Bangkok: 3 free attractions off the tourist map
Married couple Lance and David van der Liebenberg from South Africa have taken their career in the travel industry to the extreme by relocating to Southeast Asia to explore and fully immerse themselves in the local cultures and write about their often flamboyant adventures in their blog fivestarhotelsandeconomyclasstravel.com.
Guest blogger Lance, 35, tells Hostelling International about his top three hidden tourist gems in Bangkok.
Bangkok is a city that many love to hate. It is frenetic and chaotic and the streets grid-locked with traffic, but if you look deeper than the glistening skyscrapers and skyrail terminals, the city has a unique charm that will captivate your heart and seduce your soul.
For first timers to the city, the slick modern veneer of Sukhumvit Road and the lewd all-for-one attitude of Pat Phong is all you might know about the city, but there is definitely more to Bangkok than shopping centres and ping-pong shows.
These are our three top things to do when in the Thai City of Angels:
Silom by day
Visitors normally flock to Silom to shop at the evening market down Silom and Patpong Roads and to explore the seedy underworld of Pat Phong and its world famous ping-pong shows and strip joints.
But, venture off the beaten track during the day and discover that this area has even more on offer.
Running up the side of Soi Convent (close to Thanon Sala Daeng 2) you will find a veritable lunch buffet of cheap, awesome street food, offered up to feed the hungry corporates and office workers that occupy the Silom area in the day (the Soi is named after a Carmelite Monastery dating back to 1925 which sits further up the road and is steeped in history).
Walking further down Silom Road (heading away from Lumphini Park and Rama IV Rd) and turning into Silom Soi 5 at the edge of the Bangkok Bank headquarters brings you deep into the heart of the ‘Pocket Money Market’.
This and the surrounding Soi’s (all the way back to the Glow Trinity Hotel on Phiphat Soi 2) are turned into a daily market for the locals during office hours. Here you can find anything from Thai bean curd sweets, to Pad Thai, clothing and fresh fish.
Lumphini Park on a Sunday morning
Lumphini Park is best described as the Central Park of Bangkok. This 142-acre park in the middle of Bangkok’s glistening skyscrapers and chaotic traffic provides a welcome respite from the noise that is ever present in the city.
Bangkok locals (both Thai and expats) use the park as an escape to get in some exercise. Here you will find cyclists and people on a morning run, a group of elderly men and woman taking part in a Tai Chi class and everything else in between.
It provides a perfect place to have a morning picnic. Stop and buy cheap and incredible pastries at the Tops Supermarket in the basement of the Silom Complex virtually at the Sala Daeng BTS station and spend a couple of hours reading a book, listening to your iPod or just watching the people.
When walking through the park, look out for the sculptures scattered throughout the grounds – the statue of the fat person running with arms outstretched and the mother and child are my favourites.
Entering the park grounds in the South from the MRT Lumphini Station gate and heading north (keeping to the left) you will also find an open air and free-to-use gym as well as a (paid) public swimming pool should you decided that a more active approach is required when visiting the park.
The Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit
Now, this might seem like a strange suggestion when travelling to Thailand on a tight budget, but with a little careful planning, you too can have a night out on the town with Bangkok’s elite for free! The Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit Hotel (situated exactly halfway between Asok and Nana stations on Sukhumvit Road) has an awesome social media programme and very often has sponsored cocktail nights and free after-work drink sessions where all your cocktails or drinks and snacks is on the house for a couple of hours.
We have been to a couple of Campari evenings and had a blast (and we believe that the ladies nights are awesome). Our suggestion is to dress up to the nines, put your dancing shoes on and start your evening at the Sofitel to get your buzz on with a free drink (or 10) before heading out to Soi 11 (down the road by Nana Station) to sample the fantastic and cheap cocktail buckets from any one of the Volkswagen mobile bars on the side of the road.
If you’re inspired to visit Bangkok, Hostelling International offers a wide selection of hostels, where you can base yourself to explore the vibrant city.
- Can you add any tips to Lance and David’s suggestions? Add your comments below.