I love when total opposites come together in harmony. The juxtaposition of bucolic and burghal is one of my favorite dualities. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of seeing skyscrapers loom over trees while ensconced in the green, leafy heart of a parkland. So it should be no surprise that Lumphini Park, the largest park in all of Bangkok, is one of my favorite places in the city.
Plus, it’s a great place to take a nap.
Bjorn and I usually head to Lumphini Park after the oh-so-hard work of playing with adorable kids at the Thai Red Cross Children’s Home. (This week I played with a pleasantly plump little girl who was a good eater. After she had finished her generously-portioned lunch, she kept looking down into her empty bowl expectantly, as if willing more food to appear. I had to sing “meal time’s over” before she got up from her chair. But anyhoo–)
Lumphini Park has wide expanses of lawn and so many trees it makes finding an unshaded spot a nigh impossibility (although one still has to be cautious; sprinklers come on at random moments and patches close to the pavement are usually quite soggy.) Plenty of people are around, and guards are never very far away, so it’s fairly safe (but the usual precautions of keeping your possessions close/attached still apply. Take a nap, not a leave of your senses.)
If lying down on grass is not to your liking, there are plenty of benches upon which to rest your bones. Although I believe the official policy is that you cannot put your feet up on a bench, most of the park personnel will turn a blind eye, unless you are in a very public spot (as I found out when I decided to stretch out in plain view on a bench in front of the library.) The stone benches on Floating Island, however, are quite comfy and secluded enough to guarantee a nigh undisturbed 40 winks (yes, the park is big enough to have its own island within.)
I wouldn’t recommend overly long naps though, as it not only increases the chance that you will be stumbled upon by park personnel, but also by park denizens that have grown curious about your prone form. Case in point: Bjorn and I woke up from a refreshing hour’s slumber in a pavilion to discover that a water monitor lizard was no more than 3 feet from his head. Yes, a monitor lizard; aka hia in Thai; aka Godzilla’s third cousin once removed from a marriage on his uncle’s side.
Water monitor lizards are ginormous — they are between 4-6 feet long, but can grow to be almost 10 feet long and weigh more than 110 pounds, according to Wikipedia. The water monitors roam freely throughout Lumphini Park. Tourists come flocking with their cameras whenever they appear, and the lizards, I must say, are quite obliging about pausing and posing for pictures.
Besides being huge, comfortable around humans and everywhere, they are also carnivorous. They eat fish, rats, birds, carrion: basically anything they can get their claws on. So waking up to find a monitor lizard in close proximity to one’s head is no laughing matter (although of course we did— as soon as we jumped up, shrieked and ran a safe distance away.)
If an outdoor siesta with or without possibly scaly intruders is not your thing, there’s always the library. The library here is sheltered, quiet and importantly, air-conditioned. With comfy chairs and encyclopedias being about the only books in English, conditions are just about perfect for nodding off. However, guards are vigilant and quick to catch delinquent dozers; I would guess there’s only a 10-15 minute window for torpidity.
Of course, some people actually go to the park for wakeful activity, such as exercise (shudder). For those interested in working themselves into a sweaty mess (aside from what the heat and humidity have already done), Lumphini Park has an area that looks like Venice, Calif.’s Muscle Beach (Asian edition), complete with men in narrow tank tops, bulging muscles and surprising small heads. Large numbers of people bike, walk and run around the track that loops the park. At dusk, hordes gather to do aerobics to pounding dance music and the overamplified commands of a wiry instructor. Anyone can join, as long as you pay the fee afterward (I’ve only been a spectator, but from what I’ve seen, it looks like people pay about 20 baht.) The park also houses a fitness center and a swimming pool; membership to the fitness center is a measly 40 baht A YEAR.
That being said, you’ll still probably find me on a bench in a fully-shaded spot; well, you’ll see my feet hanging over the edge, at the least. If such is the case, please do not disturb; there are plenty of other good napping spots, so go find your own.
(Unless you see a smallish dinosaur headed my way. Then please do disturb. And quickly.)