The Best 6 Places for Day Trips from Bangkok
Posted by Mark Philip
Bangkok is undoubtedly an enchanting and vibrant city of contrasts that errs somewhat towards the chaotic, bustling, and highly-populated side of urban existence.
With its vast array of sprawling street markets, glitzy malls, magnificently-kept ancient temples and palaces, and innumerable food stalls to explore — you could easily spend weeks in the Thai capital and still feel like you’ve hardly touched the tip of the iceberg in terms of what there might be to see. Some people just absolutely love the vibrant buzz of this city, while others find it intolerable.
It’s true that some visitors to this city can soon begin to feel somewhat overwhelmed by the humidity, the crowds, the endless pushing and shoving, the constant background noise, and…well, you get the picture – a city like Bangkok can also begin to grate on the nerves after a few days, for more than a few reasons.
And although there is a veritable plethora of afternoon shopping adventures and various other escapades to be encountered in Bangkok — and that may be entirely just what the doctor ordered for some people, most visitors to the Thai capital don’t fully realise just how varied the opportunities for exploration are that exist not too far outside of the city.
From replica ancient cities to national parks and famous floating markets, in just a few hours you could easily find yourself transported away from the hustle and bustle of the city and in what seems like a completely different world!
So let’s take a look at some of the best places for day trips from Bangkok:
1. Samut Prakan
Samut Prakan province is about 30 km out from Bangkok, and the area is known to be rich in historic and cultural spots – from ancient temples and massive, outdoor museums to a crocodile farm – there is much to see in this place and it makes for a great day out from Bangkok as it is remarkably near.
The Ancient City is probably the high point of Samut Prakan. This place, a complete reconstruction of an ancient Thai city, is a kind of vast museum park that covers more than 200 acres.
The shape of the park is apparently the same as that of Thailand on a map. The attractions come by way of intricate, perfectly architectural reproductions of old buildings, one-third the size of the originals. They are based on the kind of structures that would have been around in ancient times during the Ayyuthaya period of Thailand’s history.
If you’re into historical sight-seeing related to architecture, Mueng Boran literally takes things to a new level.
Aside from replicas of buildings that would have been found in both Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai, there is also a reproduction of Preah Vihear (the temple on their border whose ownership has been in some dispute between Thailand and Cambodia for a while).
There’s a mini floating market in the middle of the park to top it off at the end, with lunch and snack food available. Ancient Siam is also apparently the world’s largest outdoor museum.
Address: 7 296/1 Sukhumvit Rd, Bang Pu Mai, Mueang Samut Prakan District, Samut Prakan 10280
Hours: 10 am -7 pm
The Samut Prakarn Crocodile Farm and Zoo is another well-known attraction of this province. The park is home to around 100,000 crocs, including the largest crocodile in the world (in captivity), apparently. This fella weighs in at more than 1000kg, and is over 6 metres in length.
Visitors can see various attractions along the theme such as crocodile wrestling and elephant shows which are presented every hour from when the park opens. There is also a reasonably-sized sized zoo with a variety of other animals such as cats like tigers, lions, and leopards, camels, snakes, and bears to name but a few.
Address: 7 555 Thai Ban, Mueang Samut Prakan District, Samut Prakan 10270
Tel. 0 2703 4891 to 5
Daily: 07.00 am- 6.00 pm.
Admission Fee: Adult 300 Baht / Child 200 Baht
2. Nakhon Pathom
A small province about twice the distance of Samut Prakan from Bangkok is Nakhon Pathom, another hotbed of ancient religious sites and other cultural attractions.
The Phra Pathom Chedi is the best-known landmark of this province is ‘Phra Pathom Chedi’, a structure believed to have been a signifier of the introduction of Buddhism into Thailand. This is apparent from the translation of the chedi’s Sanskrit name, which means something like ‘first monument’.
The huge, 120-metre high stupa is actually one of the tallest Buddhist monuments around in the world. If you find this kind of thing of interest then you can easily spend a couple of hours in the complex amidst the calm of the Buddhist reverie.
This 11th-century structure was virtually in ruins until King Rama IV had it restored in the latter half of the 19th century.Much of the style of the temple grounds and the artifacts held within it hark back to the days of Ayyuthaya, and possibly even originated there.
There are also many examples of various sculptures, such as the Chinese-style ones carved from a greenish stone that is meant to represent jade, and this is likely related to the fact that this province has a high proportion of second-generation Chinese residents.
Some interesting Dvaravati sculptures can be found in the main ordination hall, and also within the complex is something known as Lablae Cave, an artificial tunnel containing shrines to a few prominent Buddhist monks.
The temple in the complex surrounding the chedi has the highest rank of all temples in Thailand, and is one of only six in the country to be afforded significant rank.
On the subject of Buddhist temples, Nakhon Pathom is also home to the only one in Thailand that is open to women from abroad who want to become female initiate nuns (known as Bhikkhunis in Thai).
There is also another Buddhist-related park attraction not too far away in a south-easterly direction known as Phutthamonthon.
The area contains a Sukhothai-period, 16- metre-high Buddha statue which is apparently one of the tallest in the world. The park that houses this particular structure is a landscaped, 400-hectare affair containing many other sculptures and such like related to significant events in the life of The Buddha.
Don Wai Market is another attraction located along the banks of the river. Apparently this particular market actually began its life as a floating one, with the main attraction being of a culinary nature.
Large boats constantly cruise up and down the river, and you can take a ride on one of these while you eat a tasty lunch. Some of the fare available here by the way, such as the khao lahm – a sticky-rice-and-coconut affair steamed in bamboo – is reputed to be some of the best in the country!
Continuing for a minute with the theme of markets, and particularly floating markets, we may find ourselves just a couple of hours away from Bangkok in a westerly direction in the in the province of Ratchaburi.
This is a great place for spending a day getting your head around local, grass-roots culture by hitting the famous Damnoen Saduak Floating Market.
This is one of those wonderful Thai markets where you can really soak up the vibe of local life amidst a colourful water backdrop. Here it is possible to easily spend the day going up and down the canal on long boats, stopping at each of the floating stalls as is the custom.
There are actually plenty of other natural attractions in this province as well such as waterfalls and hot springs (Bo Kloung), along with a stoney terrain known as Khao Ngu Park which is popular for rock climbing, to name just a couple.
Just over 100 km from Bangkok, and again in the western region, we come to Kanchanaburi, the place probably most famous for the bridge on the River Kwai.
Because of its location which was deemed strategically relevant to the invading Japanese, Kanchanaburi does have something of a war museum vibe to it related to a fairly tragic historical point which is apparent from both the cemetery the adjacent museum.
A day trip to Kanchanaburi may be very historically-oriented for those interested in learning about the horrors of war and how the Death Railway was constructed (and the countless lives lost throughout), but that’s not all there is to this region.
There are numerous reasonably-sized mountains dotting the scenery, which are popular for hiking and climbing, and there are various elephant camps in the region that you can visit or even spend a night or longer if you wish, and bathing with and riding the elephants are among the activities on offer.
5. Nakorn Si Ratchasima (Korat)
The Khao Yai National Park is in the Nakorn Si Ratchasima province (also known as the simplified Korat) and is an expanse of natural environment considered by many to be one of Thailand’s national treasures.
Khao Yai National Park runs as far as the Cambodian border, contains a lot of wildlife, is an area that offers a variety of different options in terms of things to do.
For starters, you could try a bit of rafting in an area known as Khun Dan Prakan Chon Chan, taking in the waterfall and reservoir areas. Or if you are feeling up to it in the heat you could go for a spot of hiking along the river to different waterfalls. Two of the popular ones are known as Wang Ta Kari Waterfall and Haew Narok Waterfall.
These hikes are not particularly taxing, and are the best places to catch glimpses of Thailand’s north-eastern forest regions and their relative wildlife.
Just on the border of Khao Yai national park lies another opportunity to check out the locality, this time through1000-acre vineyards and fruit plantations. Yes, that’s vineyards – in Thailand! And the country does actually have more of a wine industry these days than a lot of people might imagine.
You can take a relaxing day trip to the vineyards, which includes a hop onto a tram in order to be transported through the surrounding natural wonder. The grape vines and other fruit plantations can also be checked out on foot, which is a good way to find out more about the actual production of the wine and how the land is cultivated and managed.
6. Bang Saen
Bang Saen Beach is in Chonburi District, the same province as another popular getaway from Bangkok, Pattaya, on the eastern side of Bangkok.
This is a much more scaled-down, local-type beach resort area than the previously-mentioned other option, and although it is by no means the best beach in Thailand (or even this particular area of coastline), it is certainly the closest and most easily-accessible beach to Bangkok, at just over 100 km away.
Obviously this is a very popular beach being so close to Bangkok, and it is a much quieter and more subdued option than Pattaya.
Not surprisingly, this is one of those favourite weekend places by the beach for those wanting to escape the chaotic city life of the capital. The beach is a 4 km long stretch lined with palm trees, although in typical Thai holiday style, beachfront is very tightly packed with rows and rows of fixed deck chairs and umbrellas (which you have to pay for).
Bang Saen is a long way from the beaches and coastline of the south of Thailand – but hey, it’s a beach – and at just a couple of hours drive from the capital, it may be just what you need on some days for a day trip from Bangkok.