The chaotic, colourful and culture-rich metropolis of Bangkok will likely be your first stop on your travels in Thailand and it is a great place to base yourself while exploring this fascinating country. There are several great destinations for day trips just beyond the periphery of Bangkok and bus, train and plane tickets to nearby getaways are quite affordable.
If you are planning on taking a city break from Bangkok, here are some great ideas:
1. Samut Prakan
Only a short distance away from Bangkok you will find Samut Prakan, located where the Chao Phraya River empties into the Gulf of Thailand. This town dates back to the Ayutthaya Period and it is home to a number of cultural and historic sites.
Here you will find the Ancient City, which is a collection of scaled down replicas of important buildings from all over Thailand.
Rent a bike and cycle around the city, then visit the Crocodile Farm & Zoo, the largest farm of its kind in the world. Another interesting attraction is the Erawan Museum, which is shaped like a three headed elephant and holds a priceless collection of antiques and religious art.
To Get There: Samut Prakan is only 29 km south of Bangkok and it can be reached by many different Bangkok Mass Transit Authority buses including No. 502, 506, 506, 508, 511 and many more. See this page for a full list of buses.
2. Bang Pakong
Visiting Bang Pakong will give you a chance to see the famous Irrawaddy Dolphins, which arrive every November at the end of the rainy season and stay until February searching for food and giving birth to their calves.
The Irrawaddy Dolphin is one of the most endangered dolphins in the world and they live within the rivers and coasts of Southeast Asia and Northern Australia. These dolphins are different than the typical dolphins you might have seen, as they have a high round forehead, no beak and a small, rounded triangular dorsal fin. Dolphin sightseeing tours are available in Bang Pakong and there are boats available for small groups (4-6) and large groups (10-12).
How to Get There: The river tours begin at the pier behind Wat Sothorn, located in Chachoengsao.
3. Hua Hin
The beaches of Hua Hin are a favourite getaway destination for Bangkok residents who are looking for a quick weekend escape. It is only about three hours away from Bangkok, so you can easily reach it by car, train or bus. The city of Hua Hin is quite built up, with a lot of shopping centres and fast food stores – but the 5km beach itself is scenic and the sea is clean.
Hua Hin is an excellent destination for activities such as swimming, snorkelling and sunbathing – as well as trips to see the peaks, waterfalls, spas and golf courses. The nearby hill of Khao Takiab offers beautiful Buddhist temples as well as a stunning view of the resort, especially if you visit early in the morning.
How to Get There: There are VIP coach buses from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport to Hua Hin for only around 300-350 baht. It is also possible to take a bus from the Sai Tai Mai terminal for around 175 baht.
4. Koh Samet
If you want a relaxing taste of the laid back island life but you don't have a lot of time, why not take a weekend trip from Bangkok to Koh Samet? This is a little island in the Gulf of Siam located only a few hours away from Bangkok and it offers a laid back beach atmosphere to contrast the concrete jungle. All of the beaches in Koh Samet have soft white sand and warm tropical blue water and there are more than 50 hotels and resorts to choose from. A popular option is to rent a motorbike and go exploring off the beaten track of the island.
How to Get there:There are buses from the Eastern Bus terminal to Ban Phe which take around 3.5 hours.
Kanchanaburi is located at the meeting of the Kwai Yai and Kwai Noirivers and it is a popular day trip from Bangkok due to the famous Bridge Over the River Kwai. Made well known by the movie and the novel, the bridge is part of the "Death Railway" to Burma – constructed by POWs working for the Japanese in inhuman conditions during World War II.
The city offers more than war history, it also has attractions such as bamboo rafting journeys down the river, Khmer temple ruins tours, hiking trails, waterfalls and much more.
How to Get There: There are public buses from the Southern Bus Terminal in Bangkok to Kanchanburi every day.
These are just five of the nearby destinations that you can explore during your stay in Bangkok, so why not take a weekend and see what's out there?