Tobacco company garden 'Re-incarnated' as Benjakiti Park

I write again about my 'remembered garden'. It is now called the Benjakiti Park. The transformation that altered my favourite ‘Tobacco company’ garden, began a few years ago. One morning, I saw a group of Farangs and Thais walking around the garden with drawings in hand. My heart sank as I feared that the garden would be converted to yet an other high rise building complex. However the news later in the papers made me a very happy man. It said that the factory would be moved in phases and a park would come in its place, thus honouring a royal wish.

A number of months later after returning to Bangkok from a trip, I went for my walk as usual. Could not enter the park as my shortcut to the park was blocked! It was fenced with green sheets and from the gaps one could see heavy earth-moving machines creating small hills, trees being uprooted and the place swarming with men in their fatigues. The area resembled a war zone! The number of machines working and the amount of concrete structures visible in that small area appeared very disproportionate. I wondered how the park would turn out and was a little apprehensive.

Anyway, after about an year, the park was opened to the public. I and Tara went to see and were very impressed with the park. It was very modern and grand. A boon to kids as they could go on their bikes around the lake. The joggers and walkers had wide concrete paths around the lake. Also provided were an area for roller-blading as well as a play ground for small children and an amphitheatre for music and plays. There was a place for excercises and paddle boats were available for hire on the lake.

It blended well with the Queen Sirikit convention centre and was an oasis amidst all the high rise buildings. But it was a lot hotter as there was no shade for the walkers and the concrete radiated heat. Anyway, I wish that the rest of the park which is promised to be full of tropical trees is made while we are still here! I also had a fervent wish in my heart that the Palace grounds in Bangalore would be converted thus to a park and not used for building apartments. (I am not very optimistic about it!)

While I was happy for all those hundreds of people who benefit, I felt a tinge of sadness as I missed my old park which was practically owned by a handful of us. While the beautiful Buddha Idol continues to be the same, installed in more ornate settings, the rest of the place I was familiar with is all gone! While I could see most of the old trees they seemed different. While it was nice to see a few trees that were felled by a storm and replanted were still there, it appeared that many of them were moved around. Lots of new trees, many palms were added and I am sure when all the new trees grow the park will look very pretty and very orderly. While, earlier the park was naturally built around existing trees, now man and his technology had taken over.

My heart bled when I saw most of my favorite trees with their beautiful branches chopped. The reason seemed to be that the branches were crossing the path or were spreading over the lake. (Anyway after a year many of them have sprouted new branches and still look oddly pretty, though not full and grand like in the old days.)

Here are a few pictures of the trees as they appear now and an older B & W picture of one the trees to compare!
The saddest was the total denudation of trees around the Buddha Idol. The large imposing tree behind the Idol is gone, except for the stump.

As dogs are not allowed, probably the reason why Bobby and Varsha moved to Ekamai, the farang lady with her Asian companion and their five freely roaming dogs will be missed (!). I suppose they could still do their yoga. It was worth a picture with them on their heads and the dogs around them keeping watch. While talking about dogs it was always a sight to see a farang picking up conscientiously after his dog. Actually funny as there were many stray dogs around! The ultimate was the scene of a finicky Asian woman who would wipe her small pet with a tissue.
I am certain that the old regulars are all back in the morning. The group of old ladies would be practicing their martial arts waving about their swords however gently! I wonder who feeds the fish now. There used to be small store in the sala selling bread for the fish and grains for the birds. I missed the pigeons. It was very nice to see an old person walk in with a bagful of grains and feed the pigeons before he started meditating. I think the birds recognised the man as they would swarm in as soon as he walked in.

With the lake fully enclosed we will miss the cute little turtles crossing our path. Just as well, as this innocent ploy did not always protect them as we saw small turtle shells in our path. There will be no more incidents of very nervous looking girls unloading a bagful of mice in the garden! Hopefully major disasters like thousands of fish dying in the lake will now be avoided .

Sadly a few things I missed taking pictures will never be seen again. The office of the security guards with a table and chairs right under a huge tree. The table was cleaned and flowers were replaced each day in the vase! The boss would arrive on motor cycle each morning and hold meetings in all seriousness.
Other was a patio on the lake front, part of one of the humble cottages. It was decorated with ads for beer, furnished with a table made out of a huge bobbin used for cables. I used to envy the person who had one of the best views in Bangkok from his backyard while enjoying his ‘mekong’. It is still not bad. While he has no free acess to the park as his backyard is gone, he still has a view from his room. Thank the lord for small mercies.

(The view from the window of the cottage!)
As this is my final my blog about the 'Tobacco garden', I have listed the earlier blogs for your reference here.


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