(SPOT.ph) It’s no surprise that Bangkok, Thailand is a popular destination. It’s just a little over three hours away from Metro Manila by plane—almost the same travel time going from Quezon City to, well…Quezon City on a bad day. There are plenty of flights available; not to mention that Bangkok is often included in seat-sale offerings.
If you’re planning a visit to the Land of Smiles, you’ll be happy to know that your Philippine peso can go a long way. You can stretch your budget even further by checking out some fun activities and visiting awesome sights that don’t have to cost a single baht.
Here are free things you can do in Bangkok:
Go window-shopping at Chatuchak Weekend Market
We know, we know. Chatuchak Weekend Market, with its 8,000 shop stalls, can get very overwhelming and tempting to spend all our baht. But it’s a good place to find out what Bangkok is all about—if only to see interesting handicrafts and ceramics, watch how authentic Thai street food are prepared, and maybe even take a bite of free food samples.
The Chatuchak Weekend Market is Chatuchak Park, Kamphaeng Phet 2 Road, Chatuchak, Bangkok. It is open every Friday, from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m.; and from Saturday to Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Go monitor lizard-watching at Lumpini Park
Let’s face it: the only reason we visit parks is to rest our tired feet from all the shopping. But in Bangkok, it’s a destination. Lumpini Park features plenty of gardens and even a lake where people can rent paddle boats. If you feel like getting active, you can take advantage of their outdoor gym facilities, join an aerobics lesson, or watch some of the locals practice Tai Chi. You can also enjoy live jazz music or a classical orchestra playing there. Oh, and how can we forget? It is also home to around a hundred monitor lizards that scurry around the sprawling ground. It’s not unusual to spot two or three when you take a stroll or sit down for a picnic, with their sizes varying from three to five feet.
Feel the backpacker vibe at Khao San Road
In the 1996 novel The Beach, author Alex Garland described Khao San Road as the “center of the backpacking universe,” and the description still rings true. The popular one-kilometer stretch is still full of hotels and hostels, bars and restaurants, massage places, and tattoo shops—making it a backpacker’s paradise. You can sample exotic street food like scorpions, watch buskers lining the street, and enjoy its “anything goes” vibe that attracts tourists from all over the world. In case you have extra baht to spare, you can haggle for low prices at the retail shops, especially on Mondays.
Learn more about Thai culture at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre
Curious about the art scene in Bangkok? The Bangkok Art and Culture Centre is the place to visit if you want to see or even do something creative. Inside the impressive modern Thai architecture are galleries with new exhibitions showing throughout the year. Large-scale statues and installation art are scattered around the cultural center. They also have an art library and spaces for visitors to learn crafts, ranging from music to jewelry-making. They also hold performance nights and film screenings.
The Bangkok Art and Culture Centre is at 939 Rama I Rd, Wang Mai, Pathum Wan, Bangkok. It is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
See the stunning view of Wat Arun at sunset
Wat Arun may be called the “Temple of Dawn,” but it’s equally beautiful at dusk. With the temple all lit-up at night amid dark skies, it is a sight to behold. The temple itself also features intricately designed Khmer-style pagodas or prangs. The grand pagoda stands at 70 meters, which you can climb it to see a beautiful view of the Chao Phraya River. While entering the temple will cost you 50 baht, catching a glimpse of the stunning temple façade along Bangkok’s skyline is free.
Wat Arun is at 158 Wang Doem Road, Wat Arun, Bangkok. It is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Watch a Muay Thai fight
Curious about martial arts? Then you should book your Bangkok trip on the last week of the month to get the chance to watch a Muay Thai fight. Every Wednesday, a live Muay Thai fight happens outside the MBK Shopping Centre. Watching the fight is free of charge, which is why these nights are always packed with people. The event is a great introduction to the sport, or something unusual to do when you’re in town.
MBK Fight Night is at MBK Shopping Centre, 444 Phayathai Road, Wang Mai, Pathum Wan, Bangkok. It is held every last Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m.
Catch a puppet show at Baan Silapin
This artistic enclave, which is located at the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River, is not frequented by tourists, which means you can enjoy a show or two in peace. You can rent a long-tail boat to take you directly to Baan Silapin and experience the interesting view of the canal as your guide takes you there. Their main attraction is the puppet show that happens at 2 p.m. daily. This is performed by the local youth in the area using traditional Thai puppets and puppetry techniques where they control the puppets like marionettes. It’s a fun way to hear about local Thai folklore or scenes from the Ramayana.
Baan Silapin is at Soi 28, Wat Kuhasawan, Thonburi, Bangkok. It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Learn more about Thai culture through dance
The Erawan Shrine features a statue of Phra Phrom, or the Thai people’s representation of the Hindu god Brahma. This impressive statue isn’t what usually draws the crowd in, however, but the Thai dance troupe that worshippers have hired to perform for Brahma to ensure their answered prayers. Fortunately, you don’t have to go out of your way to catch a glimpse of this shrine and the dancers on your trip. The shrine is located in the middle of one of Bangkok’s busiest shopping areas, the Pathum Wan District. You can stop by for a quick look at the Thai dancers’ one-of-a-kind performance.
Take a relaxing stroll in a butterfly garden
The Butterfly Garden and Insectarium features an enclosure with landscaped gardens, flowerbeds, ponds, a waterfall—and, of course, butterflies. If you want to learn more about these creatures, there are displays that tell you more about the different species.
The Butterfly Garden and Insectarium is at Queen Sirikit Park, Kamphaengpet 3 Road, Lad Yao, Chatuchak, Bangkok. It is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Catch a glimpse of an old Thai household at the Bangkokian Museum
Also known as the Bangkok Folk Museum, the Bangkokian Museum showcases three preserved wooden bungalows from the early 20th century. The buildings feature varnished wood flooring, green-paneled walls, antique porcelain basins, and delicate dining wares. You may see striking semblance to our own ancestral houses, proving that there are similarities in our Southeast Asian roots.
The Bangkokian Museum is at Charoen Krung, Soi 43, Bangkok. It is open from Wednesday to Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.