Who doesn’t love a weekend jaunt to Bangkok? Whether to shop for quirky household decorations or cute dresses at Chatuchak markets or to fill their stomachs with wild tastes of hawker fare, the city’s lively streets cater to all wants and needs.
Travellers to Bangkok tend to arrive with a checklist, ticking off boxes as they navigate through the labyrinth of a city, exploring sights, sounds and smells depending on personal flavours and curiosity.
But what happens when everything in that list is ticked off and you still have a couple of days left? Here are four nearby destinations that you can get to without needing to spend too much time cramped in a minivan and at minimal costs:
1. Ayutthaya (1 hour away)
History and culture buffs will love this place which was once an ancient capital, 85 km from Bangkok. Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya is an amazing place to escape to when you’re on the hunt for fragments of the glorious past but without having to go all the way to Angkor Wat or Bagan.
Founded in 1350, Ayutthaya flourished from the 14th to the 18th centuries where it became one of the world’s largest centre for commerce and diplomacy. However, in 1767, the Burmese Army razed the city to the ground, thus forcing its inhabitants to flee. It was never rebuilt again to its former glory. Today the city stands as a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with crumbling ruins of towering Stupas, reclining Buddhas and spectacular monasteries. Be sure to visit the most famous relic at Wat Phra Mahathat – a Buddha head nestled within the tree roots. Not many tourists flock to Ayutthaya so at certain times of the day, you may have the chance to have all these historical monuments to yourself.
2. Koh Si Chang (2.5 hours away)
Koh Si Chang gets a fair share of day-trippers from Bangkok, being the closest island to Bangkok. The beaches surrounding the island may not be as dazzling as its Eastern and Southern counterparts but despite its lack of splendour, the beaches on Si Chang are actually cleaner and have clearer water than any of the Northern Gulf mainland beaches. Accommodations are basic but can offer you sweeping views of the island at affordable prices. Apart from lazing at the beach, there are also temples to visit, jungle paths to trek and long stretches of road along the coastline to bike around on. If you’re looking for a local laid-back fishermen village vibe and tasty seafood options, Si Chang’s the place for you.
3. Koh Larn (3 hours away)
When Bangkok’s traffic has beaten you down and all you want is to run away, in search for sun, sand and some fresh salty breeze, then make your way down to Pattaya jetty and hop on a boat that takes you to Koh Larn. Only a 45-minute ferry ride away (or 15 via speedboat), Koh Larn, also known as Coral Island, will take your breath away with its white sandy beaches and azure depths. The beaches are peppered with the right amount of restaurants and watersport facilities, perfect for the active ones but without being too busy for those looking for some down time. Thong Lang Beach on the southeast and Nual Beach on the West are rife with coral reefs and oh, monkeys too.
4. Kanchanaburi (3 hours away)
Remember The Railway Man or The Bridge on River Kwai? Both movies starred the infamous World War II Death Railway that were constructed by the Allied prisoners of war and Asian labourers. WWII memorials and museums lay scattered around the province to educate visitors of the area’s darker past but the town itself is lively and has a thriving backpacker scene. You can stay along River Kwai and enjoy cheap cocktails in a lush surrounding. Foodies can sample local delights at a cheap price at the daily night market near the train station after sundown. The best way to get here from Bangkok is to actually hop on the train from Thonburi station. For 100 Baht, you’ll get to savour the simplicity of travelling on a slow chugging train and have a constant scenery of rural idyll pass you by.
These destinations however, should not be just an extension to your Bangkok visits. They are amazing places worthy of more than a few days since you don’t want to tire yourself out with doing too many things in a day. Hang around a little longer to explore Thailand at a more local level!