Monday, 26 November 2018

Lumphini Park

Boating Lake
After my tour of the three parks it was probably natural that I would want to go to Lumphini Park next.  This is much more central and provides a welcome oasis in the incredibly busy centre of Bangkok.  It is also home to a surprising array of wildlife and I had a couple of David Attenborough moments as I walked around.  I also had a rather surprising human interaction and a weather event that added a good deal of spice to what is actually a short and unchallenging walk.

The King's Statue
Lumphini Park was the first to be designated in Bangkok and was originally a piece of Royal land that was designated by King Rama VI just after the First World War.  Now it is a space where much of Bangkok goes to exercise and play.  In many respects it is a little like Central Park in New York as it is surrounded on all sides by skyscrapers and on one side by the Skytrain.  There are boating lakes, cycle tracks and plenty of room for sports and even areas for the locals to practice their Tai Chi skills.  

Sky Train
I alighted at Silom station on the MRT system.  It is also possible to get here by Skytrain at the adjacent station of Sala Daeng although to access the park you will need to pass through Silom station to avoid the several lanes of traffic that are in the way.  Do not be tempted to come from Lumphini station either - it is possible to get in the park from there but you will face the same problem of crossing the road to get in.  At Silom there is an entrance directly in the park without any traffic problems.  Facing you as you come out is a large statue of King Rama VI in commemoration as his gift of the park to the city.

Maintenance Crew
It was a very hot day with the clouds building early and suggesting that I might not get around the park without facing a bit rain shower.  I turned right once inside the park to walk around the perimeter anti-clockwise.  It wasn't long before I saw my first monitor lizard - they are a common sight here.  In fact they are one of the reasons why foreign visitors in particular are drawn to the park as it is easy to see them.  Local people seem to have an uneasy relationship with the lizards - on the one hand they are considered to bring good luck and prosperity but on the other people are afraid of them. I soon witnessed this first hand when a couple of young women literally turned to jelly when they saw one cross the road in front of them.  Apparently numbers in the park got to unsustainable levels a couple of years ago and over 100 were removed and taken to a wildlife sanctuary outside Bangkok.  They had been frightening tourists and damaging the park flora apparently.

Clock Tower
My walk along the southern perimeter of the park was largely without incident and for a while I was a little disappointed with it compared to the other parks.  At the south-east corner I had to dodge some electrical engineers who were dealing with some overhead wires.  I couldn't help thinking that the installation could have been made nicer or relocated out to the street on the other side of the wall.  

Waiting For The Action
My eyes were drawn to a pretty clock at the corner of the park.  This was shaped like a pagoda and yet in a weird sort of way had a rather colonial air about it.  Some of the detail on the tower is exquisite and especially around the door at the bottom, which I imagine is for servicing the clock as it is too small to allow visitors inside.  I wandered over for a closer look and paused by the side of the lake for a while and watched a couple of swan pedalo boats negotiate the perimeter.  I wondered whether it were possible to see more swimming lizards in the lake - I would worry about them tipping the boat over as some of the biggest of them could easily do so accidentally if they came up without looking.

A Mother's Love
I wandered on and as I passed by the boat hire launching area I saw that the view now opened up to reveal how hemmed in the park is by surrounding buildings.  Apparently when it was first designated it was on the edge of town - now it is very much in the heart of this sprawling city that continues to grow outwards at an alarming rate.  Along the way were some interesting sculptures, including one that particularly caught my eye called 'A Mother's Love', which was placed here to commemorate the Queen's 60th birthday back in 1992.  Further on and I passed by one that looked like a pregnant Michelin man - I am told this is called 'Women in the next three decades'.  I am not sure what commentary it is supposed to be making but considering it's already 20 years old there isn't much more time for the transformation to be made.

Women In The Next Three Decades
As I reached the next gate it was clear that I was going to take a slightly different route as straight on led into the car park.  I took a left hand turn here and watched a couple of lizards swimming up and down in the little canal alongside the path.  There were also a couple of egrets strutting up and down seemingly unimpressed by the lizards.  I am guessing that they are too big and agile to be troubled by them, although I imagine that the young are not so lucky.  I walked down a long straight section of path and over another hump-backed bridge to reach a circular area with palm trees and a shelter in the middle.

I thought I would stop for a breather here and check a couple of messages that had been sent to me.  My eyes were drawn to a very camouflaged looking gecko that was sitting on the tree.  I was just going to get my camera to see if I could get a good picture when a small Thai man came up to me and started speaking to me in broken English.  He introduced himself as a fighter & trainer from a local Muay Thai gym.  I think he took one look at me and thought that he could whip me into shape - personally I think that would take an awful lot of work for fairly mediocre results.  He then started to show me a few pressure points and before I knew it I was having a Thai massage.  I'm not sure how it happened - it all escalated rather quickly!  It felt pretty good although at times I rather clenched my teeth.  I realised of course that he was doing it for payment and not just to be nice but I had no idea how much to pay.  I gave him 60 baht which he seemed happy with and went on my way. I really felt it afterwards though and vowed to be a bit more careful about lingering in the park in future!

Onward I went and found what looked to be an island in the middle of the next boating lake.  I crossed the bridge into it and my eyes were drawn to a quite large lizard behaving very strangely.  As I got closer I saw that it had something in its mouth so I got closer for a further look.  It started bashing its head against a tree and it was only then that I realised what it actually had - a turtle.  It was trying to bash the fight out of the hapless turtle against the tree and eventually it got it in just the right position before gulping it down whole.  It was rather a gruesome sight, especially as the turtle went down looking out of the lizards mouth.

Dainty Snack
There were further lizard shenanigans further on when I caught sight of one with the remains of a catfish hanging out of its mouth.  All around were crows wanting a slice of the action and the ensuing struggle between them was pretty entertaining.  Another monitor lizard wanted to get in on the action and the first took this cue and ran off clutching what it could of the remains in its mouth.  It left behind a lump for the crows to fight over while lizard number 2 looked on, decided it was too much bother and wandered off in the other direction.

Catfish Remnant
The show over, I moved on and watched instead some human entertainment in the shape of some jugglers, people doing Tai Chi and some old fellas playing Mahjong all seemingly oblivious to the antics of the lizards and crows.  It was a lot more restful watching the people than the wildlife and I looped entirely around them before crossing the same bridge that I had used to get to this point.  It was at this point that the threatening clouds did more than threaten and I felt the first drops.  Within moments the monsoonal rain that I hoped was coming to an end served up a reminder that it wasn't quite done yet.  I took refuge in one of the many park shelters until it had eased enough for me to make my escape along the remaining part of the perimeter walk that took me back to King Rama's statue.  The amount of water dumped created some very large puddles in the 20 minutes or so that the rain came down.
Tai Chi

Lumphini Park won't set you any great physical challenge - the walk around is just too short for that.  It could make for a good cycle ride but you would go too fast to see anything.  Running could also be an option if it is a physical challenge you want.  I would urge you though to walk it at least once to see the sculptures close up and enjoy looking at the wildlife.  Just take care not to linger too long if you don't want to be massaged by a random Muay Thai boxer!

Last View Before The Rain Came

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