Monday, April 7, 2008

Lumphini Park - Bangkok's Haven Within the Urban Jungle

I have always wanted to visit Lumphini Park. It is Bangkok’s answer to Manila’s Luneta, to Jakarta’s Merdeka Square, to London’s Kensington or Green Park, and yeah, New York’s Central Park. The 4 previous times that I’ve visited Bangkok, it was always overshadowed by other points of interest. It was always in the list, but didn’t quite make the trail for some reason. I'd walk along Silom Road, check out the manual traffic along Patphong as darkness engulfs the city, but upon reaching the southern end of Silom, I'd be too tired to cross the street and see the sprawl that is Lumphini Park.

Finally though, I made it there. After visiting the sleepy Wat Tapan (in the back roads of an interchange), I took a taxi (60 baht) that traversed kilometers of Sukhumvit Road. The driver dropped me at one of the gates in the vicinity of Silom. It was nothing out of the ordinary. Tree-lined and green, it was nevertheless a breath of fresh air from the chaotic urban sprawl. On the first hour, I just sat by a bench watching a couple of farangs play frisbee , oblivious to the flow of humanity passing through the main gate. I sat smugly observing the frisbee players, like a sports critic to an activity that eventually took my breath away. In all these years, I have never sat down to really observe how gracefully a piece of plastic can glide on air as someone lurches for a good – or a bad – catch! It felt like a good jogging, exhilarating and, to some degree, cathartic.

The scenery was a quaint observatory deck in the confines of my green bench. Children were walking past me, decked in their school uniforms. Joggers too were a ubiquitous sight. A truck was spraying high pressure water on trees, flowers and grass. There wasn’t a major floral revolution as I’d expected, but the foliage were fetching and natural. It was a normal park not with a lot of frills - until I walked northward. Waiting there was a beautiful lake with boat concessions for paddling. Lovers and friends sat by the riverside as I took advantage of the stillness of the lake. As I took a step closer to the water (to get a better vantage point of the view of the bridge), I almost stepped on a huge – and I mean, gargantuan – lizard right in front of me. The ends of my hair stood and I jumped as my heart stopped momentarily. Better be more attentive. This park has such a healthy ecosystem that huge lizards, crows and other creatures thrive!

There was a halfway house facing the lake, where some children were playing. I walked away from it to observe a group of teeners doing their bike exhibitions as they spin on a wheel, or maneuver their bikes to a fantastic twist and twirl. Some farangs were sleeping on the grass; some reading their books, oblivious to the fact that there are scaly creatures somewhere nearby. Haha. One area is decorated with huge slabs of stones under the canopy of some trees. Snap snap! Then I sat down for a coke. During the whole visit, I was aware that this was a public park, and some unsavory elements may roam. I shall always have such skeleton riding my back at every park I visit. But I reckon it’s alright. It keeps me alert, it keeps me safe. Somehow though, I knew that this was NOT Madrid’s Parque del Retiro. I relaxed.

This is the Eye in the Sky.

Look for the frisbee...


Stolen moments... and the lizard (below).

Almost stepped on this slimy reptile.

Lumphini Park is located right in the corner of Silom and Rama IV, in one of the busiest parts of the city. Do not miss it on your visit to Bangkok.

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