Secret Bangkok – Chalerm La Park
The greatest hidden attractions are those that are right there in plain site. This week’s feature explores one such hidden Bangkok gem located right in the heart of modern Bangkok. Chalerm La Park is a small fenced in park right on Phayathai road, not far from Ratchathewi BTS station.
Not much is known about Chalerm La park. Its a small space that has been set aside in a tiny niche on the corner of Phayathai Road and Soi Si Surut. Originally, this space was occupied by concrete shop houses that were pulled down a few years ago. The park consists of a couple of concrete playing courts (usually used for takraw), some grass and manicured gardens, and half of it is nestled against old concrete shop-houses. This by itself is nothing to write home about. Chalerm La is a real gem in that it hosts some fabulous urban art. The park is a photographers heaven, and if you go at peak periods on weekends (ie from lunch to about 5pm) it will be filled with photographers and budding models having happy snaps taken in front of the graffiti artwork.
I tried doing some research about the origins of this park, but came up dry. The name itself comes from the nearby bridge (Chalerm La 56 bridge – one of the oldest bridges still remaining in Bangkok). I assume the old shop-houses that once inhabited this area have been acquired by the government and become public property. I am not sure who the artists responsible for the paintings are (and from what I found on some of the Thai websites, they seem to want to remain anonymous as they have added their work onto neighbouring buildings).
For photographers, afternoon is the best (but also most crowded time), as the setting sun’s rays shine onto the art work. You are also more likely to stumble upon a game of takraw in the afternoon and early evening. This is a great game to photo (or video) thanks to the aerial skills of the players. For those that don’t know, takraw is a South-East Asian game that is played very much like volleyball, except players hit the ball with their feet, head, knees and shoulders (and not the hands). Further, the ball is smaller than a volley ball and is harder and lighter (being made of woven rattan).
How to get to Chalerm La park – Get on the BTS and get off at Ratchathewi station. Exit to the south-east, and walk south along Phayathai Road towards the Chalerm La 56 bridge (the yellow bridge over khlong Saen Saab with the elephant head columns). Stay on the left (east) side of Phayathai Road, and instead of crossing the bridge, follow the side road until you see a black metal picket fence and lots of colourful graffiti. The park entrance is down the side street (Soi Si Surut – although there is no street sign for this street). Gates are open between 5:30am to 7:00pm. No pets allowed.
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