Bangkok is an exciting and enchanting city. With its many street markets, temples, palaces and countless fragrant food stalls to explore you could spend a lifetime in this city and still come back begging for more. Although there is a myriad of adventures to experience in Bangkok there are also many opportunities for exploration outside the city limits.
Ayutthaya – The Historic City
Founded c. 1350, Ayutthaya became the second Siamese capital after Sukhothai. It was destroyed by the Burmese in the 18th century. Its remains, characterized by the prang (reliquary towers) and gigantic monasteries, give an idea of its past splendour.
Listed on the UNESCO World Heritage and located in the valley of the Chao Phraya River, 60 km away from Bangkok, the site can be reached by a train from the city centre. The trains leave Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Station approximately every hour between 04:20 am – 10:00 pm. The 3rd class fare is 15 BHT for the 1.5 hour trip, the 2nd class 30 BHT. Train schedules are available from the information booth at Hua Lamphong Station, Bangkok.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
Even though there are many famous floating markets in and around Bangkok, Damnoen Saduak is the most popular one in Thailand: great for photo opportunities, food, and for giving you an insight into a bygone way of life. An early morning start is worth to avoid the heat and crowds of tourists – as yes, this is probably the most touristic floating market too.
Located around 30-40 minutes from Bangkok in the Ratchaburi province, it’s a colourful one filled with vendors cooking up and frying Thai dishes or selling produce as they paddle their boats on the river. You can buy cheap trinkets, have your meal served to you from a boat via a fishing pole and even have your picture taken with a boa constrictor…
The easiest way to get to the market is with a tour (25 USD) unless you want to pay for a Grab Taxi. You can also catch bus #78 from Southern Bus Terminal or from the street level of Siam Square (there’s a tourism kiosk on the opposite side of the street). The bus starts running around 6 am and runs approximately every 30-40 minutes. It will drop you around 1km from the market and you’ll need to get a Grab Taxi after that (unless you want to spend time on haggling the price with the local taxi drivers). You can also pre-book the buses with 12go.asia.
Pattaya and the Islands nearby…
Pattaya is a sea resort city on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand, about 100 kilometres southeast of Bangkok, within, but not part of, Bang Lamung District in the province of Chonburi.
The city is in the industrial Eastern Seaboard zone with a population of roughly 1,000,000 which explains why many locals themselves or knowledgeable tourists prefer the islands nearby to the beaches of the city.
If you go by bus or a car from Suvarnabhumi airport, you can definitely see the place in one day and come back to Bangkok for the night. You might even (if you drive out of the city periphery with sunrise) do Pattaya and Koh Larn in one day (start with the island, leave the city for the evening) if you don’t mind coming back to Bangkok late at night.
If you take a bus from the city centre (book best at 12go.asia for circa 5 USD) however, it will take 3 hours one way! In that case, definitely spend a few nights in Pattaya and enjoy the various islands nearby – a different one each day…
The island Koh Larn is located just 7km off the coast from Pattaya and a ferry takes you there for less than 2 USD in 45 minutes. The island is blessed with white sand beaches, turquoise blue waters and corals right off the shore.
Koh Phai, the Bamboo Island, is the biggest of a small island chain, which also includes Koh Klung Badan, Koh Luam, Koh Luam Noi and Koh Man Wichai. Located about 23km from Pattaya, they take about 2 hours to reach. Koh Phai is under the supervision of the Royal Thai Navy, so there are no permanent facilities there and visitors are not permitted to stay overnight. You can still enjoy the pristine beaches and snorkelling around coral reefs though. The reefs around all of the islands in this chain and the nearby wreck of the HTMS Khram are among the best scuba diving sites around Pattaya. There is no ferry service operating to the Koh Phai islands, so you need to take a speedboat charter from Bali Hai Pier.