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Taking a breath in Bangkok

 

Bangkok can be a little overwhelming to a first time visitor, as the energy of the city and the endless buzz leaves you reeling. After tasting the world class restaurants, exploring the myriad bars and nightclubs, and spend your days zipping through traffic as you take in the sights, you’re probably looking for somewhere to unwind. If you know where to look, there’s plenty of green oases in the center of this urban capital.

Taking a breath in Bangkok

The most well known is also the easiest to find, right in the heart of the city you’ve got Lumpini Park. It boasts 142 acres of lush green grass, waterways and plenty of open spaces where you can rent a bike to cruise along the pathways or a paddleboat to explore the lake. It’s also a favorite of the locals, and you’ll see a mix of people jogging or exercising on the equipment, families relaxing on mats by the water’s edge, and plenty of kids running around that gives it a real community feel. Don’t miss sunset when the open-air aerobics starts us, feel free to join in or just watch the big crowds working out in unison to the Thai pop hits.

Benjasiri Park is a favorite of mine, and if you get there just before sunset you can enjoy the fountain shows displayed right at the front of the park. Again, there’s groups practicing Tai Chi, and the entire park has a nice mellow feel which is the perfect way to wind down after a day’s shopping along Sukhumvit. There’s also a skate park with the locals showing off their skills, and usually you’ll find the courts full with guys playing takraw, a game similar to volleyball where you’re only allowed to use your feet. For the kids there’s a couple of great play areas on either side of the park, and there’s a swimming pool right at the back that always seems to be quiet. More people head to the park as the sun goes down and the temperature cools off, and a romantic stroll along the lake is a perfect way to relax.

Out by Chatuchak market (also known as JJs or the Weekend Market), there is plenty of green space once you’ve had your fill of shopping and the inevitable crush of people. Three parks are nearby, which are easy to get to, the largest sits just next to the sky-train station Mo Chit, and there are vendors right at the gate who will rent out a rattan mat for you to sprawl and enjoy the sunshine. Plenty of nearby street carts offer food and drinks, and you can sit back and let your kids run wild on the playground. Because of the area it’s a tad busy here on the weekends, but there’s no better place to people watch as all the shoppers head to the market.

Just next door is the more peaceful Queen Sirikit Park, that has a somewhat regal air and plenty of exotic flowers for you to marvel. The lake in the center is huge, and the botanical gardens are excellent, packed full of rare plants, lotus and water lilies. For the kids the Children’s Discovery Museum is a great activity, that has both indoor exhibitions and a large outdoor activity area. When you need to get back to nature, this park is one of your best options in Bangkok, especially when you want to keep your kids entertained and away from the busy city streets.

In the same area is Rot Fai Park, and at 148 acres is the ultimate picnic destination in the city. Home to the Bangkok Butterfly Garden, you can admire all the colorful insects that fly freely in the dome, or hire a bicycle and explore a little more of the park. There’s plenty of shady spots to enjoy a picnic, but you may need to bring your own as it’s a little more local here. As you lay back in the shade and enjoy the green surroundings as the cyclists cruising past, you’ll quickly forget that you’re still in the city.

When you know where to look there are plenty of green spaces in Bangkok, and the massive expanses of nature are both refreshing and an ideal way to unwind after the rollercoaster that most tourists find themselves on when they arrive in Thailand. So kick back, find a shady spot, and do what the locals do for an afternoon, and you’ll enjoy a much more sedate version of the city.

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