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The Best Day Trips from Bangkok

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Day Trips from Bangkok

There's enough excitement in Bangkok to fill your entire vacation—but the Thai capital is also a great starting point to explore nearby cities, beaches, and national parks when you need a break from the non-stop action. From the ancient ruins of the old kingdom of Ayutthaya to the majestic nature of national parks like Erawan and elephant-watching at Khao Yai National Park, the choices are endless if you want to escape the city for the day.

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The Bridge over the River Kwai

Kanchanaburi

The building of the Thai-Burma "Death Railway Bridge" is a dark period in history. Over 12,000 French and American WWII POWs and 90,000 civilians died here, building the ultimate railway route that would connect Burma and Thailand.

The building of the Thai-Burma "Death Railway Bridge" is a dark period in history. Over 12,000 French and American WWII POWs and 90,000 civilians died here, building the ultimate railway route that would connect Burma and Thailand.

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Ayutthaya Historical Park

Ayutthaya

One of the most popular day trips from Bangkok, the ancient city of Ayutthaya is certainly worth a visit. A UNESCO Heritage Site expanding over 289 hectares, the massive complex of ruins is located on an island surrounded by three rivers.

Ayutthaya was the capital of Thailand from the time it was founded in 1351 until it was razed and burned by the Burmese Army in 1767. Though many of the buildings were destroyed and many objects stolen over the years, the massive temples and stucco towers that remain are still awe-inspiring.

One of Ayutthaya's best-known temples is Wat Chaiwatthanaram, with a 35-meter-high prang (tower-like spire) and eight chedi-like chapels at the heart of the structure. Wat Mahathat, a smaller temple, is famous for the head of a Buddha statue caught in the roots of a tree.

Just 80 kilometers north and an hour away from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, the royal city of Ayutthaya, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, makes for a perfect day trip. 

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Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

The Floating Market

Bangkok's most famous traditional market is on the water. Floating markets were once standard in Thailand, especially for communities living along the river. While Thais don't go shopping on their longtail boats today, the Damnoen Saduak floating market has recreated the feeling perfectly.

Sit back on your very own boat and let the driver take you through the winding canals to see fruit vendors and wooden houses on stilts along the way. Then step off the boat to wander through the stalls for small souvenirs or snacks to take with you.

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Beautiful beach at Hua Hin

Hua Hin

The small city of Hua Hin, 2.5 hours south of Bangkok, is home to the King's summer palace, a quiet stretch of beach, and plenty of themed attractions and shopping opportunities. More laid-back than Koh Samet and Pattaya, the oceanfront here is perfect for kitesurfing, sunbathing, and trying out the local cuisine. Khao Takiab (Chopstick Hill) at the far end of Hua Hin, is home to a long stretch of quiet beach and a few beautiful temples.

Just minutes outside Hua Hin, visitors will find the 1920s, all-teak Maruekhathaiyawan Palace; golf courses; the massive Black Mountain water park; and two themed shopping centers (The Venezia and Santorini), complete with gondolas, white cobblestone-paved paths, and even their own amusement parks.

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 Erawan Waterfall

The Erawan National Park

The Erawan National Park is not far from the River Kwai bridge and could be visited on the same day—although to truly appreciate the lush evergreen forest and catch a sight of the park's more elusive fauna, you probably need to spend the entire day here.

The seven-tiered Erawan Falls is the park's main attraction—emerald green waters cascading down to a pond where you can swim and relax. The park's many caves are also worth a visit for their beautiful stalagmite or stalactite formations and their prehistoric rock paintings.

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The golden Buddha, Pattaya

Pattaya

Just 1.5 hours from Bangkok, the seaside city of Pattaya makes for a perfect seaside escape. There's lots to see and do in Pattaya, so if you only have a day here, you'll have to make some choices in advance.

The Sanctuary of Truth, a magnificent teak structure, and the French-style Nong Nooch Tropical Gardens are two of Pattaya's most popular destinations. You can also walk up the massive staircase to Wat Phra Khao Yai ("Big Buddha Hill") for a visit to the temple and an amazingly clear view over the city. Another viewpoint worth visiting is Khao Pattaya on Pratumnak Hill, which looks over the bay.

Right off the coast of Pattaya is Koh Lan Island. Aside from its beautiful white beaches set against a backdrop of steep limestone hills, the island also offers parasailing, underwater sea walking, and boat tours.

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Haew Suwat waterfall

Khao Yai National Park

Thailand's oldest national park is a 2.5-hour drive from Bangkok, and it's massive at over 2,000 square kilometers—if you only have one day to spend here, try to arrive as early in the morning as possible. You'll get more chances to explore some of the 20 hiking trails; catch a glimpse of wild elephants and other animals that will often hide during the hottest hours of the afternoon; and reach Haew Suwat waterfall, famous as Leonardo Di Caprio's waterfall on The Beach.

Khao Yai is also home to many caves, including Khao Luk Chang Bat Cave—where over one million wrinkle-lipped, free-tailed bats live. For an experience that's hard to forget, stay around until sunset, when the bats come out from the cave and take over the sky in a spectacular dance.

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Koh Samet

While Pattaya offers the easiest and closest access to sand and beach from Bangkok, you'll have to head farther away to find more turquoise waters and scuba diving options. The island of Koh Samet, a three-hour drive from Bangkok, offers just that: pristine white beaches for sunseekers, plenty of water activities, and amazing food choices.

Koh Samet is small and can be easily explored on foot. Ao Phai and Haad Sai Kaew are the busiest beaches on the island and the best choices for an active getaway. If you're looking for more privacy and silence, beaches like Ao Wai are mostly undeveloped and attract fewer tourists—which means you might end up having the entire area to yourself, especially if you arrive early in the morning.

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Phra Pathom Chedi

Nakhon Pathom

Just 45 minutes away from the center of Bangkok is Nakhon Pathom, famous for being home to both the world's tallest golden stupa 'Phra Pathom Chedi' and to the only female Buddhist monastery in Thailand. This quiet province receives fewer foreign visitors than other areas in Thailand, and it's a great place to discover the "real Thailand" most tourists never get to see.

Nearby, the Western-style Sanam Chandra Palace is an unexpected sight. Built in 1907 by future King Rama VI, the palace is set on the banks of a lake, has a Disney-like bridge that connects it to other buildings in the complex, and is surrounded by teak houses and a well-manicured garden.

A short drive away is the Jesada Car Museum, home to a private collection of over 500 vehicles, from three-wheeled cars and a DeLorean (made famous by Back to the Future) to small helicopters and even a London double-decker bus.

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