From Teak Houses to Green Elephants: A Beautiful Day in Bangkok

The following is a guest post from travel author D.R. Ransdell. If you’re interested in submitting a guest post, please check the guidelines on our contact page.

Although there are many famous things to see in Bangkok, it’s always lovely to have enough time to visit a few things that aren’t the top-rated #1 tourist attractions. For one thing, lesser-known sights aren’t as crowded. When they are, they’re usually full of nationals rather than tourists, so they’re full of great opportunities for people-watching.

Hence two suggestions for Bangkok are sights that are relatively close together but still off the regularly beaten track:  the M.R. Kukrit Heritage House and Lumphini Park. Kukrit was a Prime Minister. He also had royal ties. Perhaps it’s not surprising that he also had teak houses. Teak is a special wood that’s expensive but beautiful. It comes from a tropical hardwood tree. It’s an especially good choice for building materials because it’s water resistant. Kukrit’s “house” actually consisted of five of these little teak houses. The oldest was over a hundred years old! Each house had a different function, and it was easy to imagine the beauty of living in an area that had been so carefully designed. The houses were joined by small garden areas, so the whole property had a natural flow.

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This reminded me of the common Mexican building tactic of using a courtyard as the heart of the house and having all the additional rooms attach to it. When I lived in Mexico, I’d appreciated this architectural freedom, and I enjoyed seeing how that same kind of freedom played out in Thailand in a completely different way. For the visitor it was especially nice because you weren’t stuck inside; you toured one building, strolled through some more of the gardens, and then eventually toured another. One of the biggest houses had a fountain outside it, so for long minutes we simply stood in front of it, taking in the perfect combination of water, nature, and man-made architecture.

When we continued the day’s touring, we went down to Lumphini Park. It’s one of the few public spaces of its kind in Bangkok. It was created almost a century ago by King Rama VI. Today it serves as a great respite from the bustling of downtown and the heavy traffic on the overcrowded roads. It also gave this weary traveler the chance to clear her head; after a morning of taking in new images, you simply need time to absorb them. A stroll through a pretty green park is a useful aid.

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This park is especially nice. There’s a lake in the center, and had we been ambitious enough, we could have rented boats and paddled around. Instead we simply took a long swoop around the water. We stopped from time to time to photograph flowers or to sit in the shade and take a breaks. My favorite part of the park, though, consisted of elephants. Not live elephants, but delicately carved bush elephants that had been carefully arranged. The topiary was topnotch, with the elephants being easily identifiable even a hundred yards away.


We took pictures accordingly. Although we’d already been in Bangkok for 48 hours, we had as yet to see any live elephants. The bush elephants were gentle substitutes just as the combination of visiting the Kukrit House and Lumphini Park had made for a relaxing, rewarding travel day.

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