Excursions from Bangkok
For a chance to see a different side of Thailand and take a break from Bangkok’s fast pace, spend a day or two away from the city, especially if you’re here for an extended time or you’ve seen all the sights before.
Just a few hours away by car or train are some great excursions, whether you’re interested in historical sights, national parks, places to take the kids, or even nice beaches. If you have more than a couple of days, though, there are plenty of inexpensive flights that will take you to the islands of the Andaman Coast or to Chiang Mai.
Just a few miles outside of central Bangkok are a handful of sights worth seeing. Generally, these are great excursions if you are traveling with kids and want a quick break but don’t want to spend too much time traveling. Many of the sights have grounds where you don’t have to worry as much about traffic or other perils for small children and many involve animals or have interactive activities, both of which are more likely to keep kids’ attention than just touring museums or temples.
If you’re looking for a day at the beach but don’t want to take a flight, Hua Hin, Pranburi, and Ko Samet are all just a few hours from Bangkok. If you leave early enough in the day, you can get to each with enough time to spend a full day and drive back before it gets late, although many people choose to spend a couple of days.
Those who love the outdoors can head to Khao Yai, Thailand’s largest national park, for a day. If you start early in the morning, you’ll have time for a nice hike and some wild animal-spotting, and even get to squeeze in dinner at one of the area’s wineries before heading back to Bangkok.
For history lovers, a couple of the best day trips from Bangkok take you out to central Thailand. Ayutthaya, the country’s capital for more than 400 years and home to scores of temple ruins, and Kanchanaburi, with the Bridge on the River Kwai and other historically significant WWII sights, are easily accomplished as a long day trip and well worth the time.
Planning Your Time
If you only have one or two days to spare you’ll have to choose from among some great excursions! Ayutthaya is a popular choice because it is easy to do in one day and the ruins offer visitors a nice place to walk around and learn a little history. But if you have more than one day, head to the beach. You can easily do Ko Samet or Hua Hin in a weekend, and it’s pretty cool to spend a couple of days on an island.
Since you’ll be pressed for time on these excursions, make sure you’re getting there as efficiently as possible. Public transportation is available to each of these sites, but taking that route will sometimes involve getting to the bus station in Bangkok, taking a bus to the city center in the respective province, and then transferring again to another bus to get to each site. If you’re short on time or would rather not have to worry about finding your way, it may make more sense to hire a taxi from Bangkok for the day.
One notable exception is Ayutthaya, which you can easily get to by train. You can also take a minibus straight to Hua Hin, but they only leave when full and you’ll have to wait in a line to return, meaning you may not get back as early as you’d like. If you are driving, remember that rush-hour traffic can be terrible. If you’re leaving Bangkok in the morning, make sure to get out early or else the first couple of miles may take you an hour or two.
Many of these trips can be done at any time of the year. Even during the rainy season many people head to the beaches. It can be overcast, but downpours are quick and infrequent; though if your heart is set on some sunshine you may be disappointed. Some people prefer to visit Khao Yai during the rainy season, as the waterfalls are at their best then. A few trails may be closed, but you’ll still be able to take in most of the area’s sights.
- Closest Island Getaway: The Beaches of Ko Samet
- Best Place to Explore Ruins: Ayutthaya Historical Park
- Best Place to Learn About Recent Thai History: Thailand-Burma Railway Centre
- Best Wine-Tasting in the Great Outdoors: Khao Yai National Park
- Best Non-Beach Excursion: Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
© Suzanne Nam from Moon Bangkok, 5th Edition