As a long-time resident of Bangkok, Thailand I meet tourists all the time who tell me about the tours they took in and around Bangkok, and how much they paid for them. With some tours in Bangkok being quite expensive, many are also unnecessary to take, as you can get there by yourself. But, as a visitor to Bangkok, you probably don’t know how. That’s why, as an expert on getting around in Bangkok, I thought I’d hand over some of my secrets and tell you how to get to the top five Bangkok tourist attractions by yourself – and on the cheap.
The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew – The number one tourist destination in Bangkok is The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew complex. Literally, the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen, going to The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew is an absolute must for any first-time visitor to Bangkok. Yes, there are tours, and yes they’re easy to take. But, if you want to have a ‘real Thai experience’ on your way to The Grand Palace and do it on the cheap, then follow these instructions.
Get on the sky train at any station and find your way to Sapan Taksin station (if you are not on the same line as Sapan Taksin station, you’ll have to change trains at Siam station – easy to do). Leave the station and walk towards the river, where you will get on a Chao Praya Express Boat going north. Get off the boat at Tha Chang (about 15 minutes), and walk down the pier until you get to the street, which is Na Phra Lan Road. Walk up the road until you see Silpakorn University on the left hand side (less than 5 minutes). The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew are opposite.
Jim Thompson House – An absolutely gorgeous traditional Thai wooden house owned by the famous Thai silk merchant and ex-CIA agent, Jim Thompson, Jim Thompson House is the most-visited museum in Bangkok. It’s also less than a five minute walk from the sky train, so a tour is completely unnecessary.
Take the sky train to National Stadium station. At the station, walk down the stairs and out of the main exit. Once down the main steps at the main exit, you’ll find yourself on a very wide skywalk. Turn immediately left and go down a short flight of steps you’ll find there until you get to the street level. Keep walking forward on the street until you reach Soi Kasemsan 2 and you’ll see a big sign saying “Jim Thompson House”. Turn right down the soi and walk to the end of the street (less than 2 minutes) and you’ll find the museum on your left hand side, right before the canal. If you get to the canal, you’ve gone too far.
Suan Lum Night Bazaar – One of the popular Bangkok night time trips is to the famous Suan Lum Night Bazaar, with its thousands of market stalls, beer gardens and live music. But, don’t take a tour to the Night Bazaar, they’re far too expensive. Follow these instructions and you can easily get there by yourself.
Take the underground train from any station to Lumphini station. At the station, take exit number 3. At the top of the escalator, turn right and you’ll walk directly into Suan Lum Night Bazaar. Couldn’t be easier and it will cost you less than $1.
Take a Bangkok Noi Canal Boat Tour – One of the most popular Bangkok tours for those who enjoy being on boats and seeing authentic Thai life is to take a Bangkok Noi Canal Boat Tour – a tour around the tiny canals of Bangkok with stop offs at the Royal Barge Museum, an orchid farm and a temple. Upwardly priced at $45 per person with a tour company, you can do this by yourself for less than 30% of that, even less the more people there are with you.
Take the skytrain to Sapan Taksin sky train station, get off and walk to the river. At the river, take the Chao Praya Express Boat north to Tha Chang pier and get off. At the pier, you’ll see many long tail boat operators, who are touting for customers. Talk to a few and bargain to get the lowest price. For a two-hour boat trip, you should pay no more than 1,000 baht, which if there’s four of you, that’s only 250 baht each ($8.40), a far cry from the $40 a tour group will charge. Just remember to give the boatman a small tip (100 baht or $3) when you’re done.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market – Seriously, don’t go there. The tours are expensive and it’s nothing but a tourist trap, full of cheesy, expensive souvenirs and mostly set up for foreign tourists. Instead, go to the authentic Thai floating market, Amphawa. Amphawa is about an hour and 15 minutes outside Bangkok (Damnoen Saduak is around 45 minutes) but well worth the traveling time as it’s absolutely superb. Here, you’ll see no more than 10 westerners the whole day and at least 10,000 Thais. It’s dirt cheap, it’s beautiful, the food is delicious, the cafes and bars are amazing, and it’s fun.
Ask the receptionist at your hotel to get you a taxi to “Amphawa?” (pronounced Am-pah-wah’)You will pay a flat 35 baht fee ($1.20) when you get in, then once the meter goes on (make sure the driver puts the meter on, it’s illegal not to), a few baht per mile. It will take you about an hour and 15 minutes. If there are three or four of you, you should be able to get to Amphawa Floating Market for less than $10 each and the same coming back in another taxi (just flag one down at the market when you’re ready to come back to Bangkok).
Considering the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market tour is $60 or more per person, and you only get to see the fake cheesy one, get yourself to Amphawa. You will love it.