not really. you can easily sleep, use public transportation and eat to your heart’s content for $10-$$15 a day. and eat well you will.
south east asia is easily my favorite place to eat in the world (thus far, but i still have quite a few countries to knock off my list!). eating street food is the best option for value and flavor. in bangkok, my favorite afternoon snack is som tam, or green papaya salad–a tangy and crunchy salad composed of roasted peanuts, tiny dried shrimp, tomatoes, chilis, long beens, garlic, fish and lime juice, palm sugar and handfuls of shredded papaya. it’s crisp, salty, sweet and spicy. everything your mouth wants in every bite. in south east asia, everywhere you walk, your senses will be teased. grilled seafood wafts through markets, marinated meats are hawked under umbrella’d corners, colorful fruits and bags of coffee beg to be sipped and sampled all day, and curries and sweet treats tease your sweet tooth at every turn. it’s hard to walk around empty handed in south east asia.
in bangkok, ask around for local markets. the weekend market (chatuchak) is touristy but fun. you can bargain for clothes, shoes and artwork, or head to the center aisles and sample sliced fruits (juicy papaya, mango, guava, watermelon…mmm!), minced pork with chilis, lime and basil served with sticky rice, and you have to try the grilled squid in a spicy dipping sauce. and definitely go to chinatown (i know…i love chinatowns more than the average person! but it’s really a very cool pocket of culture and delicious food destination. i swear)
south east asia is perfect for people who want to travel cheaply and eat really, really well. in vietnam, you can pull up a miniature stool on the side of the street next to a woman with a vat of boiling soup, and enjoy a bowl of noodles and fresh herbs for a few cents. eating is as much of an adventure as navigating the windy roads, bobbing and weaving through the throngs of motorbikes, or climbing around ruins. you can be as adventurous as you like, sampling century eggs (eggs covered in lye and ash and left to develop a salty, sulfuric flavor), balut (a nearly developed duck or chicken embryo, boiled and eaten from the shell), or just a simple bowl of vermicelli rice noodles. you can make your eating experience as varied as you’re daring to go. but i recommend going big, because…why not?!
how much in bangkok? $1= 30 baht (i remember when it used to be 40+…sigh)
take a metered taxi. the tuk-tuks will try to convince you that they’re cheaper…but because you’re a tourist, they’re most likely not. a taxi with a meter is almost always the cheapest.
take river transportation. it’s a beautiful, cheap way to get around the city and you’re not dealing with the hectic traffic that usually clogs the roads. from wherever you hop off the boat, you can take the sky train or subway to most parts of the city.
indulge in a thai massage. roughly 150-180 baht for an hour of stretchy pulling and pushing of your body parts. it’s like yoga without the work.
try mangosteens (the yummiest of fruits!), rambutans, durian (try more than once…they’re like custard in fruit form) and green guavas. the fruit in thailand is incredibly sweet and available everywhere via vendors with ice carts. 10 baht
check out a vip seat at a movie theatre (try siam paragon mall) and experience standing to pay respect to the king while the national song plays before each movie, and recline in a leather lazy-boy-like chair while snuggling in a blanket and ordering an alcoholic beverage. such class! 500 baht for a vip ticket (worth the swanky experience) or 80-180 baht for a regular seat
check out the bars and nightclubs. buy a bottle of whiskey…and sip. if you don’t finish it, the bartender will put your name on it and you can come back another night to polish it off. that’s real bottle service.
chao phraya express boat along the river can help you avoid traffic jams for 9-30 baht per ride.
a bottle of water: 5 baht
a bag of coffee laced with condensed milk: 10 baht
basically what i’m saying is go and eat and drink everything and spend a few dollars a day exploding your taste buds with new flavors and sensations. south east asia is special in the mouth, but bangkok will blow your mind (and not your budget)!