Sunny side of the street

Make sure to grab your hat when traversing Bangkok's newly opened Chao Phraya Sky Park

A bird's-eye view of the Memorial Bridge running parallel to Phra Pok Klao Bridge and the newly opened Chao Phraya Sky Park. (Photo by Krit Promsaka na Sakolnakorn)

The trees are still young. The shade is rare. When you walk on the first public park built over the Chao Phraya River, you will need not only your sunglasses but also a hat or an umbrella.

Chao Phraya Sky Park is the official name, which was announced a couple of weeks ago. Before that the project was known as Phra Pok Klao Sky Park. The elevated park was converted from the unfinished Lavalin Skytrain project, built in 1984. It is located between the in-and-outbound lanes of Phra Pok Klao Bridge. The bridge runs parallel to Memorial Bridge (Saphan Phut). It connects Chakkraphet Road in the Burapha Phirom area on Phra Nakhon side to Prajadhipok Road in Somdet Chao Phraya area on Thon Buri side.

The structure of the electric train track was abandoned for more than 30 years until 2016 when the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) announced its "Bangkok 250" plan to improve the image of the capital for the coming 250th anniversary in the year 2032.

The BMA's Department of City Planning and Urban Development commissioned the Urban Design and Development Center (UDDC) of Chulalongkorn University to design the elevated park.

The total investment is about 122 million baht. Over a year the abandoned electric train structure became a public space. It covers 22,400m². The length is 280m and the width is 8.5m. It features a decorative garden and leisure spots.

According to the BMA, large or tall trees could not be planted due to the physical limitations of the bridge. The BMA instead selected local varieties including ton makok nam or hog plum trees and bush plants like cha khoi (Siamese acalypha), ya nuad maeo (kidney tea plant) and ton rak (crown flower plant). The official opening of the park is today.

The Chao Phraya Sky Park is a pedestrian bridge connecting the King Prajadhipok Park on the east bank of the river on Phra Nakhon side with the Chaloem Phrakiat Forest Park on Thon Buri side. The project has lifts to facilitate the elderly and those who use wheelchairs on both ends. (Photos by Apichart Jinakul)

My trip to explore the attractions around the Chao Phraya Sky Park started at Museum Siam on Sanam Chai Road. It is easy to access the site because the Sanam Chai subway station is located right at the entrance gate of Museum Siam.

Since May 19 when the museum resumed its service after the easing of Covid-19 lockdown, it limits visitors to 50 per round. Be warned that you may need to wait. My waiting period was about an hour.

While waiting, you may sit in its air-con waiting area, a coffee shop or in its garden, or see an outdoor photo exhibit.

From the museum, it is a short walk to Pak Khlong Talat, the largest flower market in Bangkok. The fragrance of lilies may hit your nose and make you turn around to find the source. You will also come across shops selling numerous types of orchids with the flowers ranging from tiny to big ones. Some shops sell a bunch of roses as cheap as 50 baht. If you would like to offer jasmine or marigold garlands to the statue of King Rama I since you will pass the monument on the way to the bridge, you can find the beautiful garland with prices starting from only 10 baht.

Next to the statue of King Rama I and in a BMA public park on Saphan Phut Road is where the entrance to Chao Phraya Sky Park is located. You may take a staircase or an elevator to the pedestrian bridge. You may expect to see a beautiful view of the Chao Phraya River but your view will be blocked by a tall mesh fence, but it is there for a safety reason, and also by Phra Pok Klao Bridge.

Wearing a face mask is required when you visit Museum Siam. It is so important that even its 4m-high Nang Kwak, a beckoning lady and a figure believed to bring good luck, also wears a face mask. ‘Decoding Thainess' is still the core of the exhibitions until the end of December. It tells stories of Thailand and Thainess from the past to the present. (Photos by Arnun Chonmahatrakool)

But walking across the elevated park and the Chao Phraya River is a memorable experience.

After crossing the bridge to Thon Buri side, you may continue on foot to Wat Prayurawongsawat to see the Phra Borommathat Chedi, the bell-shaped white stupa that houses Buddha relics. The structure was awarded the Unesco Asia-Pacific Heritage Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation in 2013.

If you still have energy, you may walk further to Wat Phichaya Yatikaram and to the Princess Mother Memorial Park on Somdet Chao Phraya Road.

You may consider cycling the route. Be reminded that while using the Chao Phraya Sky Park, you are not allowed to ride your bicycle but you can walk it to the other side.

Within walking distance from the elevated park on the Thon Buri side, the Princess Mother Memorial Park is a well-known attraction and also the pride of locals. Located on Soi Somdet Chao Phraya 3, the park was built in 1993 as a memorial to the modest childhood of the late Princess Srinagarindra, or the Princess Mother of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (King Rama IX). Thai people also called the princess “Somdet Ya”, meaning the princess grandmother. The park is situated in a 4 rai plot of land donated by the former owners, Daeng and Lek Nana, to King Rama IX who later granted ownership of the land to the Chaipattana Foundation. The park houses a life-size sculpture of the princess, a replica of her house, and an exhibition zone telling the story of the princess and the community. The park also houses an art gallery, a library and the remains of walls and housing units of servants of Chao Phraya Sriphiphat Rattana Ratchakosa Thibodi (Pae Bunnag). He was the minister of trade during the reign of King Rama V. (Photos by Arthur Jones Dionio & Karnjana Karnjanatawe)

Next to the entrance of Chao Phraya Sky Park on the Phra Nakhon side is the Praisaniyakhan. It is a colonial-style building that used to be Bangkok's first post office. The eggshell colour structure was rebuilt in 2003 after the construction of the Phra Pok Klao Bridge. Praisaniyakhan opened in 2009 as a museum. (Photo by Karnjana Karnjanatawe)

Since the BMA reclaimed footpaths on both sides of Pak Khlong Talat from flower vendors a couple of years ago, it is easy to navigate around Bangkok's largest flower market. You may find many choices of local and imported flowers in Talat Songsoem Kasettakon Thai or the Thai Farmer Promotion Market of the Interior Ministry and the privatelyowned Yodpiman market. Both markets house fruits and fresh vegetable shops. (Photos by Karnjana Karnjanatawe)

The monument of King Phra Buddha Yodfa the Great, or King Rama I, was built in 1932 at the foot of Phra Buddha Yodfa Bridge, or the Memorial Bridge. The idea to build the monument and the bridge was initiated by King Prajadhipok, also called King Phrapokklao (King Rama VII) to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Bangkok. The statue was designed by Prince Naris, the son of King Mongkut (Rama IV) and the master artist of Rattanakosin, and sculpted by Silpa Bhirasri, renowned Italian artist and founder of Silpakorn University. (Photos by Karnjana Karnjanatawe)

Located on the Thon Buri side, Wat Prayurawongsawat, also known as Wat Prayoon, is a riverside temple built during the reign of King Rama III by Somdet Chao Phraya Borom Maha Prayurawong (Dit Bunnag) in 1828. The temple was completed in 1836. Locals also call the temple Wat Rua Lek, meaning the steel fence temple. It was because Somdet Chao Phraya Borom Maha Prayurawong ordered the railings with a weapon design including spears, battle axes and swords from England to offer to King Rama III. He thought the steel fence would protect the palace. The king, however, did not like the idea so Dit asked to trade the heavy fence for its weight in sugar. He used the fence for his temple instead. The highlight of the temple is the 60.5m-high white pagoda and the adjoining hall. It houses a museum displaying a large number of old Buddha images and precious objects found inside the stupa and donated by locals. Visitors are allowed to go inside the stupa to pay respect to Buddha relics and to see the restoration of the bell-shaped stupa. In 2013, it received a Unesco Asia-Pacific Heritage Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation. (Photos by Karnjana Karnjanatawe)

Wat Phichaya Yatikaram or Wat Phichaiyat is an old temple on the Thon Buri side. Believed to be built during the Ayutthaya period, the temple was renovated during the reign of King Rama III by Somdet Chao Phraya Borom Maha Pichaiyat (Tat Bunnag). The temple's main ubosot was built in Chinese style and houses an ancient Sukhothaistyle seated Buddha image as the principal sculpture. Another highlight is the large white pagoda compound. The main pagoda houses four seated Buddha images, the Buddha's footprint and the ashes of ancestors of the Bunnag family. (Photos by Karnjana Karnjanatawe)

TRAVEL INFO

  • To visit the Chao Phraya Sky Park, public buses that stop at Saphan Phut bus station are nos.8, 73 and 73Kor. An alternative is to take an express boat ride and get off at Saphan Phut (Memorial Bridge) pier. If you ride a subway, the closest MRT station is Sanam Chai. Then walk about 700m from the station to the Chao Phraya Sky Park.
  • Museum Siam is open every Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm. Entrance fees are 100 baht for an adult and 50 baht for a child. Visit museumsiam.org for more details.
  • The Princess Mother Memorial Park is open daily from 7am to 5pm and the museum operation hours are from 9am to 3pm. Admission is free. Visit theprincessmothermemorialpark.org for more information.