As the capital and most populous city of Thailand, it is no wonder many trips to Thailand are spent exploring the cultural wonderland of Bangkok. But when all that shopping, eating, sightseeing, and partying is done, what else can one experience in the cultural land of the nation formerly known as Siam?
Thailand has plenty to offer other than the capital's lively sois (streets) that boast music-booming bars and street carts, or malls like Siam Paragon where shoppers stay from day to night.
Here are 5 day trips from Bangkok that will satisfy the nature-junkie, culture-vulture or historical-landmark-lover in you:
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1. Ayutthaya, an old Siamese capital
Ayutthaya is an ancient capital and fairly modern city about 85 kilometres (52.8 miles) from Bangkok. Founded in 1350, it became the second capital of Siam after Sukhothai. Unfortunately, the religious wonderland was burned down in 1767 when the Burmese invaded Ayutthaya.
Once an important site of global diplomacy and commerce, the land is now an archaeological ruin, filled with history and an aura of past splendour. Amongst the stunning temples is Wat Yai Chai Mongkol, which boasts 196-foot-tall (59.7-metre-tall) stupas and was an engineering feat for the period it was constructed in.
Wat Chaiwatthanaram is one of the most famous Buddhist temples within Ayutthaya and it is a major tourist attraction. Constructed in 1630, it was designed in the Khmer style and has rows of sitting Buddhas; the amazing architecture and statues make the entire place feel truly sacred.
If you go to Ayutthaya today, many remains are left of the impressive city that used to be the capital of Siam. Characterised by its unique reliquary towers and big monasteries, this historical city became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.
Visit the Chao Phraya River and enjoy a traditional Thai lunch coupled with small snacks, beverages, and desserts that put Thailand on the world map for its wonderful cuisine. The countless old markets and sacred temples in Ayutthaya make it the perfect place to learn about history and the significance of Thai traditions.
The close proximity of this once-stunning capital makes it a popular day-trip destination for travellers from Bangkok. It is ideal for those who are weary of the constant bustle that the current capital holds.
Ayutthaya Day Trip from Bangkok
Address: Ayutthaya Historical Park, Tambon Pratuchai, Amphoe Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Chang Wat Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya 13000, Thailand
Price: from 83 USD
Duration: around 10.5 hours required
Access: Departure from Bangkok metropolitan area hotels
2. Amphawa Floating Market
Embrace your inner Thai grocery shopper at Amphawa Floating Market, the second-most popular near Bangkok, with its visitors almost exclusively Thai. About 50 kilometres (31 miles) from Bangkok city centre, it makes for a comfortable afternoon trip with dinner by the river and taking in the sunset from a vantage point along the water.
One of the main things people come to Amphawa for is the freshly-grilled seafood served precariously by locals from their traditional wooden boats. The amazing array of prawns, shellfish, and other types of seafood is offered from noon till late in the evening, sure to catch the crowd!
How do I purchase the seafood you may ask? Many items are priced according to weight, and five large prawns (for reference) could cost you about 300 THB (8.60 USD).
At the end of the river is a row of souvenir shops that sell goods ranging from sweets and t-shirts to local creations. You will find that elephant souvenirs are very popular, as the elephant is the national animal of Thailand and is considered to be very important.
Once you have explored the food trail along the river and done some shopping for gifts, get the full Amphawa experience with a longtail boat that will take you around the surrounding canals and rivers. The longtail boat is a great way to get away from the intense heat that surrounds you as you walk along the crowded streets and is also a method of transport to the interesting Wat Bang Koong, a temple in the middle of nowhere.
This is definitely a great place to spend an afternoon just exploring the streets like a local and sampling the food like a true tourist does when visiting Bangkok!
Amphawa Floating Market
Address: Amphawa District , Samut Songkram, Amphawa 75110, Thailand
Price: from 66 USD
Duration: around 6 hours required
Access: Pick-up from your hotel
3. Dreamworld, Rangsit
Channel the inner child and adrenaline seeker in you with a visit to Dreamworld! It's also terrific for families with children.
Divided into 4 different zones, namely Dream World Plaza, Dream Gardens, Fantasy Land, and Adventure Land, Dreamworld offers more than 40 different rides and attractions for the adrenaline junkie and family-oriented visitor alike!
Explore the Haunted Mansion, ride Space Mountain, and step into the famous Arctic winter Snowtown exhibit, which is complete with slides and sleigh rides that provide a cool alternative from the generally sunny weather of Bangkok!
Not short on the Disney-like experience, there are fantasy-themed shops and gardens for those who really want to get the perfect colour-filled shots of the theme park. Immerse yourself in fun with the park's very own costumed entertainers.
A different type of day-trip for the traveller, and something to do other than visiting the cultural sites and learning about heritage, Dreamworld is sure to impress little kids searching for some fun.
Address: 62 Moo 1, Rangsit-Ongkarak Road, Thanyaburi, Pathum Thani 12130, Thailand
Price: from 58 USD
Opening Hours: 10 am - 5 pm. Closed on public holidays
Duration: around 6 hours required
Contact: +66 2 577 8666
Website: Dreamworld Bangkok
4. Death Railway, Kanchanaburi
Kanchanaburi is Kanchanaburi Province's main town and home to the so-named "Death Railway". There are multiple attractions here, such as the Bridge on the River Kwai, Wampo Viaduct, and the Hellfire Pass.
Otherwise known as the Burma Railway, the Death Railway in Kanchanaburi was built when the Japanese invaded Thailand in order to complete the railroad link between Thailand and Burma.
Called the Death Railway by locals because of the harsh punishments and forced labour used during construction, which led to huge losses of life, the railway route crosses the Three Pagodas Pass, close to the border with Myanmar, and the valley of the Khwae Noi River.
The railway construction was an impressive accomplishment for its time, despite it being built by prisoners of war. Meant to move men and supplies to the Burmese front where the Japanese were fighting the British, the heavy work was mostly done by hand.
The Bridge on the River Kwai is now surrounded by small cafes, shops, and museums. Although the bridge is open to the public to walk across, there are also trains still running. So, do watch out for them!
The Wampo Viaduct, similar to the Burma Railway, was built by prisoners of war, and is also still in use by regular passenger trains. Many of the attractions in Kanchanaburi have historical value dating back to the Second World War.
Death Railway, River Kwai in Kanchanburi
Price: from 123 USD
Duration: 1 day required
Website: River Kwai Tour from Bangkok
5. Khao Yai National Park & Haew Narok Waterfall
Swap out crowded, tourist-filled Bangkok for panoramic landscapes of nature. Khao Yai National Park is one of those places that you must visit if you love nature and being surrounded by interesting flora and fauna.
The third-largest national park in Thailand, it is situated just 3 hours away from Bangkok. Part of it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a protected area. Home to close to 300 resident and migratory birds, they are attracted to the lush greenery.
With exotic seasonal fruits like the rambutan and famous Thai mango readily available, this place is a nature-lover's paradise! Try out the local Thai fruit from a street market and be entertained by a traditional ox cart toiling its way through the rice fields.
If you're looking to do some bird-watching, the best time is during the dryer months (March - April). Trips to Khao Yai during that period will definitely increase your chances of seeing some real life migration happening!
Look out for the park's common mammals including elephants, bears, barking deer, macaques, otters, and gibbons! This place is a perfect family destination as the kids will be constantly intrigued by the numerous free-roaming animals.
While you're in the area, peel your eyes away from the animals for a while and take a trip to the impressive Haew Narok waterfall nearby. It's an impressive natural sight to feast your eyes upon.
Khao Yai National Park
Price: from 101 USD
Duration: around 10 hours required
One wonderful day of diversity
And so there they are ... five recommended places to venture out to on a day trip from Bangkok!
Thailand, the Land of Smiles, has many other aspects to it other than the popular shopping, sightseeing, partying, and touristy food joints, so go forth and discover! Explore and take one day away from all the hustle and bustle, and see a different side of Amazing Thailand!