This guest post from Carley Hollis comes at the most opportune time. I am off to a Thai adventure in June and her tips are very helpful.
Money doesn’t buy experience, and some of Bangkok’s most memorable moments can be enjoyed on a budget. The premier tourist destination in Thailand is The Grand Palace, and it’s absolutely free.
Its ornate pinnacles spear the skyline with gold, and it comprises the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the former government departments of Thailand and the halls used for conduction of state affairs. As one of Thailand’s most revered sites, the only payment required is respect for its dress code.
In the south-eastern corner of the rodfai or railway park nestles the gleaming white dome of the Bangkok Butterfly Garden and Insectarium. Its walls ensphere a lush environment of plants, flowers and waterfalls in which flitting butterflies and crawling bugs thrive. Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 8:30am to 4:30 pm, and admission is free, always. In the heart of Bangkok’s business district, Lumpini Park, a vast 560 hectare park with its own lake, is another place where fun needn’t charge. There’s a boating pond, cycle paths, tranquillity in heaps and even T’ai Chi classes which are completely free to join in.
Bangkok is scattered with food stalls. Noodles are never far away, and always signify cheap, quick and delicious fuel. They suit most tastes as stallholders offer condiments with which to customise the flavour such as fish sauce, freshly ground chilli powder, crushed peanuts and sugar. You can choose between naam, the soup-style noodle, or haeng, a drier option. Rice is the alternative, and usually served with curries, meats and sauces. Mouth-watering, inexpensive delicacies worth a detour include the fried chicken in Patunam, the PROS coffee corner for cost-effective, delicious dining and Roti-Mataba and its delicious flatbreads and an choice of filling. If your budget’s suffered too much for even these humble treats, it’s possible to abate hunger pains with a trip to the supermarket. It’s possible to enjoy a buffet experience in most large Thai supermarkets with free samples that are generously dispensed to customers, especially at weekends. The 12 branches of the Central department store in the metropolitan Bangkok area have food courts, giving you a great excuse to peruse clothes, cosmetics and jewellery en route.
Getting from one side of the city to another can either be viewed as intimidating, or as an enjoyable challenge. One of the swiftest and most comfortable methods is the Skytrain, a slick and scenic service which runs from 6:30am until midnight. Its tracks and stations are elevated, making for a pleasant contrast to more common underground systems. The price is just 120 Baht for unlimited day travel. To get to grips with shorter or more specific journeys, rise to the test and experience the Thai thrill ride of a tuk-tuk. These motorised three-wheeled chariots are becoming extinct, but still well worth a punt if you’re trying to beat the congestion and get somewhere fast.
Thailand is the best departure point for further exploration of Thailand, with Suvarnabhuni International Airport offering flights to popular domestic destinations such as Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, and Phuket daily. Tourism hotspots are also well-served by the Southern Bus station, which lies to the west of city and can be reached by taxi. A successful trip to Thailand will always be achieved with diligent research, pragmatism, initiative and above all, an adventurous spirit.