The Best Places for Walking in Bangkok
Walking and Bangkok don’t always go hand in hand.
The worst way to come to this realisation is visiting the Thai capital in the middle of summer, possibly with kids, and maybe even with pushchairs. Not really having your bearings but nevertheless armed with a strong determination to get to know the place under your own steam — on foot.
Many visitors to Bangkok come with all best intentions of walking their way through the humid concrete streets of the SE Asian capital, backpacked up, only to find that the odds are not always fully in their favour.
A large proportion of the city streets of Bangkok are not entirely what might be considered ‘walker-friendly’.
It could have something to do with the temperatures that don’t often drop below 30 degrees C. In fact, humid is an understatement for the country in general, let alone the baking, dense, concrete thrall of the city.
On top of that you could find yourself coming under the blaze of a ridiculously strong tropical sun any time after 8 am in the morning, especially during the summertime. This may sound idyllic to anyone coming from colder climes, but I kid you not – it is NO fun when your clothes start to stick to you 5 minutes after hitting the pavement. This is not even Ibiza.
Is walking even an option in Bangkok?
Well it might be worth noting that the Thais generally will do anything to avoid walking.
This is why the motorbike taxis positioned at the end of every street corner do such a trade, even when mere 5 or 10-minute walks are involved. It is also why the public transport is packed to the brim, and the roads are chock full of annoyed and frustrated drivers.
And most high streets have issues likely to make your proposed route a little more challenging than you may have initially considered. The pavements are often broken and cracked, sometimes with ankle-wrenching or shoe-busting holes or sharp points.
The aforementioned motorbike taxis tend to take just about any route they see fit, including along the paths – in any direction – which is one of the main reasons for the broken slabs on most of the walkways that, although renewed annually, still suffer the same fate.
If you are one for ‘going by the book’ in your own point of origin it may not escape your attention entirely that there is no real ‘left’ or ‘right’ side of the path from which to navigate your way down the high street in Bangkok.
The majority of local pedestrians seem to hover somewhere in the middle, if not 3 across. ‘Giving way’ is obviously considered as some kind of weakness in Thailand, a fact not only obvious on the roads but also on the public footpaths.
But anyway – dramatic intros aside – walking is not totally out of the question, as long as you are at least aware of the above pointers and you can find a ‘walkable’ route.
Where there’s a will there’s a way, right? For sure – but the way is always that much more enjoyable when avoiding a few of the obvious downsides.
So where can I walk?
Actually there are plenty of options for walking in Bangkok.
As long as you take into consideration the heat, the time of day, the required pace, and potential hydration issues, as well as the fact that your average Bangkok high street or back street may not be strictly the best option – then you could find yourself on a most enjoyable walk.
And if you are not ‘going on a walk’ as such, then it is probably better to take a taxi (don’t forget the Grab application is your best friend when using 4 wheels in Bangkok).
Bangkok’s parks are undoubtedly the best option if you fancy ‘a walk’. It is somewhat more unlikely that you’ll run into oncoming motorcycles (although not impossible), and the greenery makes it slightly more breathable.
The reduced background noise makes it just that little bit easier to gather your thoughts, and once you step away from the densely-populated, often stressful crowds of the inner city, you’ll be so glad that you did. You may even go into full-on ‘appreciation mode’.
There are a few parks in Bangkok that many would find ideal for walking in compared to the street, but there are cyclists and joggers in large volumes to contend with at certain times of the day so we’ll go with probably the best option for walking here. Lumpini Park for instance, which is just at the bottom of Silom Road, is immaculate and nicely green. But it is a ‘downtown Bangkok’ zone, and doesn’t compare to the one we have here as recommendation.
Suan Rot Fai (Train Park)
This is one of 3 closely situated parks, and it is definitely hands down winner in terms of being the best for walking in. The Train Park is a bit more open and expansive than the city parks, and a little more out of the centre. There are long paths and plenty of shade, and it is a nature lover’s delight. Many bird-watchers come to this park and there is also a butterfly garden within it.
The Train Park is also one of the prominent jogging routes for many locals, usually in the early morning and the early evening, as is the smaller Chatuchak Park which has less shade, and shorter circuits. The 3rd park is the Queen Sirikit Park, a very manicured and peaceful affair which is more suited to a ‘Sunday stroll’ than a walk as such.
The Rot Fai Park is a bit more diverse in terms of walking.
The outer perimeter path spans 4 km, and although it is popular for joggers, it is quite wide compared to some of the other parks’ tracks, and thankfully a separate route and outside track for cyclists was devised a few years back.
The Suan Rot Fai is open daily from 5 am to 9 pm, and can be accessed via both the MRT (Chatuchak) and the BTS (Mo Chit). Chatuchak is the first park you will see if approaching from any of the train stations on the main road, and the Rot Fai Park is behind it.
The Chinatown Area of Bangkok
Chinatown is a region of Bangkok unlike any other and gives some kind of insight into a more authentic aspect of a city that is otherwise constantly being developed and re-developed at an almost alarming pace.
It is a vast, Tardis-like area though, and you wouldn’t be the first to have gotten lost around there without at least some kind of plan beforehand. This at least we can be grateful to ‘Google Maps’ for.
One way to approach the area is to pinpoint the famous Bangkok Flower Market, and walk in the direction of Chinatown from there, culminating your route at another market in Chinatown known as Talat Kao.
The Flower Market is located next to the river, and is otherwise known as ‘Pak Khlong Talad’. It is a famous spot in Bangkok with locals (and more recently, tourists) for buying flowers as well as fruit and vegetables.
If you are not travelling by taxi or car, the best way to get to the market is by the riverboat (from Saphan Taksin BTS station) and get off at the Memorial Bridge, Pier 6 stop.
If you start walking from the flower market in the direction of the main road in Chinatown, Yaowarat, you could be looking at maybe a 1-hour walk.
If you plan it properly, the route should allow you to take in various other aspects of the area such as Phahurat Market, or ‘Little India’, and another famous market Talat Kao. This is reportedly Bangkok’s oldest market, in a fairly narrow alleyway that in many ways epitomises what Chinatown is all about.
The Old Town
Why not combine a bit of a walk with some of the prominent landmarks on one of Bangkok’s tourist trials?
The Old Town area of the Thai capital is located just north of Chinatown, and is also known as Rattanakosin Island. One particular stretch here is where you’ll find the best of the most-visited temples, historic buildings and landmarks, and typical ancient architecture.
The main stop-offs in this area tend to be the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew, and the traditional Thai massage-learning temple Wat Pho.
If you start your walk at the Grand Palace with a view to finishing up at Khaosan Road, you should cover about 3 miles in total. This will also take you in the vicinity of the 3 previously-mentioned landmarks followed by Wat Sutat and the Great Swing, Wat Saket (the Golden Mount Temple), King Prajadhipok Museum, and finally the tourist hot spot Khaosan Road.
This could take you somewhere in the region of 2 hours, depending on your chosen stop-offs and the length of time involved in each.
OK—if you really do feel like yomping your way through some of the centrally-located, urban concrete jungle terrain of Bangkok, then this one’s for you.
The Sukhumvit is one of the longest roads in Thailand (if not the longest) so it might be best to have some idea first of the beginning and end of your walk.
In which case may we suggest starting at Nana, Sukhmvit Soi 4 (BTS Nana) and heading in a straight line towards Thong Lor, Sukhumvit Soi 55 (BTS Thong Lor). If you think you are up to a slightly longer walk you could backtrack one stop on the BTS and start at Chidlom, which is close to the former home of the British Embassy.
If it were a bit cooler, this is not a distance that would trouble a seasoned walker, but as it stands this is humid central. On top of that, the paths are likely to be quite busy (yes, there will be occasional motorbikes and other blockages).
What is good about this stretch of the Sukhumvit Road though, is that it will give you the opportunity to fully get the feel of what inner-city Bangkok is all about. Load, chaotic, diverse, crowded, modern, traditional, annoying, enthralling, and inspiring, all rolled into one.
On this long, straight stretch of one the capital’s main roads you’ll be able to witness everything from street food sellers to British Pubs, huge and impressive shopping malls, a park, market stalls, the occasional mad but harmless vagrant, coffee shops, massage shops, cheap food, expensive food, 5-star hotels, office blocks, and everything in between.
If you start at Nana you will find that the BTS line runs along this whole stretch (just in case you did buckle and wanted to find another means of transportation). Going in a straight line you will next encounter Asok, where you will find the huge and popular themed mall Terminal 21.
Asok is also something of a transport interchange hub where both the BTS sky train and MRT subway connect. (TIP: you might find it useful to ascend the BTS station’s skywalk to get over the Asok junction and avoid the chaos that comes with trying to cross it at street level, with traffic seemingly coming non-stop from all directions).
The next stop you will reach is Phrom Phong, a more upscale area by far than Nana, and home to 2 of the city’s most prominent high-end malls – the Emquartier and the Emporium, which are adjacent to each other on opposite sides of the road. There is also a reasonable park next to the Emporium, in case you fancy a breather.
If you decide to stop-off in all of the malls on this route you might find that you’ll actually need the whole day in order to complete it – otherwise the walk itself, taking into consideration a few water and snack stops, would probably take around 1-2 hours depending on pace.
Once you have passed through Phrom Pong you are heading towards Thong Lor, the next district along going in the general direction of the Bangkok International Airport, Suvarnabhumi. This is also a fairly upscale area with all manner of restaurant, coffee bar, community mall, pub, and bar – perhaps a fitting end for your walk!