Lumpini Park is Bangkok’s central green lung. It’s beautiful, interesting and enjoyable to visit but tell the truth, when did you last go there?
It has many visitors but you might think there would be more, given the pleasure of being in this park.
This park was once called Sala Dang and was private property because it belonged to the King. But he donated it to the public in 1925 as a public park and trade fair ground. The latter purpose has long been discontinued and now the park is for the pleasure and health of the public.
The early morning is a particularly good time to visit. That’s when people exercise, joggers, walkers and runners improving their circulation in the cooler early morning air. You can see the Chinese, too, with their tai chi exercises; less physically demanding, but more graceful and very unusual.
I like the open-air weight-lifting section. Here you will see some seriously fit and muscular people, built it seems of stone rather than muscle. You will also see Thais and Chinese playing boardgames on stone tables dotted around the park.
A sight far less easy to stomach is the snake’s blood and bile on sale, bought by those who feel these substances will contribute to their health.
Sunday is a lovely time to go. Hire a paddling boat and take the family round the lake, or rent a mat and lie lazily under the trees.
Lumpini is home to many rare shrubs and plants, the planting of which was encouraged by an enlightened king who wishes his people to see the rich floral variety of their country.
One unusual but highly welcome facility is the public library. My wife likes to go there for quiet study. It has a considerable wealth of literature at the public’s disposal.
Just because the park is in the centre of the city does not mean there is no wildlife. The last time we went we saw a monitor lizard (I cannot give its name in Thai since it is the worst word in the Thai language) capture a frog. But, as a Thai explained to me, the frog is programmed by nature to complain loudly at this, and the lizard is equally programmed to let go of noisy prey. So the frog escaped. It was a good omen and we went off to one of the restaurants in the park where we ate very well and cheaply.
At 6pm precisely, you will hear the Royal Anthem and all comes to a halt. It is a reminder of the deep respect the Thais have for King and country and I never fail to find it moving.