Suan Luang Rama IX Park – A Regal Breathing Space
There’s something nasty in Bangkok’s air-clouds of smog, as the numbers and letters N95 and PM2.5 have now become part of our daily vocabulary. People don the N95-grade facemasks to try and protect themselves from hazardous PM2.5 dust particles and emissions caused by factories and the many vehicles releasing toxic fumes into the atmosphere.
Mercifully, there are some natural outdoor havens within the city where inhabitants can escape the dust and dirt to a number of green spaces, if only for a few hours a day. It’s perhaps appropriate to start with Suan Luang Rama IX Park (suan means park, luang means royal), also known shortly as just Suan Luang, the largest public park in Bangkok.
The park was built in 1987 to commemorate HM the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 60th birthday and to house plant species from around the country for educational and recreational purposes. Set in an area of 500 rais (almost 200 acres), it is indeed magisterial in its appearance and surroundings, and cannot all be seen on one visit.
The park is some 15 km from the city center and located in Prawet district. There are various travel options to reach the park. The easiest way is to take a taxi directly from Sukhumvit Road or use the BTS and get off at Udomsuk station exit 3 and hail a cab or take a more local ride on a songthaew passenger truck from Udomsuk, Sukhumvit 103, for only a few baht.
Suan Luang is an utterly fascinating combination of conventional park, museum, botanical wonderland and memorial. The park is divided into six areas, with splendid gardens and a range of striking architectural structures, including the wonderful Thakon Phrakiat Pavilion which is a perfect showcase for Thai teak design and is set in the center of a lotus pond.
Dominating the venue is the intriguing Ratchamangkhala Pavilion with its soaring golden spire, it wouldn’t look out of place in a science fiction movie. In actuality it’s a gallery crammed full of images and exhibits about the Thai royal family and information about the royal projects. Fronted by a large lake, visitors can take a ride in swan- and duck-styled pedal boats and enjoy the floating lotus gardens.
There is an instant feeling of calm when you enter the park, you are at one with nature amid the smells of the flora and the sounds of birds. To say the whole location is photogenic is an understatement. There are over 40 varieties of lotuses and lilies there, and it is said there are plants here representing all 77 of Thailand’s provinces. Stroll around the manicured lawns, cross pretty footbridges, and indulge your senses in the gorgeous flower beds which catch the eye at every step.
The different gardens are a kaleidoscope of color and are internationally diverse with French, Chinese, Italian and American versions modeled on famous global gardens. They boast some spectacular fountains, colonnades and statues. A personal favorite is the Chinese garden with fabulous and skillfully crafted wood and glass work.
There are constant delights and surprises, with leafy lanes giving way to swamp-like forest areas, then hosts of orchids and bamboo groves, flower covered walls and twisting pathways through more greenery. If all the walking proves too tiring, then you can jump on the park’s mini train which carries people around the park.
While most visitors seek relaxation and sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the city. Suan Luang also caters for the more active with plenty of space for cyclists and joggers. In addition, there is a sports center with a swimming pool and tennis court.
Bring your own food and stretch out in the many picnic spots while gazing at the lake, or if you prefer, there is a fixed restaurant in the center of the park. Inside and outside, there are also more stalls and kiosks selling food, both savory and sweet items. There are ample seating areas and play facilities for children.
Despite its size, jaw-dropping beauty and historical importance, the park is patronized by mostly locals and you will see relatively few tourists. Perhaps its best kept as it is, a welcome, uncrowded oasis and entry fee is only 10 baht per person. We will be back!
Suan Luang Rama IX Park
Sukhumvit 103, Suan Luang, Prawet
Open daily from 5am to 6pm.