This congested downtown intersection is home to a surprising array of jogging parks and fitness outlets
Newcomers to Bangkok can often be spotted on the pedestrian bridge that spans the city’s Asok intersection—where Sukhumvit and Ratchadapisek roads come together—taking photographs of the unimaginable traffic gridlock that stretches out in every direction. With all that noise and filthy car exhaust spewing into the air this part of town seems like an unlikely spot for healthy outdoor pursuits, but actually within a short distance of these chaotic crossroads one can find tranquil jogging parks, innovative fitness centres, yoga studios, and more.
Probably the most scenic landmark in this district is Benjakiti Park, a beautiful130 rai (20.8 hectare) expanse of greenery, built on what was once a part of the Tobacco Monopoly—a vast, crown-owned expanse of factories and warehouses. There’s an artificial lake in the middle of the park, which is where you’ll find avid joggers and cyclists doing laps around a 2km track. Bike rental is available, and the easiest access point to the park is via the Queen Sirikit MRT Station, which also services the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center (another important city landmark). Opening hours are between 5am and 9pm.
Another scenic patch of greenery in this district is Benjasiri Park, which measures over 4.5 hectares and sits next door to the lavish Emporium shopping complex, and across the street from the recently opened EmQuartier (accessible via the Phrom Phong BTS Station). A jogging and/or strolling track encircles a large man-made pond—the centerpiece of the park—and within the enclosed grounds there can also be found children’s play areas, outdoor mini-gyms, and plenty of benches for taking a break. Opening hours are between 5am and 9pm.
At Sukhumvit Soi 10 there’s a very tiny private park known as Chuvit Garden, which was created in 2006 by Chuwit Kamolvisit (Bangkok’s biggest massage parlour owner at the time). In 2003 Chuwit was arrested after illegally evicting the tenants off his land—where the park now stands—and after his release he began exposing all the police bribery he was privy to during his years in the skin trade, thus becoming an unlikely activist against police corruption. The park’s opening hours are from 6am till10am, and 4pm till 8pm.
Another open green field in this vicinity can be found on the grounds of Srinakharinwirot University. If you follow Sukhumvit Soi 23 all the way up you’ll eventually arrive at the university campus, where a large playing field is a favourite spot for impromptu football matches as well as a place for student dance troupes to practice their choreographed routines.
However, if Bangkok’s searing midday heat makes you less than enthused about jogging or cycling outdoors, there are dozens of indoor fitness spots within close proximity of the Asok intersection. Sleek, modern, and (thankfully) air-conditioned fitness centres such as True Fitness (2nd floor, Exchange Tower), Virgin Active (at EmQuartier), Fitness First (6th floor, Terminal 21 mall), and Tony’s Fitness (Sukhumvit Soi 19) all offer high quality workout facilities, but there are also some less conventional exercise spots to be found along the Sukhumvit strip as well.
At CrossFit BK (348/2 Sukhumvit Rd)—the first CrossFit affiliate in Bangkok—super challenging and innovative workouts take place on the open-air rooftop training area, which is clearly visible from the Asoke BTS Skytrain Station. Innovative training is also the idea behind The Lab (3rd floor RSU Tower, Sukhumvit Soi 31), a fitness-training studio that offers tailor-made programs utilizing everything from kettle bells and TRX suspension trainers, to big tyres, ceiling ropes, and gymnastic rings. However, if you’re looking for something really oddball try Aquabiking Bangkok (Sukhumvit Soi 16) which involves pedalling a stationary bicycle that is submerged in water, or Surf Set (Sukhumvit Soi 42) where the workout program makes use of surfing techniques. Of course, it also makes sense to experience Muay Thai—the ancient art of Thai combat—while in Thailand, and the Krudam Muay Thai School (67 Soi Sukhumvit 36) has an array of group and private training courses available.
Finally, it’s worth noting that this quadrant of downtown Bangkok is also home to dozens of yoga and Pilates studios. The Balance Studio Pilates & Yogafly (Interchange 21 Tower), Yogatique (116 Sukhumvit Soi 23), Hot Yoga Bangkok (47 Sukhumvit Soi 23), and the Ashtanga Yoga Center of Bangkok (S31 Sukhumvit Hotel, Sukhumvit Soi 31) are popular choices, while the Prem Yog and Prana Centre—a favourite of Bangkok’s Indian community—often has visiting practitioners from India leading classes and workshops.