Coco Chanel once famously said – “The best things in life are free. The second best things are very, very expensive.”
While she might not have been referring to Bangkok, her exuberant quote definitely applies to this incredible city that is Bangkok.
This chaos-infused sprawling metropolis can prove to be dramatically daunting for the average traveller with a limited amount of time.
Truth be told, this is not a city to while away in if you are here just for a few days – so we will give you valuable pointers.
1. How to make the most of your time in Bangkok
2. How to do it for FREE!
Interested in embarking on a “journey of a lifetime” through colourful Bangkok? Let’s get down to it!
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1. Have a forest beneath your feet! – PTT Reforestation Project
Humans are such a beautiful paradox. 100 years ago Bangkok was nothing but a vast land with gorgeous rice paddies and luxuriant vegetation. Fast forward to present days, and you have an urban jungle – which innovative minds are trying to transform back into a salubrious green space!
When it comes to a company whose name is associated with oil and gas, it is almost impossible to believe that they have created a sustainable endeavour of this magnitude.
But that’s exactly the case with PTT’s green project! A huge metro forest in the heart – liver, to be more accurate – of the city.
What’s so great about the forest, apart from making the city a better place? Well… you can actually stroll above it along a sky walk with a view, so as not to disturb the growth of the saplings. There’s even an observation tower, for you to take a gander at the surroundings from a high vantage point.
And if at any time you feel overly heated from walking in the sun – escape into the indoor exhibition space where air-conditioning not only awaits, but some cool installations too. (It’s a pity most of it is in Thai though!)
Since this project was featured in Monocle Magazine, and visited by the U.S. Ambassador, we are guessing they are doing something right!
If you wake up in the mood to visit a Chinese-influenced Thai temple in the back of beyond, then head to this arched tree tunnel that also happens to be over a canal bridge.
Photo via Kittisak Ryankit Thiengwong
It might not be as jaw-dropping as Ukraine’s famous Love Tunnel – but the incredible quietude of the place, disturbed gently by the puffing sound of the train, the orange-clad monks passing over the footbridge, and the ubiquitous green all make for a wonderful little visit.
Photo via Usasran Charoensawas
The best time to traverse this sacred secluded place, is during a clear-sky morning of the rainy season. This is when the canopied tunnel is at its greenest, and the sunrays catapult its magical setting into pure perfection!
Otherwise it can be quite uninspiring, some might say – and the dry season will make the tunnel look rather withered too.
Photo via Usasran Charoensawas
Get there in the morning, between 10am to 12pm, and you will have a few shots at the train passing through. As you can see from our pictures – it looks pretty awesome!
3. Watch people surf… in a bar! – Flow House
Imagine the perfervid grip of the feral surfs in Bali, aggressively yet tenderly making you one with the nature – and taking your senses beyond the imaginable! Who needs that? Instead, let’s do it Bangkok-style!
Photo via flow house bangkok
There are few inland urban spaces, maybe around 4 in the world, where you can eat, drink and surf at the same time – with a little break in-between, we might say!
Photo via mookcrawl, smninbkk
Flow House is a hippie and trendy two-floor facility that boasts such unique credentials.
Although this is a no-brainer, the time of the day dictates immensely whether this activity is suited for a family or for a group of revellers.
Throw in some tapas, that even a Spaniard will rave about, some music that will raise your splashy spirits – and you have the perfect recipe for a great day/night out.
Photo via jumper superlui
Arguably, the ones having the most fun, are the audience gawking at inexperienced surf-struck wannabes bruising themselves, or marvelling at the sight of experienced athletic silhouettes who can really bust a move… well… a surf!
Order a reasonably priced drink and get your smartphone ready for photos – fun is guaranteed!
4. Pay your respects to flying in the good old days – Airplane Graveyard
In our series of trespassing abandoned private properties, we give you the post-apocalyptic-looking set of an airplane graveyard – right in the middle of the city. Well, sort of.
Photo via 22places, homeboundblues
Rarely documented, mainly by photojournalists or bloggers, this off-the-radar aircraft cemetery supports nowadays an off-the-grid living for its “residents” – homeless locals squatting in decaying metal-stripped airplane hulls. Regardless, the Boeing 747 fuselage is quite an eye-catcher, and you will enjoy exploring this airplane graveyard.
Photo via amandamustard
The great news about this whimsical tourist attraction? It is relatively easy to get to, and it can be photographed right from the side of the road.
Whatever angle you point the camera in, it will look like you were the first to have discovered this “disaster movie set”!
Photo via marikristinaaa
The not so great news?
You might be asked by a “security guard” to pay an “entrance fee”, which would be around 100-200 Baht / USD $3-6.
Once you are in, what in the past used to be deemed as donations for visiting the families, now is an upfront charge of up to 500 Baht / USD $15 for a sneak peek into their ‘homes’.
5. Right out of a fairy tale… – Chocolate Ville
Have you ever imagined yourself waiting for your Prince Charming in one of Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales, but with more flamingo birds and Dutch windmills? We cannot make that happen, but…
Photo via kai apisit
In a realm, far, far away, out in the boondocks – where you can still take a taxi – there is a visually inebriating theme park restaurant called Chocolate Ville, where you can find great delectable dishes, yet very little chocolate in fact!
Photo via janenyksr
The evocative European-style village with enchanting pavilions, statues and capacious indoor and outdoor dining areas – will quench your thirst for spruced up romantic décor and authentic German beer!
Photo via candyo3o5
Photo via candyo3o5, alexthc85
Although not exactly on the tourist map, if you come here during weekends or public holidays, get ready to share your fairy tale fantasy with thousands – yes, thousands! – of city dwellers coming here to enjoy a pseudo-countryside experience.
Photo via wikewijayaa, fildzahanifa
Photo via jess 521,pindo nugroho,winnielyt, jovetanate
6. Marvel at the “Hanging Gardens”! – EmQuartier
We know that if you had a time machine, your first priority as an adventurer… might be going back a few thousand years to marvel at the Hanging Gardens of Babylon – or maybe it’s just us!
At EmQuartier, Bangkok’s newest addition to its range of high-end luxury shopping centers – you’ll find something almost similar.
Let’s start from the beginning – a red carpet à la Hollywood awaits you at the entrance!
Photo via Dave Stamboulis
Keep walking on – ignore all the glitzy designer brands, and stunning cutting-edge architecture, or the occasional Thai celebrities/models – and head for the third section, the Waterfall Quartier.
Photo via kellyskl
There in all their glory, you have the hanging gardens and a decently sized 40-meter high cascade, as a bonus!
Not to be missed, in the Helix Quartier, at the 5th floor – admire some unique tropical flora including orchids and lush ferns in the Water Garden, all under the suave influence of the beautifully illuminated pond!
Photo via design boom
Photo via the spt,supara bakavou, ping nutcharin
Looking for more to do at EmQuartier? How about the Sky Cliff and its awesome panoramic views in the Glass Quartier at the 45th floor?
7. Let your imagination flap its wings! – Butterfly Garden
Isn’t true happiness all about the small things in life? Or isn’t life so precious because it is so
short? Donald Trump might beg to differ, but…
To those of you whose minds frequently linger in this pensive disposition, or to those who appreciate the fragile touch of life – we present the Butterfly Garden!
Right beneath the naturally lit glass dome, and within a delightful greenery of ferns and exotic flowers, lies the natural habitat of a few species of butterflies trying to enjoy life at its fullest…
Photo via dianenamchai, kushaan d wisdom
Walk around – this lively insectarium will surprise you with its little gems in the form of sheepish butterflies and even a waterfall!
And if you wish to learn more about the precious lifecycles of these metamorphosing insects, then an indoor display will offer you plenty of information.
Photo via dianenamchai, lana grey
But that’s not all! If more verdant spaces are your thing, head to Queen Sirikit Park just a stone’s throw away.
With manicured trees and gardens that will fully satisfy your innate need for chasing beauty in the nature, your need for verdant greenery will be well and fully satisfied!
8. Get your spook on – Sathorn Unique Ghost Tower
Towering majestically over Chao Praya River like a Phoenix that has yet to rise from its ashes, this abandoned 49-storey complex can definitely send chills down your spine at a first glance!
Photo via Just One Way Ticket
The unfinished skyscraper is extremely popular with urban explorers – with many online gravity-defying selfies from young exhibitionists playing daredevils. Adrenaline aside, the place offers some of the most ridiculously wild views over Bangkok!
Photo via explorewithus
Photo via Pete Rojwongsuriya
There is one catch though – it is illegal to trespass the private building, even in Bangkok! Not to mention that pieces of concrete or debris can detach from the structure and collapse onto you, and the fact that you’ll need to climb 49 floors!
Photo via Just One Way Ticket
Although in no way, shape or form do we encourage you to join the daredevil league or to bribe the authorities if you get caught – the eerie feeling of the ghost-hunted building can be safely experienced right from its base.
And it is just opposite its blessing spiritual patron, Wat Yanawa!
9. Become an arty pants! – Bangkok Arts and Culture Center
Yes, we do know that it sounds like an oxymoron, but Bangkok has indeed become a contemporary arts center – and it’s actually quite well-mapped on the international art scene!
Photo via hi mango
The 3000 sq metre center is Bangkok’s hub for Thai modern art with numerous galleries, some of world-class value, and it gives the city a Guggenheim-like-ish vibe.
But the actual highlight is the state-of-the-art, vertigo-inducing design with rounded corners and delirious spirals, all beautifully whitewashed.
Photo viarachataaa, chanvout, goodnight, obsessed31
If you happen to be hobnobbing with a group of snarky friends, now is your time to get the upper hand and pretend you know an iota on modern art!
Otherwise, you can just talk to the local artists instead – no pretentious dialogues required!
(And if none of this interests you, then keep calm and have a coffee at Gallery Drip!)
10. Feed..just kidding! Check these crocodiles out – Wat Chakrawat
Unfortunately and tragically, we are living in a world where people are running out of unique places for snapping amazing selfies. Hence, we’d like to make the world a better place by introducing you to the crocodiles of Wat Chakrawat!
Photo via Galle
If Chinatown sounds like an over-consumed assault on your senses, nearby there is a stupendous temple with shiny stupas that shelters some really gargantuan types of crocodiles.
The two murky ponds are literally a playground for three crocodiles that were brought here as strays and are now taken care of by the monks.
Photo via Inazuma, kyrkylixa
There are many legends surrounding the mystical temple, including the one alleging cursed monk-devouring crocodiles, but we particularly liked the one of the fat monk, who intentionally made himself obese to cut down on his attractiveness among the ‘ladies’. Now, this is what we call a devout monk!
Have fun and be safe checking the crocodiles out, and if you are fortunate enough to find them open, walk through some small gates leading to the caves and some chedis atop natural hills!
11. Watch a mesmerisingly simple dance performance – Khlong Bang Luang Artist House
Veiled in centuries of traditions and crafts, the sedate yet eclectic Khlong Bang Luang village hardly pertains to the urban jungle of Bangkok.
Stilted houses mirroring timidly into the murky waters of Chao Praya River, ornate chedis redolent of the Ayutthaya period, and a bijou Thai community of veritable artists are what infuses vitality in this “Venice of the East” canal village. (Even the iconic beer-belly red man statue seems to fit in!)
Photo via focusframe, plumrang
The teak wood Artist House features locally produced works of art such as drawings, prints and sculptures – and the project itself is conducive to communal artistic efforts, encouraging the preservation of authentic Thai culture.
Photo via takamiya1984, patchapon, aomyippy
As a tourist you can unleash the beast of your creativity by painting your own mask too!
The centrepiece of this project, is the 2pm daily puppet show – except for Wednesdays – when jet black ninja-looking puppeteers masterfully lend their souls to the bodies of traditional Thai puppets.
Photo via smallest 83, winkkzaa
You will be mesmerised by the simplicity of the beautifully executed performance, coupled with some occasional acrobatics!
12. Keep your senses in your pants – Patpong
This is the exact opposite of what most (male) tourists are trying to do in Patpong, but trust us on this one. The red-light district of Bangkok is an incandescent splendour of colours, flavours, fragrances – and other illicit erotic or counterfeit souvenirs that are sufficient per se for a memorable experience!
Since this is a family-friendly website, we must steer clear of getting down to the nitty-gritty, aka Ping Pong shows! So, we will concentrate instead on other attractive selections, no pun intended.
Photo via rose.nayeli,junnhouse,tallcupofchocolatemilk
Actually, this small neighbourhood in Silom where people never sleep… alone… is rather charming and enticing during the day!
That being said, Patpong Night Market is the least authentic market in Bangkok – it was created only as a response to the hordes of tourists flocking to see what the fuss is all about with the red-light district.
And ironically, this is what makes it so special!
The areas around it are either chic or bizarre – just walk along Soi Thaniya and you will once again scratch your head at the ever-present obsession of Thai people with Japanese culture!
Photo via bangkok tenpo
13. Set sail for awesomeness at a one-of-a-kind boat temple – Wat Yanawa
You might have heard that Bangkok does have some little quirky temples nested around, waiting to become the next big hit – like the David Beckham Temple featuring a teeny Garuda impersonation of the famous football/soccer player.
Photo via Igor Prahin
But some of these temples are really worth a visit and Wat Yanawa is probably at the top of the list! Wat Yanawa is a one-of-a-kind junk-shaped temple – by junk we mean an ancient Chinese sailing vessel.
The beautifully ornate wiharn (boat) with two white and gold chedis (stupas) at whose helm stands Buddha himself – a small gold leaf statue in the “wheel room” – is evocative of the Chinese trading era from centuries ago.
The temple is enclosed by an elegantly decorated complex/gatehouse with interesting extensions such as the ubosot – where monks get ordained, libraries and a relics hall.
Photo via tisstxx
These ashes and bone fragments are thought to posses magical powers that can cure cancer and forge economic prosperity. We cannot quite put our fingers on the cancer issue, but ironically enough the abandoned Sathorn Ghost Tower is the most disastrous financial project in Bangkok!
14. Chant: “Open, Sesame!” – Papaya Vintage Shop
If Alice had gone down the rabbit hole, and ended up in Ali Baba’s den it would look pretty much the same as what you would find at Papaya Vintage shop.
Photo via thomasvanbau, velasss
Camouflaged in a godforsaken area of Bangkok, once the shutters are up – this three-storey warehouse/studio will reveal a visual hotchpotch of items you never knew would ever come together!
This bonafide retro labyrinth is always in a constant layout change as items get sold or rearranged.
Photo via sheriffic, jimjimoon, dariotravels
Get transported to a hallucinogenic world where life-sized or larger- than-life figurines like James Dean, Spiderman, or Batman – rub elbows with items and ideas patented long before you were born.
The extremely rare items from days of yore are obviously not on the cheap – but the vintage studio serves more as a museum, or a shooting set rather than a merchandise store.
PS: Caution! After two hours of roaming around, when you step out of this wonderland – the world will appear slightly less colourful…
15. Catch the train rumbling through a market – Maeklong Railway Market
Legend has it that once upon a time, in 1905 to be more precise, there was a free local market where people would barter together happily ever after! And then a train came and it changed everything… again, ever after.
Photo via Paul Sarawak
If you want to catch this trendsetting train, and shop at the same time in the exact spot – on the railway tracks – this market is the best place to do so.
Photo via joaoleitaoviagens
When the train chugs through the quaint market, everyone wraps up their tarps/awnings and products in a hurry – and lays them back down when the train is gone. This happens several times a day!
Dope vs. Nope (Tips for the Inconspicuous Tourist)
– buying some delicacies like barbequed frogs vs. being a conspicuous tourist
– safely and quickly photographing the train vs. being a conspicuous tourist
– not being a conspicuous tourist vs. being a conspicuous tourist
Alright, we got it! You got it!
16. Enjoy your business! (No, seriously) – The toilets of Terminal 21
It is a mathematical certainty that shopping till you drop will eventually cause you to drop other stuff as well. And there is no better place in the whole of Bangkok for dropping it down the toilet, than Terminal 21.
Photo via Destination exploration
Terminal 21 offers a unique shopping experience as it is the only airport-themed mall in Bangkok. Its 9 storeys are city-themed, featuring recognisable landmarks from San Francisco, Rome, London, and Paris among many others.
Look down on the Golden Gate Bridge and try to see how many miniature Lamborghini cars you can spot!
But let’s get down to business – the number one reason you should come here are the funky toilets.
Photo via ilovekatjuju
Probably the most Instagram-worthy, would be the Japanese-themed restroom that features… yes indeed… the famous or infamous automatic toilets that blow your precious butt dry. We’ll say no more, you simply have to experience the toilets of Terminal 21 for yourself!
And of course, don’t forget to take some photos around Terminal 21 for Instagram!
17. Have a taste of futuristic agriculture at the largest sky garden in Thailand – Siam Green Sky
Futurologists are predicting that within a few decades most of the world’s plants, fruit and vegetables, will be grown in vertically-distributed plantations as a more efficient manner of agriculture.
Photo via tp.ng
And Thailand is one of the first pioneers to implement such practices.
Part of Chulalongkorn University, the rooftop garden project called Siam Green Sky on the top floor of Siam Square One shopping mall – is a learning center with a focus on agricultural awareness and social networking.
Photo via khunaux, natty yui
Concepts like renewable solar energy, landscape management, urban ecology, fully-integrated self-sustenance, and other sophisticated terminologies are high up on this audacious project’s goals list.
Photo via bijaherbal
And if you happen to be here in the third weekend of any given month, have a stroll at the
Green Market where you can savour organic foods and free workshops!
18. Float through skyscrapers! – Boat Ride to Asiatique Night Market
The impressive skyline along Chao Praya River at dusk is not something to be missed! Nor the short 10 minute free shuttle around it…
Photo via faithjoyhope
The most expensive condominiums in Bangkok are located in Sathorn area, near the riverside and that is for a good reason – whichever direction you look, the views are spectacular.
Photo via smartwarm
Asiatique could be described as a spoiled spawn of Chocolate Ville and Chatuchak Market after a long-drawn-out divorce… and settlement! It has a pronounced European influence in its architecture, but offers very Asian-orientated merchandise.
Photo via darkis21, Kee Hua Chee, niklasarleryd
So, what little off-the-wall things can you experience here?
Let’s throw in some selfies in a bronze rickshaw statue, an original heritage two-storey living quarters, and a Pong Pong plant for sale.
Photo via rahayuswan
You know, those decorative plants whose seeds are so toxic to humans they will induce a poison-untraceable heart attack within minutes after ingestion? That’s right, these are just some of Asiatique’s interesting little finds!
19. Indulge in a rooftop bar extravaganza – Vertigo and Moon Bar, The Red Sky, The River Vibe
Enough with this! Do you really have to bear the pain of getting to know all the greatest vantage points in Bangkok?
19-a. The highest al fresco rooftop restaurant in the world – Vertigo and Moon Bar at Banyan Tree
If you have wondered how a sailing vessel would look like flying through the skies, you’ll get your answer here.
For those of you who suffer from acrophobia or equivalents – fear of heights – this is not the place to opt for.
Photo via vonnycitra, chloebenson2
The prices will set you back… substantially but let’s admit it – you’re here to snap that Facebook photo that your friends will pretend not to feel jealous about! #LIKE
19-b. Great vibes, live jazz music and middle-range prices – The Red Sky at Centara Grand
To put it simply in perspective – this is the place to beat! Imported foods and ingredients on a more affordable scale, little to no crowd and great service, all make for a gleeful experience.
Photo via st.chien
Everything feels utterly premium, without being pretentious! From the 55th floor, your panoramic view will mainly appear like a constant reminder that Bangkok is soon going to catch up on Hong Kong’s skyline.
Photo via tankthana
19-c. Groove to the river vibes, backpacker-style – The River Vibe
Since we feel like we’ve neglected our beloved flashpackers/backpackers through this article…
…Oh, wait! Isn’t this whole thing called something like “free things to do in Bangkok? – we decided to make up for it, with our next choice that has almost become a cult place for an amazing laid-back atmosphere.
Photo via tavtee
When the fugitive sun comes down on all the old temples, then blend harmoniously with present day architectural marvels that mirror into the country’s emblematic river – and it’s so magically dark you cannot see the fumes of pollution anymore…
Photo via fhykongniwatsiri
The River Vibe will be there to make your evening!
20. Pay a visit to the European-styled former royal palace! – Ministry of Defence
Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Bangkok anymore!
The wildly fashionable European-styled former royal palace, built in the 19th century, makes a perfect use of colours and architectural styles to which even Jean-Paul Gautier would take his hat off.
Photo via bassariya
The open air museum consists of a few war canons solemnly guarding the palace’s manicured lawn, and are merely visual enhancers that contribute to how gracious this building appears in the mighty sun of Bangkok.
Please, we beg of you, do not attempt to enter the premises without a valid reason – this is still the Ministry of Defence after all!
Photo via pprrim,nam wanachai, aniwach
Located conveniently opposite the famous Grand Palace, which is probably among the 3 most visited places in Bangkok, this little gem is actually off the tourist map and many people miss it!