Bangkok is already a fairly cheap city, so long as you avoid the tourist traps and the tuk-tuk drivers (believe me, they’re only out to take you for a ride). Plenty of stuff is reasonably priced, but the very best price of free applies to plenty of places around town.
Without further ado…
Ahh, shopping – the one thing that never charges an admission fee. The assumption is that you’ll spend some coin on the offerings inside, but that need not happen unless you find something you enjoy. Three of the better markets:
Chatuchak Market is well on the tourist trail, but merits a note as a place well worth visiting at least once. Simply put, the market covers several square blocks and offers a taste of virtually everything Thailand has to offer. Start from Kamphaeng Phet Station on the MRT. Take exit 2 to street level and you’re basically surrounded by the market.
The Papaya Vintage Market is a quirky destination worthy of at least an hour. With three floors of vintage furniture, carpets, toys, and superheroes, there’s plenty of reasons to bring the camera. During my last visit, the oddest thing was the eight life-size Jar-Jar Binks doing the conga. Quite possibly the most fun you can have in Bangkok while sober and clothed.
Directions: Take the MRT to Lat Phrao station in the north. Take exit 4 to street level, then look right for the bus stop. Jump on any bus but 151 or 156. Watch closely along the left side of the road for the street signs, and get off as soon as you see Lat Phrao 55/2. Backtrack to the side street, then turn right. Walk about 100 meters and look for the entrance around to the right.
Talad Rot Fai – AKA the train market – is no longer anywhere near a train station. Relocated after the state-owned railroad company decided to develop the former site of the market, the current location is behind Seacon Square on Sri Nagarindra road. This market, only open on weekends after 5pm, is arguably the hipster’s mecca for all things vintage and random. Grab some food or drink around the area – it’s a perfect place to make an evening out.
Start from Punnawithi BTS, walk south to Sukhumvit 101/1, then take a motorcycle taxi to Seacon Square (50-60 baht). It’ll cut through some of the side roads a lot faster, but hold on tight. Use the pedestrian overpass to cross the busy road, then face the mall and look right (south).
If you’ve decided to spend 500 baht and see the Grand Palace, you might be intrigued to check out the Amulet Market. It’s quite literally across the street from the palace (along Maha Rat road, GPS: 13.753407,100.489486)
Bangkok isn’t exactly known for its greenspace – in fact, it has one of the lowest amounts of greenspace per capita of any major world-famous city. With that said, a trio of parks (the Chatuchak Park, Queen Sirikit Park, and Wachira Benthat Parks) have coalesced to a single park worthy of at least a few hours of your time. It’s best approached from Mo Chit BTS or Chatuchak Park MRT, and the three parks are essentially merged into one pedestrian-friendly area.
The more popular temples have learned to offer themselves as a tourist attraction to the masses. That said, the city has hundreds more that are completely free to enter (though donations are always accepted).
Wat Yannawa offers both a Buddhist temple and a statue in the shape of a Chinese junk. It was during the reign of King Rama III that trade with China bloomed – and naturally, Chinese junks were bringing those in. They were slowly disappearing and being replaced by steam ships, so Rama III wanted folks to remember the boats that served the kingdom well before the advance in technology. It’s also across the street from the Sathron Unique, the tallest ‘ghost tower’ in Bangkok.
If you have an extreme desire to trespass and the gear necessary to make it happen… well, I can’t stop you. I haven’t, and won’t – it’s 45 stories up and difficult to access. Start from the Saphan Taksin BTS station. Walk away from the river, then take the first right down Charoen Krung, a major road (about a 50 meter walk)
The Museum of Counterfeit Goods offers a free comparison between genuine products and fake ones. The museum, run by a copyright law firm, is an intriguing look at the fakes that have popped up in Thailand over the years. It’s free, but you MUST make a reservation (contact Pinta at 02-653-5555 or Pinta.P AT tilleke DOT com). Also, viewing times for the museum are typically Monday afternoons after 2pm and Thursday mornings around 10am – make your plans around these times to get in.
Start from MRT Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre. Take exit 1, then cross Rama IV via the pedestrian crosswalk. Cross over the next overpass, then make a U-turn at the bottom to head left. Walk a few hundred meters to the bus stop and jump on bus 205. The bus should stop across the street from the only building that’ll have 26 floors, or soi 50. Head up the crosswalk and up to the 26th floor for the law firm’s lobby.