Bangkok may be a big metropolis, but there are some great escapes not far from the city for day trips, and even some unique day trips in town, where you will find plenty of hidden gems and treasures, many of which you’d never expect. Not only are there cultural sights, temples and museums, but there are plenty of adrenaline thrills and outdoor adventures as well. For those who find the temple traipsing too tame, how about ziplining through the forest with the jungle canopy adventures offered by Flight of the Gibbon? If exercise is your thing, there are some fantastic operators running off the beaten path bicycling tours around town. Both Spice Roads, Grasshopper Adventures and Amazing Bangkok Cyclist offer excellent day explorations of the city’s different neighborhoods and attractions, as well as trips further afield to floating markets, Kanchanaburi, Rayong, or the ancient city of Ayutthaya. For the more sedate, you should still make a river cruise or land trip up to the ancient historical capital of Ayutthaya, probably the top day trip out of the city and a must for any first-time visitor. Perhaps best of all are the outstanding national park getaways; Khao Yai is Thailand’s oldest national park, home to herds of wild elephants, while Khao Sam Roi Yod offers both beaches, superb birding, and a mysterious sinkhole cave to explore. Other easy city breaks include the car-free isle of Ko Kret, set in the Chao Phraya River, home to Mon pottery and pleasant walking and bicycling, or for a quick beach fix, Ko Larn, just off the Pattaya coast, has white sand and turquoise water. Despite all the urban chaos, it is easy to escape Bangkok and enjoy some peace and quiet away from the city.
It is amazing to think that one can find such clear water just off the coast of Pattaya and so near to Bangkok, but here it is. Ko Larn is a small isle, reached by a short ferry or speed boat ride from the pier in Pattaya. It gets very crowded during the day with day trippers from Pattaya, but if you choose to spend the night here, you will have it mostly to yourself, a million miles from the raucous nightlife across the bay.
There are several nice white sand beaches on Ko Larn, the biggest of which is Tawaen on the east side, a short motorcycle taxi ride from the port town of Naban. Samae Beach on the west side is also very inviting and less crowded.Parasailing, banana boat rides, jet skis, and all the other water sport activities are available here, and there are plenty of places to eat and sleep should you be tempted to extend your stay.
Recommended for Day Tours because: For a quick beach escape, Ko Larn will fulfill a city-dweller’s needs.
Dave’s expert tip: Ferries run every hour or two to different locations on Ko Larn from the Bali Hai Pier in Pattaya, with the most frequent departures going to Naban Port. From Naban, motorcycle taxis await passengers to whisk them off to the beaches, or you can also hire you own if you want to tool around the island.
Grasshopper Adventures is a small company specializing in bicycle, photography, and unicycle tours (talk about unique!). They have adventures throughout all of SE Asia, but here in Bangkok, they specialize in local jaunts featuring trips such as historic Bangkok, floating Bangkok, or wheeling around Chinatown. They even do a night ride free of the crowds, as well as a trip from the city out to the Gulf of Thailand, exploring the canals, small fishing villages, salt pans and mangrove swamps along the way. A great way to see some of the real Thailand.
Recommended for Day Tours because: For freewheeling in the capital, you can’t beat Grasshopper Adventures’ amazing tours.
Dave’s expert tip: bring plenty of sunscreen and maybe consider a rain poncho if here between June-September.
Looking for an easy escape from Bangkok and to see one of the most colorful spectacles in the kingdom? The sunflower fields of Saraburi are just a short hop away from the capital, yet are a miles away escape, with the huge sunflower fields coming into their own in December and January, and beckoning flower lovers, photographers, and those looking for a fantastic local good time.
Saraburi may be a small and rather nondescript neighbor to Bangkok but it has been put on the tourist map in the last years due to its amazing sunflower fields which blossom between November and January, and have become a huge tourist draw for Bangkok weekenders looking for an escape to nature. The large sunflower fields, which are privately owned, have been opened up to tourism on a mass scale, as Bangkok residents spend hours immersed in them, taking photos, having picnics, and just feeling utterly romantic. Small farmer style markets have sprung up at most of the sites, offering products like sunflower seeds and oil, natural juices, and other locally grown products. Going hand in hand with the sunflower fields are adjoining bee farms, which offer fresh jars of honey as well.
Recommended for Day Tours because: For the best sunflower array in the Kingdom, Saraburi’s fields are highlight film.
Dave’s expert tip: The best way to visit is via train, and the Thailand State Railways offers a special sunflower train that makes a tourist trip every weekend and public holiday during the blooming season. The train leaves Hualampong Station around 630 a.m. and heads up to one of the fields with a nice mountain backdrop. The train stops there long enough for tourists to get out and take photos and wander around the fields and souvenir shops, and then continues on to the pretty Pasak Jolasid Dam, where it runs out onto the rail track that crosses the dam, stopping out in the middle for people to take pictures of the train, which is parked on a sweeping curve, surrounded by water, and quite picturesque. For more trip information contact the State Railway of Thailand, 02 2256964
Ko Kret is an island in the Chao Phraya River at the northern end of Bangkok. Originally settled by Mons, it is famed for its earthenware ceramics and for the traditional Thai sweet, khao cher, rice served with fragrant water and side dishes which is rare to find elsewhere in the capital. The island feels more like a southern paradise than part of Bangkok, as it is composed of small traffic free lanes, dilapidated homes, and a rustic feel. The island is only 7 kilometers around, so it’s perfect for walking or renting a bicycle, and the morning can be spent visiting pottery shops, the several Mon (Burmese) monasteries, eating seafood or sweets, and taking in some quiet gardens, a great escape from hectic Bangkok.
Recommended for Day Tours because: For Bangkok’s most leisurely escape, Ko Kret is fantastic.
Dave’s expert tip: Getting to Ko Kret takes a bit of planning. Either take the Chao Phraya “green flag” express ferry from Saphan Taksin Pier to Pak Kret (before 8am), or else take the regular ferry to Nonthaburi (slightly south of Pak Kret) and then either bus 32 or a minivan that goes to the Pak Kret Pier.
This is probably the most realistic and insightful look at Bangkok you will get on any tour. Amazing Bangkok Cyclists have been around for 20 years and know the city inside out. They offer bicycle and walking tours of the green areas, klongs, slums, and hidden spots of the real Bangkok that most visitors never even come close to seeing. The guides are extremely knowledgeable, experienced, and funny, and good equipment and briefings ensure that safety is highly paid attention to, no easy feat amidst Bangkok’s infamous traffic. Well recommended.
Recommended for Day Tours because: For a combo of sightseeing and exercise with friendly folks, Amazing Bangkok Cyclist is a truly top day trip.
Dave’s expert tip: wear your sun screen and perhaps throw in an extra shirt if you wont be going back to your hotel directly after the trip. Bangkok is hot and humid and this trip will make you wet!
While it really merits a longer stay, Khao Yai National Park, Thailand’s first national park and model for all its other parks, can be done as a long day trip as well. You’ll need a rental car to do it justice, as it takes almost three hours to drive into the park from Bangkok, and there isn’t any good public transport once inside the park, but self-drives are an excellent way to go, as the long road that snakes through the park has good photo viewpoints, not to mention it is the best way to possibly spot herds of wild elephants. Other major animals you’ll most likely see include hornbills, gibbons, macaques, and if you are there in the rainy season, plenty of leeches! In addition to hiking trails and wildlife, there are several beautiful waterfalls, including Haew Sewat, a double falls that was made famous by the movie The Beach. There are also tour companies along the main road into the park that have expert birders and other wildlife guides offering day trips.
Recommended for Day Tours because: For Thailand’s premier national park, Khao Yai is simply the best.
Dave’s expert tip: There are several entrance gates to enter Khao Yai, with the north entrance on the road from Pak Chong being the one most tour groups use, but if you are driving from Bangkok, the southern gate near Prachinburi is much closer.
Flight of the Gibbon, which had its first operation become wildly popular amongst travelers in Laos, now has expanded to include a spot in the jungles of Chonburi, an hour’s drive from Bangkok. Billed as Thailand’s premiere zipline canopy tour, this adventure takes you deep into the jungles around the Chompoo Wildlife Sanctuary, where you travel above the forest floor from platform to platform via a series of ziplines suspended high in the air. Trained Sky Ranger guides ensure safety and leave you to soar amongst the treetops, with chances of spotting wild boar, macaques, barking deer, and hornbills. An exhilarating adrenaline-filled time is assured.
Recommended for Day Tours because: For a true adrenaline filled day, Flight of the Gibbon has no rival.
Dave’s expert tip: There is also an outdoor obstacle course/jungle gym at the site, for those that don’t want to do the zip line. Pickup and transfer from Bangkok is included in the tour.
Khao Sam Roi Yod is one of the better day trips a family can make from Bangkok. The National Park has something for everyone, from some nice beaches to excellent hiking, sea views, and a magical royal throne located inside of a mountainside cave. Additionally, the park is home to hundreds of migratory birds which call in here during the winter season.
Besides the quiet beaches, the excellent hiking and views, and the over 300 species of birds, many of them migrating from Siberia and Europe, the most astounding sight here is the Phraya Nakhorn Cave and its eerie royal thronel pavilion with a four gabled roof sitting in the middle of it, Getting to the cave involves a 20 minute climb up over a mountain, from where one descends into a huge cavern. In the early morning, light filters in from the openings and creates a dramatic and surreal effect on the surroundings.
Recommended for Day Tours because: For beaches, hiking, birds, and even a throne in a cave, Khao Sam Roi Yod is spectacular.
Dave’s expert tip: It’s best to have your own transport to get here, although you can arrange a taxi or motorbike from Pranburi town.
Spice Roads is a leading bicycle touring company that takes riders of all abilities and shows them the best of Thailand, both cultural and physical, from the vantage point of two wheels. Their trips combine exercise with cultural endeavours, getting to know the locals, and taking in some great scenery, with trips around Bangkok heading to floating markets, quiet canals, off road through coconut plantations, and out to places like Rayong along the coast, or out to historic Kanchanaburi. Other nearby destinations include wineries around Khao Yai National Park, the open green space and hidden canal paths of Bang Krachao, and visits to the ancient capital of Ayutthaya. The organization provides trained professional guides, tailor fit state of the art bicycles, sag wagons and support, and for those who get a taste of what bicycle touring is all about, they also run trips throughout the rest of the country and even around Asia and other hot tourist spots in the world.
Recommended for Day Tours because: For outstanding leadership and organisation, Spice Roads runs the best bicycle trips in Thailand
Dave’s expert tip: Pack lightly for any bicycle trip in Thailand. It’s hot and humid much of the year, and all you’ll really need is some light quick drying clothing.
Founded in 1350, Thailand’s former capital was the head of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, which was one of the most prosperous empires of all time. Today, the collection of the ruins of some 400 plus temples set on an island surrounded by the Chao Phraya, Pa Sak and Lopburi rivers is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the bus or train journey from Bangkok should not deter any visitor from making this a must on their Bangkok bucket list.
Known in full as Phra Nakhon Sri Ayutthaya, the empire that existed here was one of the biggest in Southeast Asia, and was a major center of commerce. Laid out on a grid and surrounded by moats and canals, Ayutthaya had a highly advanced water management system, and was one of the main trading posts between India and China/Japan.
While most of the ancient kingdom is in ruins, many of the temples and prang Khmer towers have been painstakingly restored and the location is gorgeous, set away from the modern city on its own island. It is especially lovely during the rainy season in September, when the reddish-brown temples stand in stark contrast to the lush green surroundings.
Recommended for Day Tours because: Ayutthya’s historic temples are the top day trip from Bangkok.
Dave’s expert tip: While there is no fee to get into the historical park, each temple charges around 50 baht for entrance. You can get a 220 baht ticket covering six of the most important and most popular ones like Wat Mahathat or Phra Ram, which is better value.
Getting here requires either a 2 hour bus journey from Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal up near Chatuchak, or better yet, take the early morning fast train from Hualamphong, which gets to Ayutthaya in less than 90 minutes.