If you’re in Bangkok on a budget, you’ll have to do some careful thinking. The restaurants, bars and taxis can drain your finances quickly – and you’ve likely got another two months to go in Thailand. Luckily, from lung-cleansing green spaces to electric streets, relaxing islands to invigorating markets, you can enjoy yourself without completely draining your funds in the Big Mango.
Even if you’ve never been to Bangkok you’ll doubtless know all about it from Alex Garland’s infamous tale The Beach (Leonardo DiCaprio starred in the movie, remember?). The cheap-backpacker cliches are all here when you arrive: the wide-eyed new arrivals; the blinking neon; the alcohol-laced buckets. But you don’t even need to spend that much to enjoy the people-watching and live music along this road. From tipsy foreigners nibbling scorpions on sticks to the old man who never stops dancing outside one of the clubs for spare change, it’s all a sight to be seen.
It’s on everyone’s wish list – the chance to witness a Muay Thai fight or two on your big trip to the Land of Smiles. Word of warning – tickets can be costly, but there are ways around this. MBK Fight Night holds free fights at MBK every Wednesday from 6pm to 8:30pm so you’ll get that ringside seat if you’re here in good time.
Bangkok’s largest river island lies in the northern district of Nonthaburi. Here urbanity fades to sleepy rural landscapes of small villages and paddy fields. The island has long been famous for its traditional pottery makers, who sculpt elaborately decorated earthenware – water containers, vases – from the local clay. Riverboats for Koh Kret leave from a pier under the Rama IV Bridge. Tour the island by bike – locals rent them at the arrival jetty.
Housed in a striking neo-brutalist concrete building on the Bangkok University campus in the far north of the city, BUG is one of the largest spaces devoted to contemporary art in Southeast Asia. Much of the work on display is by artists from the university’s School of Fine and Applied Arts – one of the leading private education art institutions in the country. There are occasional shows by visiting international names, as well as by the current artist in residence. You will be absolutely captivated as you wander.
Few visitors ever make it to this peaceful temple – only a ten-minute stroll from the tourist-teeming Grand Palace. But it’s one of Thailand’s most illustrious: a royal temple, it is the home of the country’s Supreme Patriarch. The garden grounds are tranquil, the great golden chedi covered in glistening ceramic tiles and the main ubosot, or ordination hall, is built in the English neo-gothic style loved by King Rama V, resembling an Anglican chapel.
Looking like a library from an Oxbridge college, this stately neoclassical building sits in a leafy garden in the busy, business-orientated Bangrak district. The establishment preserves the largest collection of English-language books in Thailand and was founded in 1869 by the Bangkok Ladies’ Library Association – a small group of British and North American women who set up an association to exchange books within the then tiny expat population. The library is open to non-members for a small fee.
You’ll find this quirky museum on the banks of the Chao Phraya River next to the Phra Pin Klao Bridge in Thonburi. Comprising the personal transport collection of Thai millionaire (and President of Chase Engineering), Jesada Dejsakulrit, there are military transport aircraft, double-decker buses, a submarine, classic British, French and American town cars and one of the world’s largest fleets of bubble cars.
Kelly Iverson contributed additional reporting to this article.
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Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
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