More bang for your bucks in Bangkok
Travelling for the average South African is a luxury, however with proper research one can have the perfect Instagrammable, activity-filled holiday, even on a tight budget.
I recently went on a trip to Thailand and even though I went as a guest and was able to enjoy the finer things offered by the island, I did note some affordable options that South Africans who wish to travel there should consider.
The first thing I loved was the fact that I did not need to apply for a visa when travelling there. This applies to all SA passport holders.
Bangkok is a thriving business and tourist hub with what I would describe as fairy lights everywhere.
Only a few hours after arriving back home with a craving for Thai food, having only missed my Five Roses Tea, I went online to discover how long it is going to take me to save and travel back there soon.
I was astounded to discover that travelling to Thailand is just as affordable as spending time just about anywhere in South Africa.
A six-day holiday including flights in March can cost you anything from R7,362.37, per person in three-star self-catering accommodation, within a 5km proximity to central Bangkok city. It also offers free WiFi, a swimming pool and they will even collect you from the closest train station. The price of course increases at most establishments, depending on how many more creature comforts you wish to add, including breakfast.
The cost of flights alone flying with Kenya Airways start at *R6,069.20 which includes 23kgs of baggage.
The most inexpensive way to travel is to book your accommodation ‘same same’ (Thai expression) time as your flight.
Hostels are much cheaper but when you are only paying an average of just over R200 a night, then rather enjoy the luxury of not sharing a bathroom and bunk beds!
Well now that I have given you a basic idea of just affordable this travel destination is - I guess I should give you additional enticement on experiences and places to go that also will not break the bank - this ‘City of Angels’ caters to all tourists:
- Hop-On-Hop-Off Elephant Go Go Bus Tour is the first thing I do when I visit any new city. It is an affordable way to get your sense of direction around Bangkok and then to decide which attractions you actually want to visit. Buses run from 9am, 40 minutes apart with 16 destination stops. A one-day (24 hour) ticket will cost you approximately *R400 whilst a two-day (48 hour) ticket will be *R600. Make the most of this service which you can extend to use for three days for *R750 and use it for getting around the city without worrying about trains, cabs and tuk tuks. WiFi is freely available.
- The Bangkok Mass Transit System - BTS elavated Skytrain is also a wonderful way to get about Bangkok and view the sights. A day pass with unlimited travel will cost you approximately *R70 per day. Tickets are available at all stations.
- Walking is the best way to discover any new destination. Put on your walking shoes and savour the sights, fragrances and music of this bustling city. Everything is so unique and different to what we are used to here in SA, that you discover new delights around every corner. I personally love to take in the architecture of buildings, both modern and ancient;
Pop into local Temples. The craftsmanship and beautifully executed decor, steeped in history, is just a feast for your eyes. Remember to take your shoes off outside. It is impolite to take photos of monks. However, you are permitted take photos inside the temples.
If in doubt about taking images, then just ask a temple staff member if it is agreeable. Looking for a break from the heat, then take a walk through one of the many shopping malls. It is like walking into a virtual game environment.
Bright lights, people walking swiftly, no dawdling here. Everybody walks with purpose so don’t get in their way.
The shops are stocked with goods that you will not get at home but my advice is to save your money for my next attraction;Experience the largest cultural market in Asia: Chatuchak (pronounced: Jatujak) weekend market - open from Wednesday to Sunday, 9am - 6pm.
Expect: food, trendy clothing, art, antiques, Buddha statues, pets, music, jewellery, bedding, coconuts, electronics, exotic crepes, authentic Thai brass, sweets, bags, children’s toys and souvenirs will dazzle you with choice.
Should your travel companion not fancy walking around this maze of over 7,000 stalls, then they can take a load off and have a massage - from just foot to full body - very competitive pricing too.
Remember to barter, but respect that they are also trying to earn a living. I personally ran about like a dizzy fly with our guide shopping, whilst my colleagues enjoyed a foot massage ahead of the third annual Amazing Bangkok Marathon that they ran on February 2.
Plan to spend no less than half a day there. Easily accessible via BTS Skytrain to Mochit, and follow the signs or the crowd OR simply jump off the Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus;
Thailand Art and Culture Centre, Museum of Contemporary Art in Bangkok (MOCA), WTF Bangkok, and Bangkok University Gallery (BUG);
Walk through historic 200-year-old China Town and enjoy the sights and the incredible assortment of street food, which is all reasonably priced if you are feeling a bit peckish.
We were traveling during the beginning phase of coronavirus so were wary of tasting the culinary delights;
For those who like a walk on the wild side but only observe it, then take a brisk jog down Soi Cowboy.
- Mahanakhon Skywalk priced at R416 per person (836 Baht), discounts for children and pensioners (R125 each).
Mahanakhon Skywalk is the tallest 360º observation deck in Bangkok.
A glass tray floor that you can walk on and look 314 metres below yourself. Not for the faint hearted!
Please note that before they take you into the elevator, 78 floors into the sky, which is an adventure in itself, they take some photos of you against a green screen and the images are available when you depart.
I bought mine at a cost of R500, however if I had known they were intended for this souvenir, I would have posed a bit more appropriately. We went mid-afternoon, however I think that later in the afternoon planning to catch the sunset would be quite spectacular:
Treat yourself to an evening cruise through the city
Chaophraya Premium Dinner Cruise features a Thai and international buffet, with live music, professional singers and dancing.
To describe in words the wonderment you will observe along the river banks is just not possible. Just go and experience the lights dancing on the water surface and all of Bangkok’s main attractions in the twilight. Absolutely magical.
The cruise costs just over R250 per person depending on the exchange rate.
Book in advance and you may secure a discount. You will be spoilt for choice if you are eating in Bangkok on a low budget.
From the succulent choice available on the streets via the mobile kitchens, (tuk tuk conversions) to the well-known global fast food outlets: McDonalds, KFC, Burger King, plus so many more, you will not go hungry.
The seafood on offer just about everywhere has spoilt my taste buds beyond belief. I will never be able to cross the threshold of our local seafood establishments with the same excitement as before. Calamari and hake combo which I loved before has lost its appeal for the moment.
By now I hope you feel like you have been on my journey and are intrigued at the thought of Thailand as a destination. If you go on my recommendation and do not enjoy yourself, I will find that hard to believe.
Final words - Thailand is a treasure chest that needs to be patiently explored. Stay as long as you can afford and it will be quite a long time actually with the exchange rate not being as vicious on our purses as most other currencies.
*Travel pricing was correct at time of publication sourced from https://za.edreams.com/ . Exchange rate of 2 Baht = ZAR1,00
Louise McAuliffe was a guest of Tourism Authority of Thailand, Go Sports Travel and RED FOX Travel.