Facelift plans for Lumpini Park
Regulars delighted at city vision to revitalise 'neglected' meeting place
Surrounded by skyscrapers in a wealthy and conveniently located part of the city, Lumpini Park -- also known as "Suan Lum" and considered an oasis in the heart of Bangkok's central business district -- will celebrate its centenary in 2025.
In the meantime, the park, with its broad trees, ponds and fields, will be renovated to give city dwellers a better experience when they want to escape the hustle and bustle of Bangkok and find some serenity.
Every day you can see people of all ages from wise elders practising tai chi, sweethearts lounging by the lakeside, to nine-to-five workers craving nature and physical exercise, flocking to this green sanctuary from dawn to dusk.
GETTING FIT: A man pushes a pole as part of his stretching exercise at Lumpini Park.
"Lumpini Park is more lively than any other public park in Bangkok," said Somsup Athikomrungsarit, 74, who has been a regular visitor for 14 years since she retired.
She said there are many choices of activities and visitors are more engaged with each other than in previous years as they join the various clubs available.
Ms Somsup, however, voiced concerns the elderly might fall over on the uneven road within the park. Her friend Vinai Tangsakulpituk said there should not be any collection of parking fees around the area.
Wailaiwan Charuthan, 84, said she comes alone to walk in the morning many times a week. When she was a student, Lumpini Park was where she enjoyed coffee and snacks with her friends.
"Thirty, forty years ago, young men and women flirted at Lumpini Park," she said referring to pedal boats as a popular activity.
Kanchana Limpiviriyajit, 75, regularly comes to practise tai chi early in the morning for and has done for many years. She also stays on to enjoy tea, snacks and chatting with her friends at the Sieng Leng Tai Chi Lumpini Club until late in the morning.
"There are many clubs here," she said.
"Most members of the clubs voluntarily pay membership fees annually. Those who do not pay are fined. In the past, the fee [for her club] was 200 baht.
"We hire people to prepare the tea and clean the place. Nowadays 1,500 baht [for each member] a year is barely enough," she said, adding that the club also pays for electricity bills as it plays music for tai chi practice and brews teas.
SAY CHEESE: A man takes a selfie with a monitor lizard.
One of her friends said Lumpini Park is a place they always enjoy without fear of crime, except during political protests. Some tables and other assets of the club have been damaged or stolen during those times.
Tai chi trainer Chayaronnakorn Dissayasombat, 43, said: "Twenty years ago, Lumpini Park was like a Yutthaphop [land of warriors] as there were many clubs of eastern martial arts. Nowadays clubs for Muay Thai and others usually establish gyms outside. Only Chinese-style martial arts are still here," he said adding that more people come to run and ride bicycles.
A 59-year-old Swede identified as Albert said he had almost finished his four-week vacation in Thailand, but had earlier searched and found Lumpini Park as a place popular for Tai Chi practice.
He likes the park so he comes almost every morning he stays in Bangkok.
A group of 14-year-old students from NIST International School said Lumpini Park is a good place to hang around near their neighbourhood in Sukhumvit area.
PUMP IT UP: A water turbine rotates to pump oxygen into water to improve the water quality.
The Bangkok Post randomly talked to visitors of the park about the renovation plan, asking them to share their vision of what a revitalised Lumpini Park should look like.
So far, the refurbishment project has been welcomed by park users as it means better infrastructure is on the way.
"This historic park has been neglected for years, so it's good to hear that it's finally receiving some attention," said Singha Tanchareonkit, a retired teacher who has come to Lumpini Park on a regular basis for more than five years.
Mr Singha said he would like to see free public fitness machines, pathways and landscaping in the park brought up to date.
"The standard of a revitalised Lumpini Park should be matching with London's St James's Park or New York's Central Park," he said.
RELAXATION TIME: Women do yoga poses on their mats beside the pond.
Montree Boontanom, an office worker who has come to Lumpini Park at least three days per week for the past 10 years, said he would like to see running lanes in the park expanded as it is now often packed with runners.
"Other things that need to be improved are the condition of toilets and the swimming pool. The toilets here are not generally well maintained and clean, while the swimming pool is also too small," he said.
Chanikarn Plangklang, an employee of a private company, who frequently visits the park after work, said she wants the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration to install more street lamps and CCTV cameras to help visitors, especially women, can feel more safe when spending so time at the park.
FAST AND FURIOUS: A man practises movement training at the park.