There's more green space on the way too.
Benjakitti Park, the picturesque green space and lake next to Queen Sirikit Convention Center, welcomes plenty of runners, bikers and picnicers every day. But little do many people know there's actually another huge park hidden behind it.
Dubbed Suan Pa Benjakitti (Benjakitti Forest Park), this extension of the original park has been unofficially opened since August 2016. Yes, some six months. Although the main gate is still closed, visitors can access the park by walking through the carpark of Benjakitti Park and through Gate 2, where you'll find a metal fence guarding another massive (but empty) car park. Keep walking and you'll find a huge sign marking the entrance of Suan Pa Benjakitti.
Much as its name suggests, the 61-rai (97,600-sq-meter) space is home to clusters of trees organized in blocks to create small forests. Around these blocks, a concrete path provides space for runners and bikers. There is also a space dedicated to representative trees from every city in Thailand, with informative signage about their origin and importance.
When we visited last week, there were no more than five people using the park, however the size of the space combined with the huge carpark out front suggests this will be a popular destination when it officially opens—although no date has yet been confirmed.
The vast area owned by Thailand Tobacco Monopoly next to Queen Sirikit Convention Center totals 450 rai and has been earmarked to become a public park since the company agreed to move its headquarters to Rojana Industrial Park in Ayutthaya back in 1991. In 1992, 130 rai of it was turned into the current Benjakitti Park (though this is mostly water). The introduction of the 61-rai Benjakitti Forest Park is the beginning of a three-phase plan to further transform the remaining land. Phase 2 will see the addition of another 170 rai of greenery, and Phase 3 a further 89 rai. Although the dates of completion are uncertain, some reports are saying the whole park should be ready by 2020.
Much of the park's greenery is newly planted and thus not fully grown, but this is still great news for Bangkok which hasn't welcomed a new large-scale park in 15 years (the latest one was Wachirabenchathat [Rot Fai] Park in 2002). And there's more to come, with the city also set to welcome the 30-rai Chulalongkorn University Centenary Park this March as part of the university's 100-year-anniversary. Here's to celebrating more green spaces (and less malls) in Bangkok!
Benjakitti Forest Park is currently open from 6am-6pm every day. Check out the photos below for a glimpse inside: