You’ve seen and experienced the Reclining Buddha, the Grand Palace and Patpong I and II. Now it’s time to venture out of the smoggy city on one of these amazing day trips.
As a city, Bangkok can easily keep you busy. There are dozens of Michelin-rated restaurants, towering temples, majestic statues and a bevy of sights, smells and sounds you can’t find anywhere else. However, if all you do is stay inside Bangkok, you’ll be missing out on a number of exciting day trips just outside the city. Whether you’re into adventures like ziplining or mountain biking or would prefer strolling around an ancient walled city, here are 13 incredible day trips to make the most of your time in and around Bangkok.
There are a lot of options throughout Thailand to get up close and personal with elephants. Many of these so-called sanctuaries, however, horribly mistreat the animals and are incredibly problematic. This experience is not one of those trips. The Pattaya Elephant Sanctuary Day Trip is an eight-hour excursion where you’ll help feed the animals, wash them in a mud spa and bathe them in a river. For this adventure, a guide will pick you up at your hotel around 5am and drive you two hours south to Pattaya and back. If you want to get to the park on your own, you can rent a car or take the bus.
The ancient city of Ayutthaya was once the capital of the Kingdom of Siam, and today, it’s an archaeological site where you can feel the history in every Buddhist statue, towering spire and vacant monastery. This day trip to Ayutthaya includes an early-morning bus ride to the city, a tour of the ancient ruins and a leisurely boat ride back to Bangkok, with lunch along the river. Ayutthaya is 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Bangkok and is reachable a few different ways. You can rent a car, take the train – which gets you near the ruins in about 1.5 hours (you’ll need to grab a taxi or tuk-tuk to the ruins from the station, though) – or catch a minivan or bus to the site. You can hail a minivan outside major subway and Skytrain stations like Mo Chit or Victory Monument.
Market-lovers will salivate over this trip. First, you’ll be brought (by local train) to the Maeklong Train Market, one of the most popular shopping destinations where vendors hug the sides of the tracks and sell all sorts of Thai goods. From here, you’ll take a longtail speed boat to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, the most popular floating market in Thailand where you can fill up on pad thai and mango sticky rice. If you’re looking to take this trip on your own, try catching a minivan at the Victory Monument station, but it’s much easier to book a tour.
If you’re a movie buff, this day trip is a must. However, it’s a sombre one. A guided tour will take you to ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’, which was made famous by the 1957 movie of the same name and was constructed during World War II so that the Japanese could cross Thailand to invade Burma. This adventure guides you along the Death Railway and includes a visit to the JEATH War Museum. Getting to the bridge on your own is fairly easy. Kanchanaburi is about 125 kilometres (78 miles) from Bangkok, and there is a train that leaves from Thonburi station on the west side of the Chao Phraya River.
The Khao Yai National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and on a day trip here, you can trek through the glorious jungle filled with majestic waterfalls, sprawling trees and loads of wildlife. The tour lasts around 10 hours and includes an authentic Thai lunch at a local restaurant. Bring a raincoat if you’re here during the rainy season, and it’s also advised to wear anti-leech socks. The park is about 120 kilometres (75 miles) northeast of Bangkok, and you can take a bus from Mo Chit bus station or a train and a taxi, which is a much slower option. It’s best to find a minivan or hire a tour guide.
The city of Pattaya is along the coast, southeast of Bangkok, and this day trip is perfect for those who love water sports and beaches. After a 2.5-hour journey to Pattaya, you’ll embark via speedboat to Koh Larn, an island where you can jet-ski, parasail, snorkel or catch some rays on the white-sand beach. The excursion includes lunch followed by a scenic tour of the seaside city of Pattaya, which is 150 kilometres (93 miles) south of Bangkok. Taking a bus, minivan or car can get you there relatively quickly, but you can also take the train from Hua Lamphong station.
Few tourists know about this, but you can bike ride straight out of Bangkok and right into a jungle. This half-day trip takes you on a 20-kilometre (12-mile) ride outside the city, where you’ll pedal through jungle-covered pathways around schools, temples and villages. The excursion also includes a visit to a 250-year-old Ayutthaya temple and a weekend stop at a floating market. Taking this trip on your own is a little tricky, but still accessible. Bang Krachao is an island southeast of the city encircled by the Chao Phraya River. Considered the green lung of the city, the island is accessible by boat. Take the Skytrain to Bang Wa, and then catch a taxi to the pier. You can then take a boat to the island, where you’ll be able to spot bike rentals on arrival.
Another island formed by the Chao Phraya River, Koh Kret is north of Bangkok and the historic home of the Mon people – a tribe which is among the oldest in Thailand and known for its pottery skills. On this trip, you’ll visit the weekend market and the historic pottery-making village while also touring temples and sampling street food. The best and easiest way to get to Koh Kret is to hop on the Chao Phraya express boat (which departs from any riverside station) to Nonthaburi, where you then need to hire a smaller boat to take you to the island.
The Mahasawat Canal is about an hour outside Bangkok, and this tour includes a local train ride to get there. Once you arrive, you’ll hop on a boat that floats down the canal past lotus and water lily farms as well as an organic fruit farm. You’ll get an authentic local lunch, learn how to cook rice crackers and see how farmers work without chemicals or pesticides. Getting to the canal isn’t hard, and there are trains, buses and taxis that all make the trip. The train is the fastest, easiest and cheapest, and runs from the Bang Bamru station: take the train going to Surat Thani and get off at Nakhon Pathom.
Getting out of the city is a great way to experience the true essence of Thailand, and this day trip allows you to get a first-hand look at the stunning countryside. The drive takes you to the province of Nakhon Nayok, where you’ll stop for fruit at a morning market and then go on an ox-cart ride through some idyllic rice paddies. Local farmers will regale you with how they plant the rice, and you’ll see where local fruits like mangosteen, rambutan and durian are grown. A Thai cooking class, lunch and a visit to the largest cement dam in the world are also included. Nakhon Nayok is northeast of Bangkok near the Khao Yai National Park. You can take a bus, which is faster, or hop on a train at Phayathai station in Bangkok towards Nong Nam Khao, where you’ll have to hail a taxi to take you the rest of the way.
For the adrenaline-seeking tourist, ziplining through the jungle might just be the rush you seek. The Chonburi Forest zipline takes you above the treetop canopy as you zip from tree to tree spotting wildlife along the way. There are three kilometres (two miles) of ziplines through the jungle, and a guide will teach you about conservation and eco-tourism as you go. If you want to venture out to the forest on your own, you should book a trip directly with Flight of the Gibbon, which runs the zipline. The tour includes transportation to and from the zipline, as well as lunch.
About 90 kilometres (56 miles) east of Bangkok is Chachoengsao, a multicultural town with historic markets and beautiful temples. On this day-long adventure, you’ll sample goods at the Khlong Suan Market, visit ancient temples and go for a cruise along the Bang Pakong River. Lunch is included at an authentic Thai restaurant, as is a stop at the Palm Sap Village, where you’ll sample some freshly extracted palm juice. The cheapest way to get to Chachoengsao is by train, which takes about 1.5 hours. Hop on at Phaya Thai station to Lat Krabang, where you’ll change trains and go from Lat Krabang to Chachoengsao.
A full-day adventure in Nakhon Nayok is one of the best things you’ll experience outside Bangkok. Not only will you see and sample food from local markets, but you’ll chow down on authentic Thai cuisine for lunch, ride quad bikes through rugged terrain and even go rafting down white-water rapids. This non-stop day will get your heart pounding and leave you napping on the 1.5-hour trip back into the city. Northeast of Bangkok, Nakhon Nayok is accessible by train or bus, which is cheaper and faster than the train. You can catch a ride from the Mo Chit bus station almost every hour.