In the Realm of Bangkok's Water Dragons

Published on 17 July 2023 at 13:10

The mega cities of South and Southeast Asia are veritable concrete jungles, with towering skyscrapers and bustling streets. However, if one keeps their senses aware while wandering around sightseeing and shopping - wildlife is waiting to be discovered.

Almost 15 million people live in the metropolitan area of Bangkok. the capital of Thailand. Yet, this vibrant city is home to some fascinating wild animals. Within Bangkok's city center, one can find an almost prehistoric sight - Asian water monitors inhabit parks and canals. And they are easier to spot than you think!

Where is it?

Bangkok is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. With its temples, nightlife, food, and shopping, you can find everything you desire right here! If you're looking to catch a glimpse of some real-life dragons within the city and take a break from its bustling atmosphere, head over to Lumphini Park. Spanning 60 hectares, this park holds the distinction of being Thailand's first public park and serves as a vital public space for the city. Complete with artificial lakes, cycling lanes, playgrounds, and an abundance of trees, it offers a welcoming oasis for everyone seeking a brief escape from the urban frenzy. The park is located near Sala Daeng Station on the BTS Skytrain Silom line, as well as the Lumphini and Si Lom stations on the MRT Blue line. Additionally, the park is accessible via numerous BMTA bus routes. Several kilometers of pathways traverse the park, allowing visitors to explore its beauty at their leisure.

The experience

Summers in Bangkok are scorching hot..and very humid! A fact that I underestimated when visiting Thailand in peak Summer. Besides the usual tourist spots I was keen on visiting Lumphini Park after watching a YouTube vlog about this place and its unique inhabitants. Popular attractions like the King Power Mahanakhon Skyscraper, CentralWorld, and Siam Paragon Shopping Centers are within a reasonable distance from the park. However, due to the city's vast size, it took me several hours to walk from the shopping centers to Lumphini Park and the highest skyscraper of Thailand. Due to the oppressive heat and humidity, this walk through Bangkok was particularly challenging. I got myself some refreshments from a supermarket before I entered the park, fresh fruits and cool water are a must-carry in temperatures above 40°C. Upon entering the park through a welcoming gate, I sought a well-deserved break before trying to find the monitor lizards...

...but just a few minutes after I sat down on a bench, I spotted my first water monitor swimming through the park's large lake. I realized, these little dragons have basically taken over this park and it is easy to spot them roaming in their home within the city! I got my camera ready and went for a stroll trough Lumphini Park and saw around 15 different monitor lizards.

The Asian water monitor (Varanus salvator macromaculatus) is a large reptile that can reach lengths of up to 3 meters!

Typically, they measure around 1.5 to 2 meters in length and weigh up to 20 kilograms. Water monitors are highly prevalent in South and Southeast Asia, exhibiting remarkable adaptability, which is why they are frequently found near cities. Lakes, rivers, and canals serve as welcoming habitats for these lizards, providing them with a diverse array of prey, including snails, crabs, frogs, fish, rodents, birds, turtles, snakes, and even small crocodiles. In urban areas, they have been known to prey on cats, dogs, and chickens. Their versatile diet is likely one of the reasons for their success in thriving close to human activity. Although Asian water monitors remain relatively common, they face significant threats due to heavy trading for their skin. The leather industry claims the lives of several million monitor lizards each year. Hunting and habitat loss further endanger these creatures, but fortunately, they are protected in many countries throughout their range.

Despite their large and powerful build, Asian water monitors pose no threat to humans unless provoked. They are generally harmless, allowing people to observe them up close or even walk alongside them in Bangkok without fear.

Check out some of my "dragon" encounters from Bangkok in the slide show below!

The Lumphini Park is not just home to the monitor lizards. Turtles can be seen in the lake and different bird species make this place a great spot for bird watcher! Below some birds I managed to capture with my camera.

If you find yourself with some spare time in Bangkok and crave for a quiet place to relax from the noisy and crowded city, visit Lumphini Park.

Not only is this a peaceful oasis within this megacity, but it has some unique inhabitants. The Asian water monitors are a special sight and very interesting to watch. With a variety of bird species and a picturesque view of the city, Lumphini Park is an underrated gem that should be on every Bangkok visitor's list.



- Common myna (Acridotheres tristis)

- Asian koel (Eudynamys scolopaceus)

- Spotted dove (Spilopelia chinensis)

- Large-billed crow (Corvus macrorhynchos)

- Striated heron (Butorides striata)

- Little egret (Egretta garzetta)


- Asian water monitor (Varanus salvator macromaculatus)

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