When it comes to Asian mega cities, places like Tokyo, Hong Kong and Beijing are the kingpins but South East Asia has the cherries on the city cake with the likes of Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and especially Bangkok offering sprawling urban playgrounds for every pocket. If you are looking for things to do in Bangkok but don’t want to break the bank, skip the tour operators and Tripadvisor money vacuums and try some of these suggestions for a great day out…
1. Picnic in the park
In my experience Thai towns and cities in general are very good at creating natural spaces in amongst the chaos that break the mundane street and sky scraper views and give you a chance to take in what feels like some fresh air. The parks in Bangkok are scattered throughout the city but two of the biggest and best with everything from pedalboats to outdoor gyms are Lumphini Park and Chatuchak Park. Lumphini is about a 1km walk from the nearest BTS skytrain but Chatuchak (and the series of parks in its immediate vicinity) has a station right at the gates so if you are on those lines it is highly accessible. Otherwise, a quick cab-hail ride will get you there quickly and cheaply. Pack a picnic or just go for a stroll. They have running and cycle tracks at both too if you’re up for some exercise. Entrance is free.
2. Markets and markets and oh yes, markets…
If you’ve ever been to Thailand, or anywhere in SE Asia for that matter, you will know that markets and street vendors are a huge part of economic interaction and Bangkok certainly has its fair share of the trade. There are night markets and street stalls pretty much everywhere at any given time but if you want to treat yourself to Thailand’s biggest market, head out to Chatuchak on a Saturday or Sunday where you will find over 8 000 stalls to wander between with everything from street food and clothing to crafts and even animals so if you’re on the lookout for a pet fox, sugar glider, hedgehog or maybe just a puppy, then you can even do that here. It’s quite a crazy place and you can spend hours there and will almost certainly get lost in the maze like I did!
3. Enjoy the projection of the stars at the Bangkok Planetarium
For just 50 Baht you can enjoy a show at the planetarium, located in Sukhumvit’s Ekkamai district. They have one English show a week, on Tuesday mornings at 10am. The first half of the show is a description of the night sky and constellations above Bangkok depending on the time of year. The second half will be a little movie. Just lying back in the comfortable seats and staring at the domed projections warrants the visit.
4. Get some arts and culture perspective
Another great and totally free activity is to meander through the Bangkok Arts and Culture centre in the Asok district. The centre houses a host of arts and crafts projects as well as giving you a chance to take part in your own arty activity like jewellery making or you can pose for a portrait with one of the artists on the lower floors. There are craft projects on display on the cicular walkways and they host talks and presentations throughout the week, just check the notice boards to see if anything piques your interest. The upper floors host special displays throughout the year.
5. Try out a muay thai class
Okay, I can hear the alarm bells ringing already as you say, ‘but muay thai in Thailand isn’t free or cheap,’ and you’re right, for the most part, but I happened across a gym that offers your first class free as a trial so if you want to check it out and see if muay thai is something you want to do then pop in at Bangkok Fight Lab, near the On Nut bts stop and claim your free session. All you’ll need is some comfortable sports clothes and you’ll be a for away… They also do jiu jitsu, boxing and MMA classes if muay thai is not your thing…
6. Whack a tray of balls at a driving range
I was surprised to find out just how into their golf Thais are, to the point where ranges are filled late into the night with businessmen correcting their strokes. The closest range to us was 42 Tee Off. At 90 Baht a tray it’s a pretty cheap activity. It helps if you have your own clubs, though, otherwise the cheapness melts away if you need to hire different irons and woods. I just grabbed a 6-iron for 100B and smashed a few good balls out near the backlines…
7. Put on your mall shoes and get cracking
I’m not really big into the shopping mall scene but you will find me ambling between the shops every now and again or gracing one to catch a movie. Bangkok takes their malls to a whole new level though and if you can stand being in the hustle of shoppers then a trek through a themed mall like Terminal 21, with each floor dedicated to famous cities like Tokyo, Paris, London and San Francisco to name a few; a mass market hub like MBK for a crack at trying to make a deal; or high-end shopping at Siam Paragon can be a way to knock off a few hours amd if you can avoid a spending spree it can be a bit of a fun way to people-watch and see some of the crazy stores on the cheap.
So there you have it, a few easy-on-the-pocket activities that you can enjoy during a short visit to the capital of the land of smiles but be sure that there is plenty more out there if you keep your eyes peeled. Enjoy!