There’s no question that Bangkok is one of the best destinations for tourists in Southeast Asia. The city appeals to all types of travelers, whether you’re looking to soak up the culture or just fill your face with awesome Thai food. After a few days in Bangkok, you may start to wonder what else Thailand has to offer.
If you’ve got the time in your itinerary, then you’ll want to start looking at all the options you have for day trips. Even just allowing an extra day or two in Bangkok for day trips will have a fantastic impact on your trip. Many of the best places to visit in Thailand are only a day trip away from Bangkok and may just turn out to be the highlight of your holiday. So to help you find that highlight, here are the absolute best day trips from Bangkok.
1. Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
Travelers love to visit the many markets of Southeast Asia, so it makes sense that the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is one of the most popular Bangkok day trips. Located in Ratchaburi Province, to the west of Bangkok, this particular floating market is popular due to its scale, and travelers can’t get enough of its vibrant energy. The market is reached by taking a ride along canals in a longtail boat to give a sense of what local life is like. But the ride isn’t long and you’ll soon find yourself immersed in the motion of the Damnoen Saduak floating market. Both from the docks and in boats vendors sell everything from produce, like fruits and vegetables, to souvenirs, and even freshly made meals. So whether you’re a photographer, a shopper, or a foodie, everyone gets something out of a visit here.
Getting there: There are hourly buses and minivans that make the 2 hour trip to the Damnoen Saduak floating market. But a simpler approach is to visit with an organized tour which will handle all the transport for you.
One of the best places to visit from Bangkok to delve into the country’s history is the ancient capital of Ayutthaya. While it was once the capital of the Kingdom of Siam, most of what remains today is the city’s incredible temples. Begin your trip with the Wat Phukhao Thong temple and climb up its striking white chedi. Next, head for Wat Lokayasutharam, a temple best known for its reclining Buddha statue which measures an astounding 37 meters-long. Perhaps the most famous site in Ayutthaya though is the temple complex of Wat Mahathat. This is where you’ll see the iconic Head of Buddha statue surrounded by tree roots. Traveling between Ayutthaya and Bangkok you may want to include a stop at Bang Pa-In Summer Palace as it’s quite a beautiful palace which was restored in the 19th century.
Getting there: There aren’t many easy train trips from Bangkok to make as day trips, but Ayutthaya is surely one. Regular trains make the 1 hour 20 minute trip to Ayutthaya from Bangkok. For a more relaxed visit though, without the stress of getting between temples, consider joining a guided tour.
One of the more memorable day tours from Bangkok is the province of Kanchanaburi, home to the famous Bridge on the River Kwai. While Thailand was under Japanese occupation in the Second World War, local people and Allied prisoners of war were used as slaves to build the Burma Railway, better known as the “Death Railway” because of the staggering number of workers who died during its construction. Visitors can learn all about this dark history in Kanchanaburi by heading to the JEATH War Museum, with exhibits on workers’ experiences. But travelers can also see these infamous landmarks in person, choosing to either walk or take a train trip across the Bridge on the River Kwai. Before leaving, be sure to pay your respects at the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery to the Allied soldiers who died there.
Getting there: As there are only a few daily train departures from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi, you are better off booking a guided tour.
4. Khao Yai National Park
If you’re looking to escape the city and experience Thailand’s natural side, Khao Yai National Park is a perfect pick. Here you’ll be able to hike through Thailand’s oldest national park and experience its monsoon forests and hopefully some local wildlife as well. Begin your visit to this UNESCO world heritage site at the Khao Yai National Park Visitor Center to get your bearings and learn about the park’s flora and fauna. Then it’s time to set out on the park’s hiking trails which will you take you through many different environments, from grasslands to forests and lakes. One of the park’s most popular spots to visit is Haew Suwat Waterfall, a stunning sight made famous by The Beach starring Leonardo di Caprio.
Getting there: Reaching Khao Yai by public transport for a day trip is tough as the journey by bus or train is likely to take more than 4 hours. You’ll first need to reach the city of Pak Chong and then go from there. A far simpler approach is to visit with a guided tour which will get you to the park much quicker.
5. Khao Yai Vineyard
While we’re in the region of Khao Yai National Park, let’s look at one of the more unlikely sights in Thailand. People probably wouldn’t expect to find a vineyard in Thailand, but just outside the national park that’s exactly what you’ll find. While there are several found to the north of Khao Yai, PB Valley Khaoyai Winery is the most established of the lot. Visitors will be able to walk between rows of grapevines and take a tram tour through the expansive fields and plantations. On their tour of the vineyard, travelers can learn more about the local production process and of course, do some wine tasting.
Getting there: Much like getting to Khao Yai National Park, visiting the wineries by public transport isn’t easy. First you need to take a bus or train to Muak Lek, from where you’ll probably need a taxi to take you the final 11km. Otherwise, see if you can find a personal driver for the day, or maybe a guided tour.
Though Pattaya is known for its infamous nightlife and adult entertainment, there’s actually a lot more to this seaside city. In fact, visiting Pattaya for the day may well be one of the best side trips from Bangkok that you can make. Beyond its bars and clubs, Pattaya is known for its beaches and gorgeous scenery which surround the city. You can choose from city beaches like Pattaya beach and Jomtien Beach, or beautiful island beaches like Tien Beach on Koh Larn. What’s nice about Tien Beach is that besides swimming and sunbathing, you can actually snorkel here as well. Another popular spot to visit is Phra Tamnak Mountain, home to a hilltop Buddhist temple with superb views of Pattaya below.
Getting there: A whole range of different minivan companies make the 3 hour journey to Pattaya from Bangkok, which is the closest thing to public transport on this route. A faster and easier option is to visit with a guided tour.
7. Amphawa Floating Market
Since Damnoen Saduak is the largest and most popular floating market it naturally attracts a lot of visitors but, if you’d rather experience a floating market that’s a bit less touristy, head instead for the Amphawa Floating Market. Held in the Wat Chula river just off the large Mae Klong River, Amphawa is mostly full of Thai visitors and is a popular weekend spot for Bangkok locals. There’s a big focus there on food, particularly seafood and sweets. You can choose to enjoy the delicious Thai food either sitting along the waterfront or at a restaurant balcony where you can watch the world go by.
Getting there: Hourly buses make their way from Bangkok to Amphawa, with the trip taking roughly 2 hours. But if you’d like to combine Amphawa with other markets around Bangkok you’ll want to hop aboard a guided tour.
8. Koh Si Chang
The gulf of Thailand boasts several islands which are great to visit, one of which is the quiet little island of Koh Si Chang. While there are plenty of islands in the country popular for partying, Koh Si Chang is more of a laid-back kind of place. The island’s main economy is fishing, and is a great place to experience a part of Thailand not yet overrun by tourism. How you choose to spend your day is entirely up to you. If you feel like time at the beach, head for Tham Phang beach. For those wanting to go sightseeing, check out the Royal Family’s quaint Summer Palace or the Wat Tham Yai Prik temple and its yellow Buddha. Among all this sightseeing, don’t forget to simply enjoy the island atmosphere while you’re there.
Getting there: To visit Koh Si Chang, take a 2 hour bus or minibus ride to Koh Loi Pier in the town of Sriracha. From there, hop aboard the ferry and in 40 minutes you’ll be on the island.
9. Maeklong Railway Market
Thailand holds markets everywhere, from city streets to canals, and even across train tracks as is the case with the Maeklong Railway Market. Situated along the tracks of the very active Maeklong Railway, every time a train comes through, shops have to lower their umbrellas and quickly give way. Experiencing this special market setup is understandably popular, just make sure to have your camera ready. It really is a special sight, seeing just how close this huge locomotive comes to squashing various fruits and vegetables and how suddenly the market returns to normal.
Getting there: Buses depart hourly for the Maeklong Railway Market from Bangkok, taking 1 hour 45 minutes to get there. If you’d like a simpler journey that includes several other Bangkok markets, a guided tour is the way to go.
10. Hua Hin
Once the beach getaway for Thailand’s Royal Family, the seaside city of Hua Hin is now a beach resort for all. Whereas Pattaya is known for its adult nightlife, Hua Hin appeals to a much broader cross-section of travelers. While there may only be one beach here, Hua Hin Beach, it does stretch from one end of town to the other and is great for swimming. Other popular spots here include Plearnwan, a model village of life in Hua Hin during the 50s, full of shopping spots and places to eat. There are also several attractions associated with the Thai Royal Family, like Mrigadayavan Palace which was once the royal beach retreat, and Rajabhakti Park which honors former kings of Thailand.
Getting there: With both train and bus options to Hua Hin taking well over 3½ hours, it’s best to look at arranging private transport for your day trip to Hua Hin.
11. Erawan Waterfall
The province of Kanchanaburi is huge, and there are plenty of other sights there, including the magical Erawan Waterfall, one of the best things to see in Thailand outside of Bangkok. Widely agreed to be one of Thailand’s most beautiful waterfalls, Erawan Waterfall is a seven-tier waterfall which stretches 1,500 metres through national park rainforest. It’s actually possible to hike all the way up to the highest tier of the falls, but be warned that it can be fairly strenuous toward the end. You’ll often be able to spot fish swimming around in the clear pools of water which form between the cascades, further adding to the natural beauty of the place.
Getting there: Much too far to reach by public transport from Bangkok in a day, to do this day trip you’ll need to take an organized tour or stay in Kanchanaburi overnight.
12. Koh Kret
If a short day of sightseeing is what you’re after, you may want to consider the island of Koh Kret. Found on the Chao Phraya River upstream of Bangkok, this small island is a settlement for the Mon people, one of Thailand’s many ethnic groups. As such, a visit to Koh Kret is all about experiencing the local culture there. The Mon community of the island are recognized for their skilled pottery, and there are plenty of workshops down by the riverfront. You’ll also find a Buddhist temple at Wat Poramai Yikawat, home to a reclining Buddha statue. There’s also a brewery on the island, where you can sample some of the local beers fresh from the source.
Getting there: Koh Kret is quite close to Bangkok and easy to reach with frequent buses making the 50 minute trip to Pak Kret on the far bank of the river. Alternatively, take a 40 minute ferry ride up the Chao Phraya River from Bangkok. Either way you’ll need to take a quick 5 minute ferry across the river to reach the island once at Pak Kret. You can also visit Koh Kret on a guided tour.
13. Rose Garden Thai Village
It’s hard to pack lots of different elements of Thai culture into a single day, but a visit to the Rose Garden Thai Village somehow makes that happen. Just beyond the city limits of Bangkok, this huge theme park is dedicated to Thai culture in all its different forms. The main attraction of The Rose Garden is its show in which guests get to see performances of traditional folk dancing, Thai boxing, plus many other sports and martial arts. Afterwards, try all sorts of local cuisine and admire local handicrafts at its markets, including a mini version of the beloved floating markets found throughout the region. If you’re after a crash course in Thai culture, this is certainly one way to do it.
Getting there: With the village not far from Bangkok and only poor public transport options available, taxing a taxi will be by far the fastest and cheapest option.
14. Samut Prakan
For an exploration of Thai history and culture close to Bangkok, look no further than the city of Samut Prakan. Just south of Bangkok, near where the Chao Phraya river meets the Gulf of Thailand, Samut Prakan is a supremely easy place to visit from Bangkok. The only challenge is that its sights are spread throughout the district around it. Start off with the Ancient City open-air museum which hosts replicas of temples and palaces from across Thailand, teaching visitors about Thai history in the process. On the far side of Samut Prakan lies the Erawan Museum, easily spotted by its large three-headed elephant structure.The museum features displays of Thai antiquities and priceless religious art.
Getting there: To reach Samut Prakan from Bangkok, simply take the BTS skytrain all the way to Pak Nam station.
15. Wat Bang Phra – Sak Yant Tattoo
One way to forever remember your visit to Thailand is with a one-of-a-kind souvenir – a tattoo. But rather than just getting any old tattoo, get a special Buddhist tattoo given by monks at a monastery. At monasteries like Wat Bang Phra west of Bangkok, local monks perform sacred tattoos known as Sak Yant. There are different designs of Sak Yant tattoos, from the Gao Yord Yant with its nine spires, to the Hah Taew Yant with its five lines. It’s best to do some research before committing to this experience, but if you’re after a permanent souvenir that is uniquely Thai, this may be what you’re looking for.
Getting there: Public transport options will depend on which monastery you visit, to get to Wat Bang Phra buses can only get you so close and you’ll need at least a 30 minute taxi to get there. A better option is to take a guided tour as you’ll also have someone on hand to help you navigate this special experience.
That sums up many of your options for interesting day trips while in Bangkok. Now all you have to do is decide which ones are the best fit for your holiday.