconce yourself at the bar and order yourself a large drink. It’s a great feeling!

www.talkingthailand.co.uk/alone
Pegasus Reef Hotel, Sri Lanka

Bus Baby

www.talkingthailand.co.uk/busbaby

I have lived in Thailand for a few years now and there have been a few things that have caused me to raise my eyebrows; motorbikes on pavements, family picnics in Tesco’s car park, five people on one motorbike. You know, things that you don’t normally see in your own country. I think the most recent crazy thing I saw tops all of those things.

www.talkingthailand.co.uk/busbaby

One evening, on my way home from work, I couldn’t believe my eyes and I had to look twice but as I got on the bus I could have sworn the driver was holding a baby! There was, dear God, a one year old baby, laughing merrily in the arms of the driver.

I thought to myself, surely he isn’t going to drive with the baby in his arms. How could he? He needs two hands for driving and the baby, being a baby, was doing the opposite of sitting still.

www.talkingthailand.co.uk/busbaby

Thankfully, before he drove off, he placed the baby next to him on the gear box cover. Not in a pram, oh no, on the gear box cover. Thankfully? Not! Not even strapped to anything, the poor mite could have gone flying if the driver had braked suddenly.

I got off at my stop, shaking my head in disbelief. There is not a lot of health and safety regulations, here in Thailand, and now it seems not a lot of common sense either. I am pretty sure that if this happened in the UK someone would say something but no-one says anything here. In fact, this 100% would not happen in the UK. However, it would have been useless for me to say something as the language barrier gets in the way and I would be deemed a crazy foreigner but even the Thais don’t, it’s not in their nature to confront even though they may feel the same as us.

Regardlessly, the baby seemed to be enjoying the ride and I’m sure he lived to gurgle the tale but COME ON!!

A Day Out in the Green Lung

Just a hop, skip and a jump from my place, actually more of a motorbike, BTS ride, taxi and boat journey to be exact, is Bang Krachao, otherwise known as the green lung of Bangkok. It’s a conservation area located in Phra Pradaeng district, so close to the city but it seems like a world away. There are no commercial businesses so the air is clean, imagine that in Bangkok, and, together with its lung shape, you can see where the name came from.

Bangkok's Green Lung
Source: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=85382

It’s a great way to spend a day away from the pollution, noise and chaos of the city. There are orchards, gardens, and forests to explore and you can do that by hiring a bicycle, which is what my friend and I did.

We got to Bang Na pier and took the regular boat service across the river, all of about 4 baht.

We hired a bicycle, a steal at 80 baht per day, and started exploring. The first place we went to was Bang Nampueng floating market, not so much a floating market, like the more touristy Damnoen Saduak, this one is more like a riverside market, where you can try traditional Thai food, sweets and fruit. There are also stalls selling clothes, DVDs and other things that you would normally find at these sort of places. There are plenty of places to stop and enjoy the charming atmosphere too. It was nice wandering around, but it wasn’t the market I wanted to see.

We got back on our bikes and cycled all the way to the Bhumibol Bridge, which I had seen from afar, but I wanted to see it up close. The bridge is part of the Industrial Ring Road, 13 km long, connecting Bangkok with Samut Prakan. I love a good bridge and this one didn’t disappoint, even from below, where we were standing, the cable-stayed spans and the diamond-shaped towers loomed above us. The bridge is really quite striking.

Bridge-fetish satisfied, we cycled onwards thinking that if we continued in the direction we were going, we would eventually end up back in the middle of Bang Krachao. Wrong! We cycled another 5 km or so before realising we had no real clue where we were, so we thought it would be best if we turned round and went back in the direction we had come from. It was fun though, we found ourselves cycling down unknown roads and narrow lanes, stopping along the way to have lunch, take photographs and check the map. I think the people we passed thought we were mad, particularly when we passed them again in an attempt to look like we knew where we were going!

Eventually, we made it back and cycled to Sri Nakhon Khuankhan Botanical Gardens. It is really pretty, with tropical trees, flowers, a large pond and several walking and cycling paths. Many people go there to enjoy the nature and relaxed surroundings.

Once we got back to the pier, we clocked up how many kilometres we had cycled, a, not too shabby, 50 or so. We were so tired, what with the heat and the cycling around all day, but it was a fabulous day out and one to be repeated sometime soon.

Merry Christmas! I hope everyone has a fantastic time with your families and friends. Enjoy each other 🙂

 

Zaks Dining and Lounge; Great Food and Relaxation All in One Place

I have a new favourite place to hang out on my days off. I normally venture out in the afternoon but as I was off one particular weekend I decided to go out later in the day to enjoy the evening’s shenanigans on Soi 11. My destination; Zaks Dining and Lounge.

Zaks Wine Pub, Bangkok
Source: https://www.facebook.com/ZaksBangkok/photos/

I have been there before with my work colleagues, and as I sat there eating my pizza and drinking my wine; creature of habit, me, same food and drink, just a different location, the waitress came over and we started chatting. She told me she recognised me from the time before. How’s that for making your customers feel special? It won me over!

Rose is her name and it’s not just her that is particularly friendly, all the staff at Zaks are the same. They always seem to be so happy as they go about their business. I sat and watched one guy who, on seeing some customers looking at the menu and deciding whether to come in, greeted them enthusiastically with a huge smile. Sure enough a few minutes later they came back and he welcomed them in.

The food is delicious. All of it. There is Thai food on the menu but the western fare is amazing. Pizzas, burgers, tapas and more. I have never had a bad meal there. There is a daily happy hour which starts at 3pm and finishes at 8.00pm so more of a happy few hours. You get discounted drinks and two for one tapas specials so you can’t really go wrong.

Zaks Wine Pub, Bangkok
Source: https://www.facebook.com/ZaksBangkok/photos/

I like dining alone. I usually amuse myself with writing, reading my book, or just plain-old people watching. I find it fascinating; the way people interact with each other. I wasn’t the only one alone that night. I watched a guy contentedly munching on his food, while drinking his happy-hour wine and reading something on his laptop. Not a care in the world. It seems many people like to do the same, whether they are solo travellers or people like me and that guy who like to get out of the confines of our homes, just to have a change of location and do whatever pleases us. I think everyone should try it. Being alone and actually enjoying your own company is very liberating.

After a few wines I took myself off home. It wasn’t late but I had enjoyed my evening. Happy-few-hours are very popular in my world. If you haven’t been before I thoroughly recommend it. You will find me sitting outside with my wine. 🙂

Zaks WIne Pub,

Open: 3.00pm-1.00am

Website: www.zaksbangkok.com

A Forest in the City

I love Bangkok for many reasons and you may be wondering why I would love a city which is a sprawling metropolis made up of modern high rise hotels, offices and apartments. There is so much to see and do in the city, so many places of interest and if you look closely you will find many areas of green hidden among all the concrete. One such place is PTT’s Pa Nai Krung located near to Suvarnabhumi airport. Pa Nai Krung means forest inside the city and it is a beautiful area created to raise awareness of how important the preservation of forest areas is to the environment and to inspire people to grow trees and plants at home.

PTT  is an oil and gas company and in 1999, they established a reforestation project in Honor of His Majesty the King. The project grew and in 2012, the PTT Reforestation Institute was born. In 2015, land was transformed into an urban green space, the goal of which was to create a natural forest area in the city and a place where you can learn about forest ecosystems.

There are some 250 native trees, plants and shrubs which are all in the early stages of growing. There is a sky-walk and observation tower where visitors can get 360 degree views of the surrounding area as well as the diversity of flora in the forest.

Open; Tuesday to Sunday, 9.00am to 4.00pm

Admission; Free