Thursday, October 18, 2012

PATHUM WAN: 02 - Chasing Baby Godzillas at Lumphini Park

So you are walking carelessly down the grassy path with your aviators on like you were some Thai celebrity indifferent to your surroundings when you suddenly look down for a bit and notice that you almost accidentally stepped on one of these, uhm, baby Godzilla thingies. They might as well call it the Lumphini Zoo. The biodoversity in the place is just amazing, abounding with different creatures such as crows, turtles, those monitor lizards already mentioned, and old people.

I like parks in general because walking has always been my thing, but Lumphini Park just sets the bar higher as it presents itself as a hybrid between a park and a zoo. If those reptiles decided to one day leave the comforts of their swamp and just rent an apartment at Sathorn, nobody would even stop them! I mean, there are fences alright but I think those swamps extend to the drainage system? When I saw the first one crossing my path, I was really very amused because it was my first time to see a gecko that large roaming around in the open. You see them in zoos alright but in a park? I thought it was someone’s pet, until I stalked it and it got annoyed and so it just opted for a dip where I could not follow. The bigger surprise was hiding in a tree stump.

Two Koreans were busy taking photos of that tree stump and so curiosity got the better of me, but before that I saw another giant lizard on the tree behind me. When I finally looked down the tree stump, there it was, way bigger but immobile. It was probably just resting there away from the heat. Surreal. So National Geographic! But if you thought that it was the largest of the bunch I saw that day, then you got it wrong, because I found their grandma on the other side of the park, and was she not huge! Or maybe she was a he? Who knows! Lumphini Park, you amaze me. Anyway, after seeing grandma Godzilla, I caught sight of a turtle on the other bank of the mini stream, staring at one of the skinny-dipping geckos. It moved fast for a turtle as it was already wading through the water when I tried to inch closer for a close-up photo.

Lumphini Park is huge and has several facilities such as a pool and a tennis court. And then you have a food court and the various food stalls spread out across the park. Of course we should not forget the monument in front of the park facing BTS’ Sala Daeng station. Both southern edges of this park have an MRT station, which is just enough proof that it is huge. Aside from chasing giant iguanas, the best thing to do here is to rest and take a stroll, which is what parks are really for. Or maybe you could initiate a conversation with the old people frequenting the place, or with the expat jogger breaking a sweat. Your choice, really. Or you could just go people watching!

By the way, the crows. Yes, the crows. They freak me out. You know how they hop around and make those noisy AH-AH-AH sounds? They remind me of those velociraptors from Jurassic Park. Good thing they did not gang up to attack me, or anyone else for that matter. To balance the colors, there is also an abundance of white birds that I no longer bothered to identify. They were not ducks, but also with long necks and legs. If you want swans, there are giant plastic ones that you could ride for a fee on the pond.

Pathum Wan is that area covering Siam Paragon to the north, Chulalongkorn University, and Lumphini Park. I guess you could refer to it as the heart of Bangkok. Siam Square could also be found here, which  I thought would be some sort of freedom park a la KL’s Merdeka, but turned out to be some sort of market with many stalls. Or is it? I no longer went there because it is a shopper’s paradise. I am no shopper. To each his own. I went to take a stroll, instead, at Chulalongkorn’s campus.

Chulalongkorn is one of Thailand’s prestigious universities. Their UP, perhaps? To me, the campus seemed like a toss-up between UP Diliman and Ateneo de Manila, not that big but full of traditional architecture that gives you the feeling of being part of something grand, which I guess most students need to foster an atmosphere conducive for education and inspiration. The place is kind of quiet despite being located in the middle of the city, and with how many malls and bazaars surrounding it. The students must be having a pretty good time. There is some good study and party balance to be found here.

It makes me want to renew that plan of mine a few years ago regarding the one-year intensive Thai program they have at Chula. I think it is already safe to say by now that I am in love with Bangkok, although I do not see anything substantial that that plan could contribute to raise my market value. Quite expensive too. Whatever. I love this city!

Anyway, if chasing wildlife or walking around a vast campus is not your thing, you might want to just shop. In that case, go north. Siam Paragon. Central World.  MBK. Siam Square. Shop until you drop. No, that is not a threat, but a fact. Those malls seem like they stretch all the way to nowhere. Make sure you are well-hydrated when you do decide to go around swiping those plastics!

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