Although the beauty of Bangkok is not comparable to that of many of Thailand’s natural areas, the country’s capital offers endless leisure possibilities for all tastes and pockets. There are a million free things to do and see in Bangkok – it’s impossible to get bored here! And ruin yourself too if you know where the best and cheapest plans are.
360-degree panoramic view of Bangkok
Any self-respecting guide to the Thai capital would strongly recommend climbing into the bar of one of its skyscrapers to enjoy the many things to see in Bangkok from the heights. Yes, these bars are fantastic, no doubt, but they are beyond the budget of many visitors.
For those who want to enjoy a 360-degree view without having to pawn a kidney, I suggest a visit to the Golden Mount. A free entrance Buddhist temple located on a small mound from which you have a magnificent view of the place, revealing the impressive skyline full of towers and skyscrapers.
Aerobics and Tai chi classes in the park
Despite the bustle and pollution in the city centre, there are also things to do in Bangkok that will help you keep your body and mind healthy. At least twice a day the Lumphini Park is filled with athletes.
Almost every day in the early morning (between 6:00 and 7:00) and before sunset (between 17:00 and 19:00) you will find mega aerobics classes and thai chi groups, all with musicón or musiquilla and teachers to guide you.
It is not necessary to register, just go to the park with sports clothes and join the crowd. The groups can be really numerous (more than a hundred people), if you want to see the teacher try to get in the first rows.
City Pillar Shrine
Of all the tourist attractions in Ratanakosin, the Royal Palace and its emerald green Buddha, and the Wat Pho and its huge reclining Buddha, take almost all the fame.
These are usually two of the stops every tourist makes in the old part of Thailand’s capital. These obligatory stops leave a considerable hole in the pocket, especially the Royal Palace (the joke costs 500 baths, almost 12 euros).
What nobody pays attention to is the City Pillar Shrine, a flirty complex that holds the first stone (sorry, pillar) of the city, supposedly laid by Rama I himself. You will find this free haven of peace, one of the few to be seen in Bangkok, right in front of the Royal Palace and the Wat Pho** (on the opposite side of the river).
Chao Phraya Cruise
One of the most famous things to do in Bangkok is the cruise on the Chao Phraya, if possible with dinner and violins playing at sunset. However, if the scene doesn’t seduce you or your wallet says no waste, there’s no reason not to take your mini-cruise down the city’s most famous river.
For only 20 baht (0,46 euros) you can get on the boat standing up or sitting down and sail from one part of the city to another. It has no food, no orchestra, but it floats on the water anyway.
Meditating on the Wat Arun
Many are those who go to Chiang Mai to make spiritual retreats in secluded monasteries. Well, you don’t have to go that far north to start meditating. If meditation is on your list of things to do in Bangkok, go to the Center for Buddha-Dhamma Practice and International Charity.
You will find it right behind the Wat Arun and you will be able to participate in the free beginners’ sessions every day, without exception, from 4:30 pm. Careful how you get hooked.
Bangkok by bike
There is a healthy and fun way to enjoy all the things you see in Bangkok. The city authorities make available to any visitor who wishes a wide network of bicycles whose enjoyment the first 15 minutes is absolutely free.
From then on, the baths start running slowly but surely. An hour on two wheels will cost you 10 baths (0.23 euros), three 20 (0.46), five 40 (0.90) and so on. If you exceed 8 hours, the price of the bike rental is 100 baths (2.32).
There are more than forty points where you can pick up and drop off bikes in the city, most of them in the centre, all of them designed for an urban cyclist who wants to approach the city in a different and ecological way.
See part of a ping pong show
The Ping Pong and Nana shows that have proliferated in recent years are largely to blame for Bangkok’s sordid reputation.
These disreputable shows feature ladies doing a myriad of activities with their vaginas, from blowing out candles to opening bottles (and these are the mildest ‘activities’ I can think of).
You will be able to see the full menu of the show before passing and yes, you will be invited to come in for a free minute to convince yourself that it is worth watching circus size.
I personally have serious doubts about the legality of the Ping Pong shows and, above all, about the working conditions of the women who do the ‘tricks’. Paid or unpaid, I would never include it in my list of things to see in Bangkok, as I don’t think it’s ethical to contribute to the success of an industry that, I suspect, benefits its main protagonists very little.
Bargaining in the markets
If there’s one thing in Thailand, it’s markets. In Bangkok, too, there are plenty of places to shop and, above all, to bargain for those worth passing by, if only to browse. It is huge the one that is mounted on the weekends in Chatuchak, but out of the weekend you will always find a lot of stalls in Silom and Nana.
In my experience, you’ll find more generous vendors in the latter than in the former. The Chinatown around Yawaorat deserves a special mention, a huge Chinese trade made up of a thousand stalls where you can find everything from food to fabrics, electronics, hair ornaments and beach hats, often in wholesale. It is certainly one of the things to do in Bangkok that will help you take the pulse of the city.
Go to a “theme bathroom”
No, going to the bathroom in Bangkok is not a free thing by system. In many train stations the entrance to the toilet requires a payment of a few baht (usually between 2 and 10), for both men and women. The shopping malls, those air-conditioned oases in the middle of the burning asphalt of the big city, allow all potential customers to pass through, which includes a free and unlimited pass to their toilets.
If you’re in Sukhumvit and you get a squeeze, go to Terminal 21, a state-of-the-art department store with at least seven floors that has themed urinals – each one is a country! A country that is impeccably clean and well decorated.
Eating authentic Thai food
With so much to see in Bangkok you will be walking all day and you will have to replenish your strength with good food binges. Don’t make a mistake, the authentic Thai food stands don’t give away the dishes but they are almost free to eat or have dinner there, which can cost less than one euro.
For between 35 and 40 baht (0,80 and 0,92 euros) you can get a good plate of pad thai or noodles with different condiments in the heart of the city and have it sitting down, seasoned and, if the ones in the cart roll up, with drinking water.
Don’t miss out on 10 meals you have to try in Thailand.
Find a cheap hotel in Bangkok.
Would you like to visit Thailand? Well, keep reading:
10 charming hotels in Bangkok
10 foods you have to try in Thailand
Travelling to Thailand: 8 tips to avoid problems
10 incredible islands in Thailand for a fantastic vacation
Top 10 places in Thailand: Tigers, Temples and Muay Thai
8 luxury tricks to save money in Southeast Asia
Travel to Thailand: complete route of 20 days
10 places in Thailand you shouldn’t miss