Thursday, April 12, 2007

Lumphini Park, Bangkok, Thailand Thusday April 12, 2007

On several occasions, while riding through Bangkok, we have passed a large park which is not far from the US Embassy. We had been told that it is very special, and we have seen people exercising there and participating in tai chi classes. So yesterday, we decided it was time to explore the park for ourselves.

The name of the park is Lumphini, pronounced "lump-he-knee" (the u is pronounced as "oo" in look). We have discovered that the "p-h" combination seen frequently, is not pronounced as it is in English. Rather, the "p" is the end of the one syllable and the "h" is the start of the next.

We had arranged with a tuktuk driver to pick us up at 9AM, but he never showed, so we caught a cab to go to the park. It is an incredibly beautiful park, very well maintained, and very peaceful. It is easy to get lost in the peacefulness despite the fact that it is obviously in the middle of a large and very busy city. There are very few formal plantings. Most of the park is done in a casual style. While we were there we saw at least 50 workers, most with brooms and baskets, raking the lawns and sweeping the streets, while others were pruning trees and watering. The coarse brooms they use work equally well as rakes or any kind of broom. Although the style and purpose are quite different, it is comparable in beauty to the botanical garden in Hamilton, Bermuda, which until now had been the most beautiful park or garden we have seen.

There is a lot of water in the park, in the form of canals and lakes. There are large multi-plumed fountains in the large lakes, and smaller ones in the canals. There were some amazing trees there, most notably some immense fan palms. We were also intrigued by a purple-flowered tree that looks very much like a crape myrtle, except with larger flowers and much larger leaves. We also had the opportunity to observe a number of different birds, most of which we have subsequently been able to identify. One we saw was the common myna, which had some of the ugliest babies we have seen. The ugliness is probably due to their almost bald necks.

Of the wildlife, by far the most interesting was the huge lizards we saw. A visitor to the park was feeding the first one we saw. It looks very much like a standard lizard but much larger; the smallest one we saw was probably about two feet long. All the others were bigger than that, with the largest being at least 5 feet long (the one in the photograph). The one pictured behaved in a way that reminded me of a cat, rubbing its cheek on the trunk of the tree. It was watching us as closely as we were watching it. A woman we talked to said the lizards are related to crocodiles, but they have no teeth and are harmless. When we saw the lizards swimming, we were reminded of our floating market tour guide who told us about all the tickets available for a "swimming with the crocodiles" excursion. The lizards seem to be equally at home in water or on land; they swim with their heads above the surface of the water, so you can see them coming.

The roads in the park have markings to tell you how far you have walked or jogged, and there are also bars for stretching located throughout the park. There is also a good-sized play area for children, as well as a senior citizens' recreation center. There were many unique granite benches, and a few marble ones. We also saw several nice sculptures, and an amphitheater.

In all, we walked around the park for about 1.5 hours, enjoying every minute of it. At the end we were able to flag down a tuktuk to take us to our next destination, so we have fulfilled our goal of riding in a tuktuk. On a hot day, they are a great way to go, because the breeze is far better than air conditioning. We would gladly return to the park for both the exercise possibilities and its great beauty.

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