Thailand is cheap, but it isn’t as cheap as everyone’s preconceptions. When I call home and tell my family about what I’ve been up to, I’m always met with similar responses ‘how much did that cost?’ closely followed by ‘oh that’s not as cheap as I thought!’. Newsflash, not everything in Thailand will cost you 10 baht (25p) in fact, not much does. Of course your money can stretch a long way out here and living can be as cheap as you make it, but I get paid in Bht not GBP any longer and things can be pretty pricey here…especially in Bangkok. If, like me, you’re forever on a budget then check out my top tips on fun things to do in the Big city for completely free (ish).
Find some green
Whilst backpacking around Europe, my absolute favourite thing to do was sit in a park all day and people watch. Unfortunately for me, there aren’t many parks or green spaces here; which is ultimately one of my biggest bugbears about this continent. I long to lounge around all day in a park, rather than stuffed up in my one room motorway-side apartment in the middle of an industrial estate (poor me, I know).
That being said, Bangkok has a few lovely parks you simply must check out- you’ll thank me later. Soak up the green whilst you can and make the most of it, because outdoor spaces are few and far between and you’ll soon find yourself wishing you were back in Lumpini, Chatuchak or Queen Sirikit park.
Fly like a butterfly, sting like a bee
Whilst soaking up the sun in the few green spaces in central Bangkok, you should be sure to check out the Butterfly sanctuary which is sneakily hidden away in Rod Fai park. The sanctuary is a perfect way to spend an afternoon; it allows you to explore the not-so noisy side of Bangkok, get lost in yet another park and you’ll quite possibly be one of the few people there visiting as not many tourists know about this place.
This little piggy went to market
Markets are my favourite thing about Asia; they sell the most unusual things, you can eat a decent meal (even a vegan one) for dirt cheap and are the best way to spend a few hours without spending all of your money. Here are some of my personal favourites…
Possibly the most famous market in Thailand but for all the right reasons; Chatuchak is bigger than a football stadium and sells literally everything and anything. Full sized adult huskies? Yep (seeing this made me cry inside though) All the clothes you could possibly dream of? Yep. Vintage furniture? Yep. Fake designer handbags? Yep. Amazing fresh fruit, juice and Thai desserts? Yep, yep and YEP! You can get your head shaved or braided, you can get a caricature or a painting of yourself, you can enjoy a massage, facial or mani-pedi, Chatuchak is the place of dreams. Considering how touristy this place is, it’s not all that expensive either. This is a market you should definitely get lost for a day in.
Rod Fai night market
Rod Fai is a night market with a difference; it’s located at an old railway station and mainly sells vintage, retro and antiques. It’s stalls are made from old shipping containers and include things like; vintage cars, huge model giraffes, petrol station paraphernalia and clothing from the 40s, 50s and 60s. Rod Fai is awesome and rarely frequented by tourists so is a real Thai experience. Eat the delicious food (look out for the shitake mushrooms on a stick) and spend the night drinking, laughing and listening to live music in one of the countless themed bars.
Set a little outside of central Bangkok and only a 20 minute bus ride from my flat; Indy market is a place where Thai locals come to eat, drink and be merry. Indy may not sell cool goods like Rod Fai or have an abundance of them like Chatuchak but it does have character and it is VERY local. If you want to be somewhere where you’re the only white face in a crowd of Thai’s then this is the place for you, just make sure to brush up on your language skills before you get here- no English is spoken anywhere at Indy.
Asiatique is a whole island worth of bars, restaurants and markets- literally. Catch the free ferry from Saphan Taksin and enjoy a more classy night time affair, just make sure you’re not tempted to have a go on the ferris wheel or you’re budget will be blown. Wander around and look at the hand made, organic goods for sale, check out the amusements and the insane transformer-like go karts and enjoy the view of the city from the pier. Asiatique is one of my favourite places in Bangkok, it’s a must-see.
Soak in some culture
Bangkok is a haven for art galleries and museums; from the insanely interesting to the downright bizarre- there is one place where you can hold a real human brain in your bare hands (Joe refuses to come with me to that one). My favourite is Bangkok Art & Culture centre which is next door to MBK shopping mall at the National Stadium BTS stop. The A&C constantly changes their exhibitions and all of them are not only pretty incredible but are 100& free of charge. Escape the heat for a little while and step into an air conditioned paradise whilst getting a glimpse of the Thai arts scene.
Go on Monk patrol
The grand palace and reclining Buddha may be pretty pricey to see, but plenty of their neighbours along the river are free to see and some of the most spectacular temples I’ve seen to date. Pay the small fee to cross the river (if you catch the local boat rather than the tourist ones- you’ll save yourself a small fortune) and get off at any number of the stops, there is so much to see. Spend the day hopping from temple to temple, watching the monks go about their day-to-day business and admire the detail and workmanship that goes in to building these magnificent places of worship.
People watch on Khao San Road
Khao San is best known for its drunken farangs (Brits usually), fried insects, cheap booze and elephant pants- which is, to be honest about right. Khao San is SO different from the rest of Bangkok you should definitely go to experience it. There are some pretty interesting characters to see there, so pull up a chair and watch the day (or night) go by and see what kind of hikinks you can witness. Chinatown is also nearby; check out the local markets there f you want to lose yourself for the day.
Catch your breath at the Green lungs
Bangkajao is a 4bht ferry ride from mainland Bangkok and is a green, oasis (supposedly) of trees, plants and wildlife. Whilst the Green lungs aren’t my favourite place in the world, I still think it’s a great day out. Escape the congested, urban jungle for the day and come cycle around the botanical gardens and back roads of Bangkajao. Don’t forget to look into the Tye-dying workshop whilst there and keep an eye out for the biggest monitor lizards you’ll ever see.
What are your favourite things to do in the city?
Love from wherever I am,