March 11, 2002

The City of Angels hosts some incredibly peaceful parks. Their serenity becomes even more emphasized by the chaos and noise existing outside of their perimeters. Until this year it never even crossed my mind to go hang out in a park other than my local one, but after a few nice afternoons exploring Bangkok’s parks, I must say I have become quite hooked on them. Parks make you forget about Bangkok for a while. Perhaps the hardest part is exiting them and reentering reality.

The most interesting feature of Bangkok’s parks is that if one were to ignore the greenery, he or she could become convinced that they were sitting in an international airport terminal. Members of almost every nationality go passing by. A good way to pass the time is to try to figure out what language fellow strollers are speaking.

For those interested in bird watching, you may be surprised that the need to go driving off into Thailand’s countryside with binoculars is not as necessary as you may110302k1.jpg think. The “tweet! tweet! tweet!” of feathered friends competes with the sound of planes passing overhead at times. If I were a bird stuck in downtown Bangkok, the first thing I would do is flap my way to a park, too.

Parks are also a good place to observe the mating rituals of teenagers. What better place to run off for some snuggling! Actually, after spending an afternoon observing young love in action, the author discovered that smitten females often choose popping their mate’s acne as a way to express affection. Hmmm.

Other park activities generally consist of napping, reading a book or newspaper, skateboarding and snacking. Sporting events such as jogging, volleyball, rollerblading and Tai Chi come to life in late afternoon. Fast-paced games of ‘takraw’, where a round wicker ball is kicked or head-butted over a volleyball net, is another sure thing. Stick around long enough, and group aerobics class is sure to arrive. Seeing all of the exercise going on can110302k2.jpg make me feel quite sloth-like, having given up the stuff as a birthday present to myself one year ago.

Many large city parks have small ponds. You can rent a boat or canoe and paddle around. For the less active, fish feeding or watching hundreds of children at play is another entertainment option. So is eating. What would a park be without hundreds of food vendors on hand to offer whatever kind of snack you could possibly be hankering for? And unlike in many other countries, cold beer can also be found for sale on the premises. If not, it is no problem if you bring in a few of your own.

Even in the quiet and remote parts of Bangkok, if you stroll around long enough, you are sure to find a park, but you don’t have to be a great city to host a park or two. Even the smallest of Thailand’s towns finds it necessary to have a park. Out in the middle of downtown nowhere, the city landscape often goes like this: small supermarket, market, restaurant, noodle stall,110302k3.jpg hardware store, petrol station, hotel, bank, post office, clothing stall, PARK! Sometimes they may only be five by five metres in total, but the city council is more than proud to have one. A great game to play if you have visitors and are in a town boasting a miniscule park, is to ask with a serious face, “Want to go for a walk in the park?” Proceed to bring them strolling through that small piece of semi-fenced in grass with a bench sitting in it and then say, “Well, that was it!”

And now to let you all in on a little secret. With alcohol venues being forced to close by 2 a.m. now, parks are becoming late night party spots. I had no idea about this until I was out way too late a few months ago with some friends visiting from America. We stumbled into a Thai park-bash in full swing. A singing competition was soon underway with Thai songs definitely winning the gold-medal and the American team making the locals wish they had brought along earplugs.

The party eventually moved to someone’s home. A stereo blasting Laotian music magically arrived on the porch and the author was lucky enough to participate in several free ‘ramwong’ (country dancing) lessons until she eventually ended up breaking her toe. I blame it entirely on my teacher: a man wearing an electric blue shirt with bright yellow bananas all over it. I was so distracted by the shirt that I could not keep track of my feet. My advice: no matter where you are in Thailand, track down the local park and sit in it for a while. You never know what will happen.

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