Suan Rod Fai Park – A Wonderful Park in the City

Near Chatuchak Market there is a great place for jogging, biking, swimming, playing tennis or having a family picnic. It is best known as “Suan Rod Fai”, or Train Park, by the Thais and there are several train artifacts lying around.
The park is a converted golf course which the BMT changed into a public park. Now it is a popular spot for joggers and bikers to go, especially in the mornings, to get a good workout. It is also a great location for families to spend the day. There a several playgrounds in the central area of the park, a pool, a butterfly garden and nice lakes to look at. There a many large trees which provide a shady place to sit and relax.
There is a wonderful 3 kilometer paved bike path that goes around the perimeter of the park. Even if you don’t have a bike or want to bother transporting it, bikes can be rented for as little as 20 baht for the day. The selection varies from toddler sized bikes with trainning wheels to typical bikes with baskets, mountain bikes and tandem bikes.

Pizza Bay Restaurant in Chatuchak Market

In the artist section of Bangkok’s weekend market is a funky corner filled with interesting galleries. After browsing the different shops in the area, you can stop for a bite to eat at The Pizza Bay Restaurant. The restaurant has a selection of pastas and pizzas as well as a few Thai dishes. There is a real pizza oven on site so you are garuanteed a tasty pizza, hot from the oven.
I took a moment to sit at The Pizza Bay and watch the people walking by. The thin crust pizza was delicious and the French fries were perfect. Th atmosphere was relaxing and matches the eclectic surroundings in the artist section.

Bangkok is Virtually Empty!

For a few months now, I’ve noticed a significant difference in the number of people frequenting my favorite weekend market, Chatuchak. My regular parking lot is now half empty instead of packed and as you walk in the narrow aisles of the market, I don’t get pushed around nearly as much. In fact, the wider streets seem relative empty and the number of foreigners seems smaller. Of course, tourists do tend to come in waves and sometimes there are more tourist than others, but the crowds just didn’t seem as bustling as they normally are.

After week after week of low attendence at Chatuchak, I began to wonder if this isn’t a sign of the global economies weakening and its effect on tourism and shopping. The fewer number of tourists can be a direct effect of economic downturns in the US, Europe and even other Asian countires. The fewer number of Thai shoppers can also be explained by the crunch felt by locals as gas and food prices increase and the cost of all goods and services increase as well. Perhaps staying home is the wisest choice when simply leaving the house costs so much and money is tight.

As time progress though, I noticed the lack of shoppers in other markets around Bangkok and even on the streets of Bangkok themselves. And while, I’d never go so far as to call Bangkok a ghost town by any means, there still is a feeling of openness in Bangkok’s vast concrete jungle that was never there before.

Where are all the Bangkokians? Have they lost their regular appetite for shopping? Is it possible that everyone has fled to the countryside during the summer school holidays? Did the workers go home for Songkran and decide not to come back? Will the number of people out and about in Bangkok rebound when the school term begins?

It seems that I will find out the answers to my questions soon enough as most Thai schools will start in the next week or two. As university students flock back to their tiny flats in Bangkok and families return from their summer holidays, many more people will be in Bangkok have been in the past two months. However, it will interesting to see if there is a dramatic change in the number of cars on the streets and shoppers in the markets in the weeks to come.