Alongside the traffic-congested Phahonyothin Road, Chatuchak Park offers Bangkok residents quiet respite from the manic pace of urban living. With the BTS (skytrain) and MRT (underground) directly in front of the park, it’s a doddle to get there and attracts large crowds on the weekend who come to take a brief rest from their bartering bonanza in nearby Chatuchak Market.
If you’re looking for a quiet place to read that second-hand book from Dasa Book Café, Chatuchak Park has plenty of shaded areas where you can escape from the sun and watch the world go by. The park’s central feature is its artificial lake, which stretches along the entire length of the park and makes for a great place to feed fish or even the occasional turtle. Peddle boats can be rented for a small price and offer the perfect opportunity to take your sweetheart on the lake and confess your undying love (puke).
The park is frequented by an eclectic crowd and you will see Thai families sitting in the shade eating Som Tum Mamuang (spicy mango salad), while farangs try their best to look farang, and lay semi-naked in the baking sun trying to catch a sun burn. Health fanatics don their headbands and looks of steely determination, as they try to postpone the inevitable by keeping fit on the parks tarmac tracks while weightlifters congregate at the bench press to compare each others pecs.
A children’s playground is located near to the south entrance of the park and is great for keeping the little ones entertained while you do boring grown-up things, like read news papers or talk about last year’s vacation in Kuala Lumpur.
If you’re feeling peckish while at the park, Kampaeng Phet Road 3 is lined with noodle stalls, where you can sit down on wee plastic chairs and eat with chopsticks in the open air. Ice cream vendors occasionally walk through the park selling ice cream with rice in it. Yes, I said rice. Actually, the ice cream rice is rather delicious. Failing all that, run to the BTS and grab a bag of Iced Bismarcks from Dunkin’ Donuts.
The north of the park is where you will find the beautiful flower gardens and is the best place to escape the hustle and bustle of the busy lakeside area. The numerous bridges spanning the lake offer great vantage points for watching fish or taking that “here-I-am-in-Chatuchak-Park” pic to show off to your “friends” on Facebook.
Chatuchak Park is a great place to stop off and unwind from a frenetic day in the labyrinth that is Chatuchak Market, take time to acquaint yourself with all the souvenirs you recently had forced upon you, watch the Bangkok sun drop behind the skyline of concrete tower blocks and breathe the smog-filled air. Ahh, Bangkok . . what a perfect way to spend the day.
Deep in the heart of Bangkok’s urban jungle, you will find a surprising contrast of greenery and wildlife in Wachirabenchathat Park – more commonly called Suan Rot Fai or Railway Park. The park grounds once belonged to the State Railway of Thailand but were procured by the government as part of a project to improve the urban landscape by providing green areas for the city’s inhabitants.
The park is located just off Phahon Yothin Road, on Kampaeng Phet Road 3 and can be easily reached by taxi. A good alternative to taxi is the skytrain, which is air-conditioned, cheap and convenient to use. Get off the skytrain at Mochit and take a short walk along Phahon Yothin Road, through Chatuchak Park and onto Kampaeng Phet Road. If you want to save even more money, try riding the bus for anywhere between seven and 20 baht; this option can be hot, though, as there’s no air-conditioning on many of the buses.
With the park spread out over 60 hectares, the bike-rental service – provided near the north entrance gate – is a great choice for getting around. Bikes can be borrowed for as little as 20 baht and come fitted with passenger and baby seats. The 3 kilometre track is popular among joggers and walkers but is usually alive with the sounds of bicycle bells and children’s laughter.
Shade trees make the park a perfect place to relax with family and friends, and straw mats for sitting on can be borrowed at a small fee. If you want to spend more than a few hours at the park, take a picnic along with you or try the vendors stationed near the bike-rental sheds. There is a small cafe to the right of the entrance gate, where you can buy coffees and snacks.
Once you enter the park, there are three main paths which you can follow, with smaller interconnecting paths along the way. On the east side of the park you will find the boating lake, where you can borrow a paddle boat for 40 baht per hour. The central path passes through the most popular sitting area; to the right of this path you will see a miniature version of Rattanakosin Island with models of the Rama VIII Bridge, the Giant Swing and Golden Mount Temple. The west side of the park is a maze of pathways and the children’s playground is located about halfway down.
Amidst Bangkok’s labyrinth of streets and concrete tower blocks, Suan Rot Fai offers a welcome oasis for wildlife. There are numerous species of birds including Tree Sparrows, Rock Pigeons, Black-naped Orioles and Yellow-rumped Flycatchers. A birdwatching fair is held at the park every year by the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand. The butterfly garden, in the southeast corner of the park, is home to around 20 species of butterflies including the Plain Tiger, Clipper and Orange Oak Leaf; keep your eyes peeled if you want to catch a glimpse of these elusive creatures. The butterfly park is open Tuesday to Sunday from 08:30 a.m. to 16:30 p.m., admission is free. If you see a two-foot long monitor lizard walking through the park, then no, you’re not imagining it. They’re occasionally seen in the park as they favour the swampy lakes dotted throughout the vicinity. Don’t be afraid, they’re “usually” harmless.
Suan Rot Fai is a great alternative to the hotter and noisier Chatuchak Park. If you’re looking for something a little different, this park is the antithesis of “typical Bangkok tourist.” The park is open from 05:00 a.m. to 21:00 p.m. and welcomes families, joggers, tourists or those who just want a quiet place to read a book. If you’re living or staying in Bangkok, the question you really need to be asking is: “why haven’t I been there yet?” A fascinating day out in Bangkok on a shoestring.