A starting point for a lot of South East Asian travellers is Bangkok, a city like no other! It can be easy to get stuck in the tourist trap of hitting the big sights like the Grand Palace or Khao San Road. But what else is there to do? And more importantly what is there to do without spending a lot of money? I’ve been to Bangkok twice in the last year on a budget and these are things I have most enjoyed. Here are my top 8 cheap, alternative things to do in Bangkok!
1. EAT – at Sukhumvit Soi 38!
Thai food, was second only to Malay Food, in the 5 different countries I visited in South East Asia. The best place to go for an introduction into tasty, local street food in Bangkok in the evening is Sukhumvit Soi 38! Soi in Thai means ‘side street ‘and Sukhumvit Soi 38 is a side street that is closed off every evening from 5pm to 2am to become a great night time food market! Stalls line up each side of the street, not too many that you’re overwhelmed with choice but not too few that there is no choice! It’s a really great introduction to Thai cuisine and you are able to try some well know dishes such as Thai som tams (green papaya salads), Pad Thai, Chicken Rice, Mango sticky rice, BBQ meat and fish on sticks and satay. It’s also right next to Thuong Lo station so easy to get to. Details: Open 5pm – 2am, every day. Less stalls on Monday due to street cleaning. Closest station: Thuong Lo Price per dish: 40baht – 60 baht.
2. Pray at the temple of Wat Suthat
Visit the quiet, peaceful temple of Wat Suthat – complete with giant swing! We actually stumbled upon Wat Suthat because we got lost and thought it was the Grand Palace! Upon entry we were presently surprised to find out it was only 20baht to get in! Once in it didn’t take us long to realise this wasn’t the Grand Palace… Unlike the Grand Palace, Wat Suthat was calm, and a much needed reprieve from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. Also unlike the Grand Palace it wasn’t crammed full of tourists as most of the people we saw here were monks. We discovered it is one of the oldest temples in Bangkok, complete with a main chapel, courtyard and 156 Buddha images along the outer walls and four entry gates individually hand-carved with intricate details. It is a beautiful place to wander round and a great introduction to Thailand’s temples. So if you’re looking for an escape from the chaos and crowds of Bangkok, to see an authentic temple with stunning architecture on the cheap then head to Wat Suthat for the afternoon. I saw A LOT of temples in S.E Asia and this one of my favorites. Location: 146 Thanon Bamrung Muang Times: 8.30am-9pm daily Price: 20 baht
3. A Free visit to Siam Museum
The Siam museum is a really cute, interactive museum full of interesting material on Siam’s Traditions! Siam is what Thailand used to be and you get to learn about its history here along with religion, culture, wealth and lifestyle– it’s a great introduction! As with lots of places in South East Asia, they’ve made some good photo opportunities! Best of all it’s free entry after 4pm! It’s located near the Grand Palace and giant reclining Buddha so a good place to relax out of the crowds, and another highlight – air conditioning! Location: Sanam Chai Rd, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand Hours: 10.00 – 18.00 (Tuesday to Sunday) Free after 4pm.
4. Take a day trip to Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya is the old capital of Siam (Thailand) and definitely worth a visit to see the remains of the temples after the Burmese came, destroyed it and chopped all the statues’ heads off. They really had a thing for heads. The train journey to Ayutthaya takes just under 2 hours and costs 15baht for a third class ticket. Once in Ayutthaya you can hire bicycles and spend your day cycling round the historical ruins and temples. It’s a great, easy day trip and something different to Bangkok. We actually made Ayutthaya a stop off location on our way to Chaing Mai, you can read more about that journey and what we did here: AYUTTHAYA – THE DAY WE CYCLED AROUND THE RUINS OF SIAM (THAILAND) Price: 15 Baht train ticket Depart from: Hua Lamphong Station, every hour.
5. Chill out in Lumpini Park
Lumpini Park is a great, free place to relax and hang out. There are a few lakes here, lots of trees for some shade and a walking track. It’s also a place where many Thai people go to practise their ball room dancing or do group exercise such as Thai Chi. If you’re here at 8:00am or 18:00pm you will also hear the The Thai National Anthem played into the park through speakers. During the anthem every single person stops what they are doing, joggers stop jogging, people sitting down will stand up and no one moves! Being in the park and not knowing this was a thing was very weird; it was like Thailand had broken! Lumpini park is not far from the Grand Palace and the reclining Buddha so a good place to cool down in after a day sightseeing. It’s also a good place to meet fellow backpackers. Location: Rama 4 Road,Wangmai,Pathumwan, Bangkok, Thailand Stay for: National Anthem being played at 8:00am and 18:00pm
6. Hop in a River Taxi
It was only when we got out onto the water that we were able to take a step back and get a proper view of Bangkok and the cityscape. If you head down to Sathorn Pier there will be many river taxis to take you around, from the pricier tourist boats with guides to the local taxis that cost 3 baht for you to cross. If you’re lucky with your river taxi, you may like us have a boat driver who watches a TV hung above his steering wheel as he drives! A fine example of multitasking. There is also a way you can get yourself around for free and that is by using the hotel shuttle boats. All of the top five-star hotels along the riverside have dedicated, free shuttle boats that ferry guests to and from their hotel and Sathorn Central Pier. Even if you are not staying at any of these particular hotels the shuttle service is still available free of charge. So you can enjoy a free boat ride and get a great view of the city! More Information: http://www.bangkok.com/information-travel-around/boats-ferries.htm Location: Sathorn Pier, in front of Saphan Taksin BTS Skytrain Station Price: Free
7. Go to Cinema
Yes, that’s right the cinema! Not only is it insanely cheap compared to western prices it’s also somewhat of a cultural experience. Yes I’m sticking to that statement, and here’s why – before every screening in Thailand a video of the King plays and then the National Anthem where by all the patrons stand up and some sing along. A lot of the films screened are in English with Thai subtitles, you can find out which ones at the cinema or on their website. We went to the cinema in the MBK centre, and for £1.50 each we got to sit in VIP seats in front of a huge cinema screen and we didn’t get ripped off with over priced popcorn. Though as a warning some of the popcorn flavours are very weird! Chicken and cheese anyone? Cinemas in Bangkok: Major Cineplex at EGV, Paragon Cineplex at Siam Paragon and Thailand’s only IMAX theatre. The second biggest operator is SF Cinema City, with branches at leading shopping malls like MBK Centre and the Emporium
8. Cook with Poo
No, not actual Poo! The cooking course is run by Khun Saiyuud Diwong, affectionately known as Poo (short for “Chompoo” or rose apple). Poo is a long-time resident of Klong Toey, the largest slum in Bangkok. Poo grew up poor in the slums and has become a local icon by using what she learned about cooking as a child into a thriving business that supports the local community. Now I will fess up, I never got to cook with Poo because Poo is very popular, and she gets booked up way in advance. I love what she is trying to do, so if you can support her, learn to cook some tasty food and get fed, then I urge you to do so. Go on, cook with Poo. More info: http://www.cookingwithpoo.com/ If anyone has any suggestions on cheap, alternate things to do in Bangkok let me know. With any activity or place you visit in Bangkok or Thailand I urge you do some research. One of the things that shocked me in Thailand was how unethical things like Elephant Parks or Ping Pong shows are, so do some research beforehand, yeah?