I’ve always been of the opinion, that Bangkok is not an easy city for the average westerner to get to know. I think a lot has to do with its size. Bangkok is a massive city at 605 sq. miles and has a population of roughly 8 million people living in the city itself and another 12 million in the surrounding suburbs. Add to that the traffic, noise, the crowds of people and the language barrier and you have a little culture shock. It’s a city that can be overwhelming even for the most seasoned traveler. But right in the middle of all the hustle and bustle of this mega city, is a not so secret garden. Lumphini park
is 142 acres of beautiful lush landscaping. It’s a great place to go for an early morning walk, a jog or to ride your bike in the city center. There are areas with weight piles where you can see the local body builders pumping iron and tires! There are playgrounds and exercise areas and plenty of benches scattered around the grounds. There is a lake where you can rent a paddle boat in the shape of a white swan.
Lumphini has something for everyone. There are even giant monitor lizards strolling around freely. Yeah I said Giant, Lizard and strolling freely! These bad boys and girls are just part of everyday life in Lumphini park. You’ll see them in the water or walking on the trails and on the grass basking in the sun. Not to worry though, they don’t much care for people and don’t seem to bother anyone. They just hang out and give the place a little distinction!
Even the fish and turtles are friendly here, of course the fact that people are always tossing food at them tends to make them a lot friendlier. Nothing wrong with making a little merit while you enjoying feeding the wildlife. Lumphini park is also the perfect place for a day of bird watching. Egrets, Heron and several other colorful birds can easily be spotted daily without much searching. The local cats are everywhere and on any given day you can see kittens of every color.
Weekends see many events held there including open air concerts. Weekdays are a little quieter and you pretty much have run of the park. With so much to do here, my favorite activity in Lumphini park is to just relax and escape Bangkok for a little while. It’s the perfect place to bring a matt, a picnic lunch and relax your day away contemplating your toes. Close your eyes and for just a minute you’ll swear that your anywhere but in the middle of a huge noisy city.
If you find yourself in Bangkok do make time to stop in and enjoy the Park. I guarantee you’ll fall in love with the it. Lumphini park is open daily from 4:30 am to 9 pm. It’s near the MRT Silom and Lumpini station and BTS Sala Daeng Station.
After visiting the park stroll over to Silom Road. If you came in on the BTS then it is the area right in front of the BTS Sala Daeng station. This is one of Bangkok’s oldest red-light districts. Thankfully, it like most of the red-light districts around the city, is loosing its luster and popularity. The area is still host to more than few lady bars and Ping-pong shows, though it seems that every year the numbers go down. A walk down Thaniya road at night will take you passed several clubs that seat their hostesses out on chairs in front of the business. Be warned… cameras are not popular here. These beautiful ladies may look like the friendly type… till they see your camera, then its like pulling out a cross at a vampire convention. They get real mad and real ugly fast.
Silom Soi 1, 2/1 and 4 are the heart of Bangkok’s gay area. Silom Soi 1 is home to discos and saunas as is Soi 2/1. A walk down Soi 4 will take you past clubs with colorful names like Telephone pub
and Bearie Gay Bar
…not just any gay bar mind you, but… a “Bearie” Gay Bar. Who knew they had bears in Thailand. Actually the bars here are very friendly and welcome everyone, gay is not a requirement. Boys town is another gay area here, it is just off Thanon Surawong which is the next major street north of Silom Rd. I made a mad dash through boys town on my last trip. I was broadcasting on periscope and surprisingly it was a lively crowd and they were very friendly to the lady waking by babbling into her phone’s camera.
The PatPong night market has been around since the 70’s. It has that red-light vibe due in large part to the barkers, men who shove a menu in your face inviting you in to see a “ping-pong show”as you stroll down the shopping stalls. Patpong night market runs from Thanon Suriwong to Silom road. It consists of 4 rows of stalls that magically appear every day at sunset on Soi Patpong 1, and disappear every night around 1 or 2 am. These stalls are home to vendors selling everything from souvenirs to some pretty brave knock offs of Rolex watches, designer handbags and even Viagra. The knock off Viagra might come in handy at the many ping-pong shows your going to get invited into.
Patpong is home to quite a few go-go bars featuring girls in skimpy bikinis, pole dancing on stage. You’ll also find bars with ladyboys in skimpy bikinis, pole dancing on stage… The real challenge here is figuring out which is which… But this is Bangkok and everything is just taken in stride. The live and let live attitude here in Thailand is awesome. Patpong is big with the tourists and gets full fast on the weekends. The night market is a narrow space so prepare to walk in a crowd. There are a couple of nice bars with live music and outdoor seating inside the night market, they are great spots for people watching. Get a front row seat and enjoy the people watching.
There are several good restaurants in the area. One I highly recommend is Ruen Urai. The restaurant is located on Suriwong road behind the Rose Hotel. The restaurant is in an authentic Thai golden teak house that once operated as an herbal medicine shop. The food served there today is inspired by medicinal herbs and is quite delicious. It is not Vegan or even vegetarian sadly.
This area is also home to one of the wettest Songkran parties in Bangkok. Songkran is the Thai new year celebration and happens in April which just so happens to be the hottest month of the year here. I guarantee you won’t make it down Silom road not even half a block without getting soaked to the bone during Songkran. It is one of the biggest water fights in the country. Don’t think your safer around the older women in the crowd… they are the ones to look out for and have the coldest water to toss on you.
There are some pretty nice hotels in this area. It’s big draw is its proximity to both the BTS and the MRT for getting around Bangkok. It is centrally located… pretty much right in the middle of city center. Travel down towards the river on Silom road and you’ll find a quieter area with less nightlife and even more hotels! My favorite area in fact. This is where you’ll find the Sri Maha Mariamman Indian Temple… and us… if we happen to be in Bangkok.