Bangkok is one of Asia’s busiest cities, famous for its frenetic pace of life that will take even the most hardened traveler by surprise. Between the amazing street food markets, bargain shopping opportunities, and inspiring historic sights, like the Grand Palace and Wat Traimit temple, the Thai capital has plenty to keep visitors from looking for adventure elsewhere. But that’s not to say you shouldn’t take time to escape the hustle and bustle with a day trip to one of the many appealing attractions that lie within easy reach of the city. From ancient ruins to national parks to floating markets, here are six day trips worth taking from Bangkok.
1. Amphawa Floating Market
Located about 62 miles from Bangkok, Damnoen Saduak is probably the most famous floating market in Thailand, but if you’re looking for a slightly less touristy option, try the Amphawa floating market. Located approximately 56 miles from the city, the canals here are lined with wooden houses and an array of stalls selling everything from sweets to amazing seafood to souvenirs. Jump in a boat -- money in hand -- and cruise the waterways while bartering for bargains.
Travel Time by Taxi: 1.5 Hours
2. Bang Krachao
To put it mildly, Bangkok’s drivers can be unpredictable, so if you want to explore the roads by bike -- one of the country’s favored modes of transportation -- then it’s best to escape the city first. And there’s nowhere better than nearby Bang Krachao, a charming island away from the pollution of the city. Densely forested and cut off by the Chao Phraya River, the island (also known as the city’s “green lung”) can be reached by ferry. Once you arrive at the pier, hire bikes for under $3 a day. Cycle paths zigzag their way across the island, and navigating the whole expanse is possible in a day, with stops at various temples, cafes, canal-side food stalls, and the botanical garden.
Travel Time by Taxi and Ferry: 1 Hour
Serving as Siam’s capital until 1767, the city of Ayutthaya was known as the Venice of the East, with grand buildings and an intricate layout. It eventually met its demise following a siege by Burmese forces that ended with a great fire. Today, it’s home to an impressive array of ruins, making it a must-visit from Bangkok. The ruins of the UNESCO World Heritage site are spread out, so people tend to take tuk-tuk tours or explore by bicycle. Places to visit include the Wat Phra Si Sanphet royal temple, Wat Mahathat Buddhist temple, and the Ayutthaya Historical Park, where some of the best of the 14th-century remains can be found. Both atmospheric and a somewhat sobering experience, Ayutthaya is an inspiring place -- just beware of the tourist crowds.
Travel Time by Tour Bus or Taxi: 2 Hours
4. Khao Yai National Park
The polar opposite to the built-up grind of Bangkok, Khao Yai National Park is a vast oasis of natural beauty within easy reach of the city. Spanning nearly 800 square miles, the park is home to waterfalls, mountains, hiking trails, and plenty of wildlife. Given its size, you’ll want to join a tour or make your own way around with rented transportation (those without experience riding scooters might want to opt out of this popular choice). The well-marked hiking trails within the park vary in terms of difficulty. While you’re unlikely to see the bears and leopards found in the park (if you stick to the marked trails), there are plenty of exotic birds to be found, and even wild elephants, if you’re lucky.
Travel Time by Car or Tour Bus: 3 Hours
5. Kanchanaburi and Death Railway
For travelers interested in World War II history and Oscar-winning movies, a trip on the Thailand-Burma railway and a visit to the actual bridge over the River Kwai are both must-dos. A somber reminder of the legacy of WWII, the Thailand-Burma railway, otherwise known as the Death Railway, is a symbol of the forced labor that POWs endured when building the famous route. A tour of the area involves a visit to the Allied war memorials at Kanchanaburi War Cemetery and the JEATH War Museum before a long-tail boat ride to see the famous bridge. The experience ends with a ride on the railway itself. The scenery surrounding the railway and along the river banks is a beautiful antidote to the subject matter of the tour, which offers the chance to pay respects and learn about the region’s past.
Travel Time by Train: 3 Hours
6. Ancient Siam
If you’re only in Bangkok for a short time, and are unable to explore the vast beauty of the rest of Thailand, then a trip to Ancient Siam is the best way to leave with a fuller picture of the country and its history. Billed as the world’s largest outdoor museum, Ancient Siam is a 200-acre historical park filled with replicas of Thailand’s most famous monuments. While it may sound corny, Ancient Siam is incredibly impressive in its scale and attention to detail. From typical Thai houses to replicas of the temples in Ayutthaya, the park reflects a range of eras and architectural styles. Entry to the park includes a bicycle (you can pay extra for a golf buggy), which is must given the size of it.
Travel Time by Taxi: 1 Hour
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