Lumphini Park was created in the 1920s by King Rama VI on royal property. This place was a museum, where many products and natural resources were shown, then after World War I, it was rebuilt into the first park in Bangkok.In World War II the park was a Japanese Army camp. A statue of the king stands at the southwest entrance to the park. It was named after Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha in Nepal, and at the time of its creation stood on the outskirts of the city. Today it lies in the heart of the main business district and is in the Lumphini sub-district, on the north side of Rama IV Road, between Ratchadamri Road and Witthayu Road.
Lumpini Park appeals to people of all ages today, from wise elders practicing tai chi, sweethearts lounging by the lakeside, to nine-to-five workers craving fresh air and physical exercise – and every other shade in between. The park is home to ever rarer indigenous flora, a forest park, and some quirky residents like the water monitor lizards… Looming beyond the immediate green, glimmering city skyscrapers punctuate the scene. A bright and early morning stride or at dusk is the best time to go see grown-ups at play. On weekends, the space is animated by families and the cheery sounds of children. Some of the colourful recreational pursuits at the park include rowing, paddleboats, and a fun outdoor gym.
Before sunset you can sweat it out at free open-air aerobics sessions to high-energy techno tunes. There is also a basketball court if you want to shoot some hoops. Often, local jazz outfits or even a classical orchestra make for fine (and free) late Sunday afternoon entertainment. Mats can be hired for 30 baht, and light snacks are readily available from the closest hawker’s stall. The gardens are, however, spacious enough to allow a contemplative moment. A place unlike any other in Bangkok, you can kick off your shoes and let your feet touch the cool, morning-dewed grass. Watch (or join) the local fitness fundis in their various attempts to get the blood flowing – from jogging, cycling and stretching, to fencing, tai chi, yoga and ballroom dancing under a pavilion.
If a leisurely stroll is more your style, just follow the maze-like pathways and let nature do its magic. There are also more sheltered niches, where you could read a book, meditate or have a picnic. While the young and boisterous can go climbing jungle gyms, ride the seesaw or play on the swings, it is just as easy to catch a nap in one of the shady dens surrounded by trees and refreshing foliage. Don’t be alarmed if you come across some of the park’s permanent ‘inhabitants’… Slinky reptiles, about the size of teenage crocodiles, surreptitiously wading out of the pond to sunbathe, squirrels doing acrobatics in the treetops, palm-sized mollusks making pilgrimage across the lawn – these are a few of God’s creatures you might encounter on a visit to the park. Not quite what you’d expect to find in a metropolis of this magnitude, regard them as urban survivors of ancient Siam. Note that while the aforementioned reptile, known as the water monitor lizard, might not be of the man-eating variety, it is advisable not to hand-feed him either!
On the subject of food, Lumpini Park never fails to impress. Apart from food vendors camped outside the gates near the Rama VI statue, cooking up some tasty variations of ‘pad thai’ (a Thai noodle dish) and ‘jim joom’ (meat and vegetable hot pot), the weekend fresh market is where you will find a lineup of market stalls selling everything from fresh seafood to fruits and vegetables to ready-to-eat Chinese grubs like deep-fried turnips and vegetable patties. And if you’re up for a chlorophyll fix, try the wheatgrass juice – a local contribution to the detox industry. Lumpini is situated perfectly, framed by the roads Rama IV and Ratchadamri, (south and west) as well as Sarasin and Wireless (east and north, respectively). It is within a short walking distance to both Lumpini and Silom underground (MRT) stations.