We love Bangkok.
But sometimes, very occasionally, city life can get a little too much and the urge for a quick escape sets in.
We don’t want to go too far, and we don’t want to be gone for too long: just far enough and long enough that we get a taste of life outside the city’s walls and beyond the craziness of dear BKK.
Ideally, we’re looking for green pastures, fresh air, a bit of culture, and – most importantly – not a Chang vest in sight.
There are some brilliant spots just outside of Bangkok that are perfect for a quick day trip, whether you’ve pulled a mid-week sickie or are chancing it with the Weekend Warriors.
And there’s no need to start the excursion sat gripping the steering wheel, eyes bulging with frustration, as you navigate your car out of the city. All of our picks are reachable by train, bus or minivan and are around 2 hours away or less.
It’s time to sample some of the best day trips on offer from Bangkok – all journey times are approximate.
1 hour 15 minutes: Train from Hua Lamphong station, bus from Mo Chit, or minivan from Victory Monument
It’s an oldie (literally) but a goodie: Ayutthaya is the former capital of Thailand, and once the largest city in the world until its destruction by the Burmese in 1767, and is a true must-see for anyone interested in the history and culture of this country. The main event is undoubtedly the Ayutthaya Historical Park on Ayutthaya Island which covers the expansive ruins of the old city.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is full of temples, palaces, ruins and sites of historical significance – including the famous Buddha head engulfed by tree roots at Wat Mahathat – and you could easily spend more than a day here exploring. There’s even an elephant park! Plenty of tour operators offer cycling and walking tours around Ayutthaya if you fancy a guide with a difference.
Around 2 hours to Mae Khlong station : Bus from Southern Bus Terminal, minivan from Victory Monument, or train-ferry-train from Wongwian Yai station (Thonburi)
A small province to the southwest of Bangkok, Samut Songkhram is hardly what you’d term a tourist hotspot. Regardless, it’s full of temples, natural attractions, orchards and parks, while offering a charming look at what life is like outside of the big city. The province is also home to the Amphawa Floating Market, which is around 15km away from Samut Songkhram city.
Stand-out attractions include; Thailand’s oldest church, Mae Phra Bangkoet; Wat Bangkung, a temple overtaken by the roots of a tree; Wat Phet Samut Worawihan, which holds the highly venerated Buddha image of Luang Pho Ban Laem, and the mud flats at Don Hoi Lot. There’s also the brilliant train market at Mae Khlong station that is laid out over the tracks; vendors have to bring in their goods quickly as trains approach.
5 minutes from Bangkok: ferry from Klong Toey Pier or Bang Na Pier
Need to escape Bangkok but don’t want to leave the security of the city’s transportation system? Easy; get yourself down to the Green Lung of Bangkok, otherwise known as Bang Krachao. It’s found in Phra Pradaeng within the horseshoe of land encircled by the Chao Phraya river, and thanks to a small population and restrictive building codes, it’s free of the high rises and commercial factories just moments away in central Bangkok.
You can rent a bike for the day, indulge in a spot of birdwatching, tramp the 100-acre Sri Nakhon Kuenkhan Park, explore the floating market, try out some local food and see the homes built on stilts. As well as exposing a greener side to Bangkok, visitors have noted that it’s like getting a taste for what the rest of the city may have been like a hundred years ago.
1 hour: Minivan from Southern Bus Terminal or train from Hua Lamphong
Nakhon Pathom is typically seen as nothing more than a simple stop-off on the way to Kanchanaburi, but it actually has a handful of attractions that can make for a fascinating day trip – not least the famous, huge Phra Pathom Chedi (above), which was built to symbolise Thailand’s embrace of Buddhism.
Also in Nakhon Pathom is the Sanam Chan Palace – the summer residence of Rama IV – and Wat Srisathong, the temple for Phra Rahu, the god of darkness. There’s also a selection of markets, including a night one, and plenty of street food – be sure to check out the pomelo fruit that the area is famous for.
Ancient Siam City, Samut Prakan
1 hour: Ride Bus 511 (Pinklao to Paknam) to the end of the line, then take local Songthaew No. 36
Ancient Siam City, or Mueang Boran, is essentially an open air museum park, home to recreations and scale models of Thailand’s most famous buildings and structures, as well as a few originals saved from demolition. There are 116 structures in total, together with a host of small markets and street vendors for refreshments throughout the day. The museum describes itself as “a Thailand-round journey within a day” and is a great way to get quickly acquainted with the country’s heritage.
The area covered by Ancient Siam City is pretty massive and would be challenging to tackle on foot, particularly in the heat. Many people prefer to hire bikes, trams or even golf-carts to navigate round the site, while there’s just a small charge if you want to drive your own car in.
2 hours: Train from Hua Lamphong, bus from Mo Chit, or minivan from Victory Monument
Just north of Bangkok, Lopburi is one of Thailand’s oldest cities and is utterly unique in the fact that it is more or less overrun by monkeys, particularly in the Old Town. These crab-eating macaques like to hang out around the streets, along the telephone wires, and are concentrated in Phra Prang Sam Yot and Phra Kaan shrine, winding their way around the beautiful temple ruins.
Art and history enthusiasts will love the crumbling Khmer and Ayutthaya architecture on display in the city; just watch out for any monkeys keen to disturb your sight-seeing. They’re known to jump on unsuspecting tourists and steal food, while a small handful of visitors have complained of being unceremoniously shat on by cheeky telegraph-pole dangling macaques.
1 hour: Train from Wong Wian Yai station (Thonburi)
Mahachai is a port town in the province of Samut Sakhon that boasts one of the biggest and liveliest fresh markets in Thailand – a must-see for market lovers and those who enjoy the fishy whiff of le poisson in the morning… It’s fascinating to watch the trade here, which has origins back to the 17th century. Although back then Europeans were the main traders, you’re more likely to find Burmese migrant workers in the area now, and plenty of Chinese who have settled over the river in neighbouring Tha Chin.
The slow, open air train journey down to Mahachai is undoubtedly part of the area’s charm; Travelfish describe it as “passing through green rice paddies and so close alongside people’s homes that you can sometimes watch TV with them or smell what they are cooking for lunch.” The area also boasts plenty of temples, the Wichian Chodok Fortress and the Bodhisattva Kuan Statue of the goddess of mercy.
1 hour 20 minutes: Bus from Mo Chit or Ekkamai, or train from Hua Lamphong station
Chachoengsao is an incredibly important Thai town as far as the country’s Buddhist heritage goes, as it is home to Luang Pho Sothorn – one of the most revered Buddha images in Thailand – and Wat Sothon, the largest temple in the world. Just like at the Bangkok’s Erawan Shrine, traditional Thai dancers entertain the worshipping crowds, while a thriving market operates daily selling food and souvenirs.
Twice a year, usually in April and November, festivals are held to celebrate Luang Pho Sothorn which attract Buddhists and tourist from afar. Nearby is also the golden Wat Paknam and the Hindu Ganesha Temple can be found about 20km outside the city.
1 hour: Bus 166 from Victory Monument to Pak Kret, then cross-river ferry 2B from Wat Sanam Nuea pier
A little like Bang Krachao, Ko Kret is another spot just outside of Bangkok’s centre that allows you a peek at the slower pace of life enjoyed outside of the city. It’s an artificial island, home to a settlement of the Mon tribe, and has a number of temples, a weekend market, thriving pottery industry and even a craft brewery to explore.
Hire a bike once you arrive to best explore the small island and all it has on offer. The weekend is the best time to hit Ko Kret in order to make the most of the market which stocks many locally made specialties. Away from the market and cafes, the landscape becomes lusher and provides the perfect setting for a quiet bike ride among nature.
What’s your favourite way to spend a day out of Bangkok?