The “Local” Options
Just a few hours from Bangkok is the seaside town of Hua Hin. With gorgeous beaches, fantastic shopping centres and beautiful temples, Hua Hin is perfect for those wanting a break from the big city without isolating themselves too much. A bustling night market means there’s no shortage of evening entertainment, and the food will cost less than you may be used to paying in Bangkok.
Though easily reachable by car, arriving via a train from Bangkok provides the opportunity to see Hua Hin’s beautiful railway station, which is well-known throughout the country.
Khao Yai National Park
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Khao Yai is one of Thailand’s most beautiful national parks. There’s a ton a things to do here, and a weekend might not be enough time to fully enjoy it. From bike trails to trekking, kayaking to waterfalls, Khao Yai is a fine example of Thailand’s diverse and wonderful natural beauty. A number of animals reside in the park, from tigers to elephants and deer, and it’s a welcome change of scenery from the concrete jungle that is Bangkok.
Only an hour from Thailand’s present capital is its former capital, Ayutthaya. Ayutthaya is home to some of the most beautiful temples in all of Thailand; the Khmer architecture features imposing prangs, ornate carvings and haunting sights, such as the image of the Buddha’s head among fig roots. Cycling around the Ayutthaya Historical Park is a great way to see the temples, and there are other temples on the outskirts of the city that are well worth a look too. Make sure you try the local specialty, kuay tiao ruea, a noodle soup that’s available all over and tastes out of this world.
150km from Bangkok is Kanchanburi, famous throughout the world for its role in the “Death Railway”, and featuring in the Oscar-winning Bridge on the River Kwai. The infamous Death Railway saw thousands of Allied prisoners and Asian workers toiling under horrible conditions to create a railway to Laos during the Second World War. There are a number of museums dedicated to these events, and it’s still possible to arrive into Kanchanaburi by train. Historical events aside, Kanchanaburi is home to some great natural sites, such as the Erawan National Park, where you can lose yourself in the sounds of the forest whilst relaxing in a natural pool.
With its palm tree-lined beaches, soft white sand and clear water, Ko Samet is a great choice for a weekend getaway from Bangkok. Taking about 3-4 hours to get there, it’s well worth the journey. With a number of beaches spread around, you can enjoy the island however you want to: Haad Sai Kaew has nighttime entertainment, DJs and fire shows for those who want to dance the night away, while other beaches cater to a more relaxed crowd.
With flights of just an hour from Bangkok, Krabi is a perfect destination for a weekend away. In the south of Thailand there’s a distinct change of pace from life in Bangkok, and an increase in spice when it comes to the food. Krabi is home to a number of gorgeous beaches, such as Railway and Ao Nang, and the island of Koh Phi Phi and its famous Maya Bay makes for a great day trip.
More lively than Krabi and around the same distance by air from Bangkok, Phuket is a great weekend getaway for someone hoping to let their hair down and enjoy some of the best beaches in the country. Bangla Walking Street has plenty going on, from huge clubs to more intimate pubs, and a number of foreign and Thai restaurants serving high-quality cuisine if you prefer a glass of wine to a bucket of Sangsom. In Phuket there are a number of beaches on which you could either nurse a hangover or soak up the sun. Patong beach can be noisy and crowded, so for more beautiful and peaceful beaches make sure to visit Layan, Kata and Karon beaches.
Chiang Mai is only a 75 minute flight from Bangkok. It’s considerably cooler than the scorching capital city as it’s located in the mountains, also meaning there’s an abundance of trekking options and mountain views to enjoy. With a fantastic night market and a number of great coffee shops to visit, this is a great place to recharge your batteries. If you want to do a little more exploring, Chiang Rai and Pai are just a few hours away.