New park in central Bangkok gives Thais needed green space

BANGKOK (AP) — Torn with trees, ponds, plants and birdlife, a new inner city park is delighting residents of Thailand’s congested capital. Every day crowds come to Benzakitti Forest Park to taste the nature in the heart of Bangkok.

It is part of a campaign to create a greener, more livable Bangkok by 2030, which does so by bringing shade, peace and tranquility to the warm, quiet city.

Another park adjacent to the site was built in the 1990s, featuring a vast, man-made lake. But the new, semi-wooded, 41-hectare (101-acre) extension has captured the capital’s imagination. 12,000 people use its nature trails, walkways and cycle paths a day on weekends, snapping photos from its viewing platform to fill their social media feeds.

The site was previously home to the factories of the Kingdom of Thailand tobacco monopoly. A phased transformation began several years ago, and visitors started pouring in ahead of its planned official opening in August of this year. The rumble of machinery has stopped, to be replaced by birds and chirping frogs. Even the rumble of nearby traffic is barely perceptible.

“I love it,” said 44-year-old music teacher Lukachai Krichnoy, who declared his hatred of air-conditioned rooms and shopping malls. “I love the outdoors and the fresh air. Bangkok doesn’t have such big parks. I’m glad we have this beautiful place.”

The design mixes the old with the new. The architects retained more than 1,700 of the site’s original, mature trees, then planted about 7,000 others – most of them plants – to create pockets of forest throughout the park. As they grow, their leaves grow and spread, deepening the cover.

The park is already a hit with nature-lovers such as bird-watcher and photographer Somsak Jaitrong, who said he visits almost every day and has seen more than 40 species so far, though others have counted many more. .

“The way they have designed the park is very special because they have planted all kinds of trees here,” he said. “You know, birds go where there’s food, right.”

Water plays a central role. A series of ponds and islands create a wildlife-friendly, wetland environment and also act as a treatment system, filtering wastewater from nearby communities.

According to one of the designers, one of his aims was to rekindle the townspeople’s relationship with the natural world. The greenery of the park will increase and decrease with the seasons, just like nature.

Landscape architect, Chachanin Sung, said the green area can be more than just a place for running or jogging if it makes people more aware of the environment and promotes living in music with nature.

Surrounded by concrete and steel, the city’s residents currently enjoy only 7 square meters (75 sq ft) of urban green space per person, according to the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority.

It aims to increase it to 10 square meters (108 sq ft) by 2030 by planting more trees through a much-hyped park-building program.

But Bangkok’s real problem, one expert argues, is not the average volume of space, as much as its distribution. Showcase New Park highlights that point.

“Benzakitti Park (is) located in an area where the per capita green area is much higher than other areas. So, yeah, the park is great, so beautiful, I love it, but what about the other districts? Niramon Serisakul, director of the Center for Urban Design and Development at Chulalongkorn University, said.

“Should the BMA – I mean the government authority that owns the land – consider building such parks in other districts, where there is still a shortage of such space?” he said.

Six kilometers (3.7 mi) from the blissful surroundings of Benzakitti, Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River stretches another swath of greenery. At sunset, despite the roar of traffic, it is a magnet, providing sweeping views and a cool breeze.

The 280-metre- (919-foot-) tall Chao Phraya Sky Park was built two years ago from a bridge that was built but was never used. Bangkok needs more such creative use of abandoned and empty space, Nirmon argued, to more equitably address the lack of urban green areas.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: