Lumpini Park, Bangkok, Thailand

Recent studies estimate just 1.8 square meters of green space in Bangkok per resident; indeed, this might be one of the noisiest, dirtiest, and sweatiest capital cities you’ll encounter in Southeast Asia. That’s what makes verdant Lumpini Park such a special place, especially during the early-evening hours when Thais flock to the park to unwind.

Despite its location off insanely busy Rama IV and Ratchadamri Roads, Lumpini is surprisingly tranquil and quiet, especially as the sun sets and reflects off the ponds and canals that wind through the park. During the dry season (December – February), free performances by the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra are held in the park’s bandshell on late Sunday afternoons; this is also the time of the year when you’ll find free nightly aerobics classes. They’re open to anyone and hilariously, uniquely Thai.

With plenty of bars and restaurants nearby–including an enclave of street food vendors set up just outside the park on Ratchadamri–a sunset visit to Lumpini, when the scorching afternoon heat has burned away in favor of a balmy dusk, is an exceedingly pleasant way to start a night on the town. Just be sure to watch out for the massive monitor lizards!

Photo © 2010 Brian Spencer and cannot be used or reprinted without permission.