BANGKOK: in Search for a Greener Side

written by Coeur de Saigon

Traffic jams.

Pink taxis stuck in that traffic jam.

Sky Trains (BTS) rumble from above.

MRT speeds its way from underneath.

Tremendously huge chain of shopping malls.

Street vendors display their skewers with smokes.

That was my first impression on the 14-million-population city. It seemed unkind (at first) for a natural seeker, though rejoice metropolitan travelers. I had traveled to quite a few cities, from Tokyo to Singapore, Hong Kong to where I base, Ho Chi Minh City; I was okay with Bangkok.

Yet, Bangkok is unlike any cities I have been to.

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“Less” traffic is like this in Bangkok

In term busy traffic, Tokyo and Hong Kong cannot compete with Bangkok. The traffic here is indeed busy. It resembles Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, during high traffic hours in spite of the many “Sky” traffic and underground public transportation. Yet, the public transportation, specifically BTS, block the air flow, which is already limited inside the city. However late the night is, the temperature is high in the late of March. The jams (not the easy-to-listen-to tunes) and the weather created a unique fusion – the worst experience for almost everyone once they step outside of the convenient buildings, and fully air-conditioned malls.

So what do we have to do? – seek for parks and greener areas.

The green space is not enough, apparently; but, it is enough to be appreciated.

In this article, I will go through the green side of Bangkok. The side that governors need to cherish.

On my way from Don Muang Airport to the center, it was striking that trees ran along the road but lacked shades. The sun was unrivaled. The bus air-con ran its best to recover us from that uprising weather. Streets were busy as always. Passengers took their shades from buildings, the sky walk, as much as possible. I could not dare to walk into that sun beam without sun screen. While me and my friend hurried to put some on, the bus stopped. JJ Park station, it was.

We took a taxi to the hotel. Checked in. Took a long rest after having drank two bottles of water. We had a long lasting impression on Bangkok’s “hotness.”

In need of green

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Decorative Siam Park in Siam Paragon

“Green and more green.” – I thought. We did have a nice walk through Siam Paragon. Plants, for decoration purpose, were placed inside the mall. Trees are scares around it and NO SHADES. That was upsetting. Because the Sky Train was overhead, nothing could grow over that and prevent the train’s operating system. There was not a chance we could see any groves around the Sky Train, where we needed them the most.

The next morning waking up to Bangkok’s sun, we headed to Ekkamai Bus Terminal to go to Pattaya. On the way, there was harshly any trees to protect us besides our thin-air sun screen.

7/11 was my and my friend’s best friend. It gave us everything we need to survive in an urban city: food, water, hygiene, personal care and etc. But the top two features that kept us interest were their air-con and Slurpee, which gave our thirst peace for a certain amount of time. Yet, time per store we spent could not exceed half an hour before we threw ourselves into the sun.

Discover the urban greenery

We went to THREE places, which made our green hearts rejoiced: the house museum Jim Thompson House, the National Stadium Park and the unexpected Chatuchak Plant Market.

Jim Thompson House

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Mr. Thompson’s entrance to his house

Recommended by a friend, we decided to give this place a try, even though Jim Thompson is someone we hadn’t known. Until the visit.

Impression was made by the trees over Thai traditional home architecture. All of the area was covered in a fine tropical green. Lotus ponds lined the entering road. Vines whipped over the ticket office. Huge trees can be spotted by the entrance.

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Beautiful white and pink lotus pot

Paid 100 THB and we got the access to Mr. Thompson’s garden and home. We could stay for however long we want but the internal of the main house tour was required to be taken by a Thai guide.

The interior design and decoration were exquisite; yet, we could not manage to take any photos due to the camera restrictions. We didn’t let it disappoint us. We were happy about the restrictions because what we saw there was exclusive that the Internet could not touch.

So we enjoy the rest of our morning relaxing by the garden. Discovered a small alleyway besides the house next to the canal. Contemplated the 100-year-old tree. Learned about the biting fish in a pond. Walked over a pond filled with Koi Fish – Japanese carps. We did enjoy ourselves in Mr. Thompson’s mansion, and were both amazed by the serenity the place offered to visitors.

National Stadium Park

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View from the Sky Walk

Losing our direction on the Sky Train’s route, we hopped on and off the National Stadium BTS Station four times. We took some refreshments with bubble tea and remained still at the station for half an hour to recover from the midday’s sun.

We managed to have a glimpse on the park. Green and totally opposite to the buildings from afar. This skyline wasn’t the typical Bangkok’s but it’s still an interesting part of the city for me to see not only the dull skyscrapers but also an evergreen sight.

Chatuchak Plant Market

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Lotus seedling

Overly famous Chatuchak Weekend Market did overshadow this weekdays market. However, it is totally worth a visit. Though I could not buy any cheap clothes, plants and seeds were plenty. Those who are interested in gardening and farming, this is their paradise.

I went here in search of pumpkin seed for my friend in Vietnam. It had been a weird request at first. I was telling her “No one go to Bangkok and buy seeds!”  But with the diversified seeds packed in nicely packaging, it proved me wrong. I saw some travelers came here to buy all kind of flower buds, seedling, not to mention a variety of fruit seedling and crops. Bourgeois, farmers, gardeners all gathered here, shop so as to bloom their business of fruits, crops and flowers.

I managed to find the pumpkin seed with utmost ease. They didn’t speak English but with Google Translate everything was possible – of course you need a 3G tourism SIM card to make it usable.

The plant retailers cover the big circle of Chatuchak Market. Everything will be cleared up and get ready for weekends. But it didn’t prevent Chatuchak to sell the GREEN to people throughout the week.

More Green?

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Jim Thompson’s Garden

Bangkok sure will grow their trees, because they need it. The sun was just one side of the story in Bangkok. Pollution is day by day damaging this city. Don’t be surprised by the ugly fumes exhaling from car pipes. And don’t wonder why the Sky Train emits such radiant temperature from above.

Bangkok is moving forward with its modernization. Also the trees, the parks, the green space should follow simultaneously to balance and create a more sustainable living place.

I did enjoy Bangkok’s greens. But it wasn’t enough.

“Green and more green!” – I said.

Note from the author:

Certainly, this is a different approach I use for my writing. But I am glad to express my feelings towards the energetic city. It has to be a sustainable place for its citizens, and this point should be noted. If you’re a Thai living in Bangkok or somebody loves the city, share and help makes this city greener. We need more colors in our life, not the dull gray haunting us from above.

Anticipate my next post coming as regularly as Friday comes for weekends.

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