Bangkok’s Benjakitti Park is often referred to as the “lungs of the city”, which is ironic considering a good chunk of the park is set on land formally owned by a tobacco factory.
If ever a city needed a good set of lungs, it’s the Thai capital. Central Bangkok is not exactly overflowing with greenery – which is what makes Benjakitti Park, with its walking paths, cycle tracks and large lake such a breath of fresh air.
So join us as we escape the shopping malls and go for a micro hike in the middle of Thailand’s biggest city.
There’s not a huge amount of logistics involved in getting to Benjakitti Park (Also sometimes spelt Benchakitti Park or referred to as Queen Sirikit Park and สวนเบญจกิติ in Thai. And not to be confused with Benjasiri Park, which is much smaller, and lamer.)
Actually, I haven’t been to Benjasiri Park but I presume it’s lamer.
If you know how to read a tube-style map, you can get here. All you need to do is get yourself on the BTS or MRT and get off at BTS Station Asoke, MRT Station Queen Sirikit National Convention Center or the MRT Station Sukhumvit.
All three of these stations are a few steps from the public park.
Woah! Bangkok is full-on. I’ve been here a couple of times before but after a few years away from foreign travel, thanks to that absolute c-word that was the pandemic, my memory of Southeast Asia has faded.
As soon as my girlfriend and I step out of our very well-air-conditioned hotel in central Bangkok – seriously, bring a scarf – we were hit by the full-on assault on the senses that is the Thai capital.
First, the crazy humidity dulls your reflexes like a giant Muay Thai kick to the temple and then come the hawkers to capitalise on your woozy state.
“Hello mate, 50 baht for an hour. Lovely jubbly!” calls the overly friendly tuk-tuk driver with a full faux cockney-ish drawl. No thanks, geezer. We’re walkers. Have you not read this blog?
Then come the sticks of sizzling meat being waved in our faces – chicken, I think/hope. Sure, it would be rude not to. Beer? Yeah, go on.
By the time we reach the end of the road, we are fed, watered and very much ready to either retreat to the peace of our hotel room or escape downtown Bangkok and find an open space with some trees.
Now one of the many joys of being in Southeast Asia is how cheap transport is. If you want to take a cab, it’s not going to take months for you to pay off the debt. (London, I’m looking at you, here!)
So we could’ve hailed a Grab but where’s the fun in that?!
Bangkok has a world-class transport system, the BTS Skytrain and MTS will get you where you need to go. After unleashing my exquisite Thai on the ticket seller (by that, I mean I mimed “two” with my fingers for two tickets and pointed at the station on the map, we were away.
To get to Benjakitti Forest Park we hopped on the Sukhumvit Line to Asok and were met by a sea of masks. Everyone here, it seems, is still wearing masks. After arriving from Europe where most have their faces back out, 90% of Thai faces are still under wraps.
We felt a little strange being the only ones on the carriage with our faces on display. It felt a little like turning up for a fancy dress party without a costume.
After popping off the train we crossed a main road and walked the nifty 7min walk to the entrance to the park. Although given what we saw on the walk, it could’ve been very easy for us to lose a lot of time.
Between the station and the park was a new addition to the Bangkok scene, and one I fully recommend everyone check out – freaking weed shops!
These were not here the last time I was in town. I mean, Bangkok has never had a shortage of weed being sold or smoked. But not weed shops. This was new.
Thailand took the very sensible decision to decriminalise weed back in June 2022, and it seems those six months have been enough time for everyone and their grandmother to open a weed shop. There is one on every corner.
On this occasion, we decided to give the blazefest a miss as we were still recovering a little from the wonderful Wonderfruit festival near Pattaya, where I’d smoked enough to make Bob Marley himself proud.
However, I highly (gettit?) recommend the area between Asoke and Benjakitti as a smoke spot for anyone. And I’ll be back to sample the delights myself in the future.
Slightly regretting our decision not to stop for a toke, we arrived at Benjakitti Park and were met with a lovely view of swan boats swanning about on the large Ratchada Lake, the jewel in the park’s crown. Around it sat fountains, trees galore and rows of very pretty purple flowers.
This bucolic scene played out in front of the backdrop of imposing glass-clad skyscrapers. Quite a location and quite some spectacular views indeed.
(That’s not completely accurate…when we arrived at the park we were first met by a whole host of hawkers selling an array of food and drink. Upside being, this would be a great place to pick up some tasty snacks for your wander around the park.)
Just remember, Thai food can be spicy! Especially the snacks. Luckily there’s usually someone else hawking cold beers within arms’ reach.
Because I’m a hopeless romantic, we opted to wander arm-in-arm around the park’s central boating lake Ratchada (also known as Lake Rajada), taking in the views across the water.
But the park itself is so much more than the lake; there is a pretty big area to the west with dedicated spaces for a cycling track and walking paths.
There are play parks and skate ramps, a central pavilion ideal for getting your picnic on and even a large amphitheatre for outdoor shows. Alas, I hadn’t prepared a performance so we carried on strolling and having an altogether lovely time.
Located at the south end of the lake is the Sirkit National Convention Centre and near that is a building, now a museum I think, that was once home to Thailand’s government-run tobacco monopoly.
The park is located mainly on land reclaimed from the tobacco authority and was officially opened in 2006 to honour the 72nd birthday of Queen Sirikit. Hence the name of the nearby convention centre.
Thais do love their royals, definitely more than we Brits do. Maybe Harry can move here to get a bit of respect. Although the sun might not be great for his ginger complexion.
Anyway, I digress. As we walked past the former tobacco factory I couldn’t help thinking how nice it was that something that used to damage people’s health, such as cigarettes, has been taken over and repurposed as gardens to help people stay fit.
Quite the reincarnation.
“And they all go hand-in-hand, hand-in-hand through their parklife.” – Blur
Another of the joys of Southeast Asia is people-watching. Apartments tend to be small with big families so when people need to exercise or get a break from their mother-in-law, they will visit public spaces like parks.
Benjakitti Park is a huge outdoor exercise area for the locals of Khlong Toei District. It’s full of people jogging, bending, stretching, dancing, and doing every single body movement imaginable. If you’ve got the time, take a rest and just watch.
There is a nice callisthenics area. I unleashed a few dips but quickly bowed out when an 80-year-old-looking Thai man wandered over and banged out 30 reps before giving me the look of a challenge. Nope! Sorry, I’m not getting embarrassed by a grandad today, not in front of the missus.
I love these outdoor gyms. In SE Asia they are always super busy, usually with older folk. We have them in the UK too, but they are full of tumbleweeds or teenagers smoking. Probably cos the UK is cold AF most of the time, and teenagers are the only ones who can survive the temperatures.
The lake’s edge has a lot of seats mainly populated by older folk having chats and nibbing on tasty-looking snacks. While everywhere else seemed to be reserved for teenage girls with their tripods set up filming what I assume were TikTok dances.
Who knows, if you look closely at the next viral video you might see me wandering past in the background looking bemused. Shit! Maybe my bemused face is the next viral video. Confused sweaty white guy in the park meme!
We saw signs for bicycle rentals, and another sign chatting about the “Green Mile”. Which wasn’t a reference to the Tom Hanks film from the late nineties but a 1-mile pedestrianised track that links Benjakitti Forest Park to central Bangkok’s only other big green space, Lumpini Park. The second lung.
Exiting Benjakitti Park at its far northwest corner The Green Mile takes cyclists, joggers or walkers on a raised pathway following a canal, allowing them to avoid a lot of busy road crossings.
If we’d known it existed we definitely would’ve had a wander along The Green Mile but unfortunately, there were more pressing matters at hand. Sundowners.
“Bangkok, like Las Vegas, sounds like a place where you make bad decisions.” – Todd Phillips
The park stays open until 9 pm, which is nice as it means you can explore it once the heat has subsided a bit. We probably came a little too early in the day, as we had finished our loop around the lake just as the light was starting to get golden.
However, it did mean we’d completed our loop just in time to claim our reward, a rooftop cocktail at sunset.
In my experience, the best ingredient in any cocktail is a rooftop with a view. And Bangkok has hundreds, if not thousands, of rooftop bars and restaurants. It’s kinda Bangkok’s thing.
There are a bunch of bars near Benjakitti Park but we opted for ABar. One because I liked its no-nonsense name. And two, because it specialised in gin. And I like gin. It makes me grin and my head spin, and sometimes I end up in a bin.
Went a little Dr Seuss there didn’t I? Gin has that effect on me.
Bangkok has something for everything, the bar we opted for was a nice and kinda classy affair. But to get there we had to wander past the whole range of night-time offerings the Thai metropolis is infamous for. If you’ve ever been here you know what I’m talking about.
The old school “massage parlours” with “masseuses” lined up outside beckoning you in. The old white guy with young Thai girl bars. The red lights inside signal the glow of debauchery, the walls surely see the same story play out frequently just with different protagonists.
Not for me personally. But I’m not here to judge anyone or anything. Well, apart from hikes of course.
No adventure in Bangkok is ever complete without a drunken tuk-tuk ride home. Spilling out of ABar a little on the merry side we woke up a driver snoozing on the back seat of his chariot.
After a brief haggle, we were away. It’s funny how getting 50% taken off the original price can still feel like getting taken for a ride!
En route, our trusty charioteer missed a turn. Instead of taking the next one, he unleashed a frantic gear-crunching reverse back into on-coming traffic. A manoeuvre the like of which hasn’t been seen since the last Fast and Furious film.
He boshed backwards into a few barriers, unleashed a frantic 17-point turn and then immediately drove into the path of a bus. Thankfully the brakes were working on both sides.
Giving what looked like a rude hand gesture to the poor bus driver and a cheeky grin to us he sped off into the night. He dropped us off at the end of our road and in front of a pizza spot. Happy days.
This is a site about hiking and Benjakitti Park is not what you’d call a hike. It’s barely even a walk. More a stroll. An amble, even. Sure, you will get sweaty but only because it’s Thailand, it’s humid, and you can get sweaty standing still.
While it’s not a hike, Benjakitti Forest Park is the ideal spot for stretching those legs of yours when you find yourself getting cabin fever from your hotel room or you need to clear your head after overindulging in some rooftop cocktails.
Downtown Bangkok is overflowing with many things, but open green spaces are not one of them. Benjakitti and nearby Lumpini are your two options, and now they are handily linked by the Green Mile. Thanks, Tom Hanks.
Thailand is an amazing country full of full-on jungle hikey hikes but until you get out of the city, Benjakitti is one of your best options. So my advice, head on down and as you pass those new weed cafes give me a wave.
Until next time, happy ambles, you hiker heroes.
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
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