What comes to mind when you think of Bangkok?
For me, it’s all about those extreme sensory reactions.
Pungent smells, saturated colours, searing noise.
It’s easy to lose sight of yourself amongst the chaos.
Nowhere in the city is this more true than the Sukhumvit Road, where poverty sits beside opulence and 10 baht street food competes with foie gras.
Don’t get me wrong – I love Bangkok’s extremes. They give the city life and always make for an interesting adventure.
But sometimes, a timeout is needed.
And this is where the city’s parks come in, providing respite from the pandemonium beyond their walls. They’re Bangkok on mute – you can see the neon and the skyscrapers, hear the traffic and smell the aromas of food and sewage but you’re in open space, with grass, lakes and a much lower concentration of people and things.
Time to take a breath.
Benjasiri sits next door to luxury Emporium and is probably the busiest of the three – there’s a community swimming pool, basketball and volleyball courts, and even the World Fellowship of Buddhists inside. Scattered around the perimeter of the central lake are 12 contemporary art sculptures lending the park an artsy, London vibe.
My favourite Sukhumvit park is Benjakiti, found on the Ratchadaphisek Road in Asok. A 2 kilometre track circuits the large, artificial lake and it’s the perfect space to declog the mind get some perspective.
There’s also something quite grounding about being amongst nature with soaring skyscrapers reaching up around the confines of the park.
Chuvit Garden is found between Sois 8 and 10 in Nana and is a rare peaceful, green spot in the notoriously loud and helter skelter neighbourhood. According to Lonely Planet, it’s got an interesting history tied up in politics and corruption.
You may think that these three fine parks are sufficient to serve the extent of the Sukhumvit Road, from Nana to Ekkamai – after all, there are lots of other smaller spots, gardens and nooks known only to locals which enhance the parklife of the area.
This is not enough.
Bangkok is only going to get busier, noisier and more extreme as the years pass.
The rate of urbanisation in Thailand is rapid as more and more people head to the metropolis.
We published a ‘before and after’ Sukhumvit photo journey last week showing what the area looked like just a few decades ago.
The differences are shocking.
What will Sukhumvit look like in another 20 years?
There will be more condos, more traffic and probably more shopping malls.
More and more people will need to take time out from the disarray of the city so we need to ask whether these three parks are going to be up to the challenge.
Can they retain their aura of calm while serving more people than ever before? Will they, perish the thought, be taken over to provide more land for luxury condos?
Parks enhance the civil and cultural life of a city. They’re the perfect antidote to chaos and noise.
As the concentration of chaos and noise on Sukhumvit increases, more parks will need to be created to mop up the mess.
The question is, will they be?
Sukhumvit’s future park hopes rest with responsible developers and proactive government policies. Let’s hope they recognise that with more urban development comes the need for more green spaces.
Where do you think would be the best spot for a new Sukhumvit park? Let us know in the comments!