There are many reasons Bangkok is one of our favourite cities. The food is to die for, the people are friendly, there’s great shopping to be done and it’s exceptionally good value. There’s also lots to do for free there, be it enjoy local musicians belt out their rendition of ‘American Pie’ or join in an aerobics class. Read on to find out more about these two free things to do in the Thai capital along with thirteen others…
1. Stretch out in Lumphini Park
At almost 58 hectares, this gorgeous park provides some much-appreciated breathing room away from the busy streets of Bangkok. During the day you can stroll around the trees, open green areas and lake, while make sure to check out the statue of the king at the south-western entrance. Just don’t light up – smoking here is prohibited.
2. Go for a wander around the hectic, crazy streets of Chinatown
This is the oldest part of Bangkok, dating back to the city’s foundation in the 1780s. Inhabiting the myriad of little alleys going off Yaowarat Road, Chinatown is a high-energy area of shops, stalls, narrow lanes and food vendors selling everything from trinkets to traditional medicine. The Temple of the Golden Buddha is here and in fact, 14% of the buildings in Chinatown are historical landmarks.
3. Soak up the atmosphere on the world-famous Khao San Road
Make no mistake about it – Bangkok’s Khao San Road is the backpacking capital of the universe. It is almost inevitable that you will visit it when in BKK. Lined with bars, guesthouses, budget hotels, hostels, tour operators, shops selling everything from clothes to travel bags and endless street food options, it is one of the most fascinating streets in the world. Sure, there’s nothing particularly Thai about it, but as there’s nowhere else like it on earth, it is a true Bangkok experience.
4. Learn about art, elephants and more at the free museums
Bangkok offers some excellent free museums. One of the best and most famous is the Bangkokian Museum, which explores themes of what it means to be Thai, with very colourful exhibits. There’s also the Royal Elephant Museum, modern Thai art at the Silpa Bhirasri Memorial and Museum and the interesting Corrections Museum, a former prison.
5. Visit Bangkok’s many temples
There’s pretty much a temple in every neighbourhood of Bangkok, and many of them are free. In fact, three of the best are Wat Mangkorn Kamalawat in Chinatown, Wat Indraviharn in Dusit and Wat Patum Wanaran, next to the Central World Plaza shopping centre. Another one to watch out for is X at the top of the aforementioned Khao San Road.
6. Check out the Erawan Shrine
This absolutely stunning shrine actually has a bit of an interesting back-story – it was built in 1956 by the then-Erewan Hotel to allay the bad karma of having laid the foundations of the hotel on the wrong date. It was heavily vandalised in 2006 and was replaced the same year. As a bonus, traditional Thai dance troupes often perform here, hired by worshippers looking to have their prayers answered.
7. Take in the views from The Golden Mount (Wat Saket)
Not far from the Khao San Road is The Golden Mount Soi Borommabanphot Ban Bat. Here you will find 318 steps to a temple at the top housing a large golden Buddha. Additionally, you’ll also be treated to stunning views over the rooftops of Bangkok. While you’re here, pay a visit to the vine-covered onsite cemetery – during a plague epidemic in the 19th century, some 30,000 bodies were cremated here.
8. Stroll through the Butterfly Garden and Insectarium
Set on the pretty grounds of Queen Sikit Botanical Garden in Rot Fai Park is this leafy dome, home to more than 500 butterflies and other species of insect. Bring your camera and keep an eye out for some colourful, fleeting photo opportunities. This is a relaxing place to go after being in the nearby Chatuchak Weekend Market.
9. Watch the sun set over Wat Arun
Of all the temples along the Chao Phraya River, Wat Arun is the most visually stunning. While it’s great to visit it close up, make sure to head across the river it to relax and watch as the sun sets behind it. And if you don’t mind spending a bit of cash you can even have dinner or drinks at the Deck By the River at Arun Residence and get a stunning, uninterrupted view of the lit-up temple.
10. Embrace the new town at Siam Paragon
This giant shopping centre is where upper-class Thais come to shop and show off their style. It’s also a great place to take advantage of some air-con. It is one of the largest malls in Asia and each level is themed, so you can watch people as they shop for luxury items, technology, fashion and more. There’s also an aquarium on the bottom floor and Southeast Asia’s largest cinema on the top floor, if you feel like splashing out.
11. Stroll around Chatuchak Weekend Market
Whether you’ve money to shop or not, you can’t miss the world’s largest market. It’s home to over 5,000 stalls which are spread across more than 35 acres and, as you should be able to guess from the name, is open Saturdays and Sundays. Get ready for a sensory overload as you pass stalls selling clothing, religious artefacts, live animals and more. The stalls start opening at 9am and the market is pretty crowded by the time lunch rolls around, so get there as early as you can. When you leave, grab some food and relax in nearby Chatuchak Park.
12. Take part in a public aerobics class
Is your back sore after lugging around a backpack? Have you been eating unhealthy holiday foods lately? Head over to Saranrom Park across the street from the Royal Palace. Every evening the park hosts free aerobics classes, open to anyone who wants to join. The people there are friendly and encouraging so don’t worry about looking silly...just jump in!
13. Enjoy live music in on the Khao San Road
As you wander down ‘the Khao San’ you’ll hear everything and anything. Hawkers will try to sell you t-shirts, tuk-tuk drivers will repeatedly look at you and smile, simply saying ‘tuk-tuk?’ and stalls selling CDs will be banging out house music to make your ribcage shudder. But midway down you’ll also begin to hear acoustic tunes being played from above. Look up and you’ll discover this is from the ‘Roof Bar’, the best place for live music on the Khao San. Go up, grab a beer, get a seat overlooking the street and enjoy the fact that you’re in one of the world’s most electric cities. Bliss.
14. Visit Patpong
Bangkok is the infamous home of the ‘ping pong show’ – performances in girly bars where local women do unimaginable things with small white balls, normally used for a spot of table-tennis. In Bangkok, the home of the ping-pong show is Patpong, and in particular Soi 1. Walking down here is an eye opener to say the least as hawkers flash lists of sexual tricks (think cigarettes, bananas and darts) these Thai women can do with their nether regions. Aside from these, what only can be described as degrading bars, Patpong is also home to one of the Thai capital’s best night markets.
15. Barter! Barter! Barter!
I know what you’re thinking – don’t you need to spend money to barter? Technically speaking, yes. But if you’re looking for some free entertainment, or maybe a bit of practice for when you are about to treat yourself to a new backpack, a pair of knock-off designer jeans or a few pairs of boardies, approach the market stalls around Sukhumvit, Patpong, the Khao San Road or in the MBK and test your bartering skills. It won’t cost you a thing and it will save you money in the long run.
Have you a free thing to do in Bangkok to add to our list?