Awesome Free Things To Do in Bangkok, Thailand

©  Courtesy of Kelly Iverson
© Courtesy of Kelly Iverson
Photo of Alex Robinson
19 August 2021

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.

People watch on Khao San Road

Architectural Landmark, Market
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Khaosan Road or Khao San Road at night, Bangkok, Thailand
© parkerphotography / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Watch a Muay Thai fight

Sports Center, Stadium
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Muay Thai fight in isan, rural Thailand, Thai boxing, the referee trying to stop boxer from punching opponent lying on the ground.
© Noah Dolinsky / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

See Bang Krachao

Park
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Bang Krachao is a quiet jungle oasis within the city
© Sven Olsson / Alamy Stock Photo
Breathe in – and relax. The green lung of Bangkok is the perfect place to come if you need to refresh your mind and body without forking out a penny. The urban jungle of Bangkok is but a memory for a few hours. This artificial island in the Chao Praya River is laced with cycling paths and you don’t need wheels to use them. Wander at will among the bottle-green foliage and relish the fact it’s all free.

Explore Banjakitti Park

Park
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Highrises, Banjakitti Park, Bangkok, Thailand, Asia
© F1online digitale Bildagentur GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Banjakitti is an island of cool green in the city’s sweltering, concrete centre. The nearest metro station is Queen Sirikit and you’ll arrive to find it set around a lake of slowly circling turtles, between Sukhumvit road and the skyscraper-spiked mall district of Pathum Wan. A popular spot for a morning walk – a shady path runs around the lake – it attracts couples in the evenings, taking selfies against the neon skyline, mirrored like a liquid mosaic in the water.

Escape to Ko Kret

Natural Feature
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Asian tourists round the island by bicycle. Ko Kret (also Koh Kred) is an island in the Chao Phraya River, 20 km north of Bangko
© Sergi Reboredo / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Get lost at Chatuchak Weekend Market

Market
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Chatuchak - you name it, they have it
© Mark Fischer/Flickr
You won’t mind the heat and hordes of Bangkok’s biggest crafts market when you see the variety of produce on offer. There’s stuff from all over Thailand: carved wooden trays, hill-tribe textiles and cushion covers from the North, shadow puppets and cutlery from the south made of coconut shells, amulets and pop art from Isaan. For peace and relative cool, arrive early – the market opens at 6am and is held on weekends only. The nearest Skytrain is Mo Chit.

Attend a free concert at Lumphini Park

Park
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Lumphini Park, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon
Courtesy of Kelly Iverson
Central Bangkok’s biggest park rolls out over reams of woodland, lawns and lakes between the Siam shopping area and the business district. It’s an important cultural venue, hosting a whole load of free events and festivals. Thai monks teach Buddhist dharma, afternoon rock concerts attract an eclectic crowd and on winter afternoons, the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra plays classical music.

Go to Bangkok University Gallery (BUG)

Art Gallery
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BANGKOK, THAILAND - FEBRUARY 25, 2020: BUG gallery sign on white concrete wall. BUG is the art museum in Bangkok university where is a famous private
© MeSamong / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Get the creative juices flowing at Thailand Art And Culture Centre

Museum, Art Gallery, Building
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Courtesy of Kelly Iverson
Bangkok’s leading cultural centre combines gallery spaces, performance venues, theatres and workshops. It’s the best place in the land to see work by the cream of contemporary Thai creatives like Pinaree Sanpitak, whose work uses abstract shapes to meditate on the female form. There are also works by Buddhist-inspired painters such as Kanokpon Somchua and polemical photographers like Manit Sriwanichpoom. There’s a shop selling arty accessories and cards as well as a small movie theatre.

Meander the grounds of Wat Ratchabophit

Buddhist Temple
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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.

Grab a good book and settle in at Neilson Hays Library

Library
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Neilson Hays Library Surawong Road Bangkok Thailand
© Neil Setchfield / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Take photos of Erawan Shrine

Shrine
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Lay down offerings at the Erawan Shrine
© Khim Hoe Ng / Alamy Stock Photo
This is a Buddhist country, but symbols of Hinduism and Animism are everywhere in Thailand – from the Ramayana murals that adorn every other temple to the tiny san phra phum shrines that sit on plinths outside family homes. Beside a busy road, this shrine hums with devotees and is Bangkok’s most lavish san phra phum (spirit house). It was dedicated to Brahma, the Hindu creator god, in 1956, under the protection of the neighbouring Erawan hotel – now the Grand Hyatt.

Learn something new at Jesada Technik Museum

Museum
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Nakhon Pathom, Thailand - August 27, 2020 : Classic cars in Jesada Technik Museum, Nakhon Pathom, Thailand. A lot of classic cars are collected in thi
© Classic cars in Jesada Technik Museum

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.

These recommendations were updated on August 19, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh. This article is an updated version of a story created by Alex Robinson

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