Day 31: A sunny Sunday morning in Bangkok. Over breakfast this morning, we decided on another good leg-stretching 20km walk today. We checked out some online maps, and picked out a interesting looking park to walk to called Rama IX, southwest of the district we’re staying in.
Walking in a straight line has never been our thing – we both have some inherent need to know what’s lurking in the back streets, definitely a bit of FOMO going on there. We weaved our way in and out through dusty laneways and run-down streets, all chockers with people out and about wandering, meeting friends and family, and selling and buying food from market stalls.
As we steered back onto the main road, we spotted four girls dressed up in what we assume to be national dress or costume dress – looking very glamorous for a Sunday morning. They posed for a quick photo, them climbed into a taxi and off they went to wherever they were going (language barrier means we couldn’t ask, and will never know).
The map we were following showed a small pathway alongside the river, so we decided to give it a go. It was pretty narrow and very rickety in parts, with a railing on one side and a small risk of falling into the river on the other. Apart from a small family group taking a photo, we were the only people doing the river walk – pretty interesting given we had just left some insanely packed streets.
We heard a bell ringing, and looked down to see a lady paddling past in a small boat, selling sausages on sticks and other food items. She weaved in and out of ferry wharves as she went along, stopping occasionally to hand over food and chat with the locals.
There were a number of small ferry wharves dotted along the riverbank – some just looked like piles of wood nailed together, others a little more sturdy. At one of them, a monk was waiting for the river ferry to come along. It arrived while we were passing – the monk jumped on and the ferry continued on its way down the river – what a great, easy way to travel.
The vibrant flame trees were still in bloom along the way, though they’re starting to shed their red petals – their flowering season is April to June. We found ourselves humming Cold Chisel’s Flame Trees song as we went along, “Oh the flame trees will blind the weary driver, And there’s nothing else could set fire to this town”.
A little further along, we passed an entire floating shop – a boat that has all sorts of goods on board including sweets, crisps, drinks and biscuits. It sure beats a trip to the supermarket.
We reached the end of the river path, and steered back out onto a busy street. It was typical of the roads we’ve become used to here – a confusing mix of new and old, rich and poor – you can look across the street one way and see an exclusive gated community, and right behind you there’s a wooden shack with people cooking over open flames on the pavement. How it will ever all get straightened out (or indeed if it ever will), who knows.
Further along Jim spotted a bizarre English themed mini village, called Pickadaily Bangkok Community Mall (whether Pickadaily is a typo or intended, we have no idea).
The eccentric village features lots of different cafes and restaurants, with mock Tudor houses, a gigantic chess game (Jim pointed out there weren’t enough squares to complete a game – regardless, there were only 3 chess pieces, so a game wasn’t happening any time soon), and stores with English plaques nailed outside, including Piccadilly Square. All very random. Must research that one at some point.
We continued on our way, and eventually reached Rama IX park. There were a few frustrations finding the entry gate – we found ourselves walking up and down wrong roads for a bit and through a closed market, but got there in the end.
Rama IX is fabulous. It’s the largest green space in Bangkok, with huge grounds featuring a botanical garden, a massive lake and gardens inspired by countries around the world. The park was built in 1987 to celebrate King Bhumibol’s 60th Birthday and is a popular hangout for locals to escape the crazy city streets. The park also has a Royal Pavilion, a Geodesic dome housing a huge range of cacti, and a number of other buildings and gardens to spend the afternoon wandering around.
We also discovered pretty quickly there are heaps more water monitor lizards in the park too – some were way bigger than the ones we saw at Lumphini Park the other day. At one point a two metre creature ambled across the pathway in front of us. We saw others, up to three metres long, just sitting around the banks of the lake or splashing in the water. Lil spent a good deal of time scanning the grass before daring to walk over it – better safe than sorry and all that. Beautiful creatures, but a little scary at the same time.
Towards the end of the afternoon, we heard rumbling and a massive storm started – heavy rain with crashing thunder and lightning. We darted into the cactus dome, and sat among the prickly plants with a bunch of other visitors, waiting for the storm to ease. It was short lived, so 20 minutes later we were able to venture back outside again.
It was time to head home, so we started the long walk to the nearest Sky Train station (7km from the park). We caught the train back to our local suburb, Ekkamai, then went to a local Japanese restaurant for dinner – another great meal.
In total we walked 30km today – our longest walk yet, and our legs are aching. Tomorrow we’ll take it easy and have a recovery day.