5 Best Cheap Day Trips from Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok’s central location makes it an ideal jump-off point for a variety of day trips to the surrounding provinces. Some of the more popular day trips, such as to Ayutthaya or Amphawa Floating Market, are more well-known, and there will be no shortage of tour companies along Khao San and Sukhumvit Roads offering to take you – for prices far beyond what it would cost a local Thai. Luckily, it’s possible to take local, public transportation to almost anywhere in Thailand, and this quick guide will help you avoid the tourist prices.
Included below are suggestions for five great day trips out of Bangkok, including the two already mentioned, as well as three lesser-known attractions that often receive little copy in the guidebooks. Each trip will allow you to escape the heat of Bangkok’s urban sprawl for a day, while still being able to get back in time for Happy Hour. We’ll start with the two more popular options, including how to get there by local train, bus, boat, and minivan.
1 – Ayutthaya: Ancient Siamese Capitol and UNESCO World Heritage Site
The ancient city of Ayutthaya was the old capitol of Siam until 1767, when it was sacked and burned to the ground by the Burmese. Due to its largely stone construction, however, much of Ayutthaya’s greatest sites survived, and today the city still boasts tremendous ruins of old temples and palaces, as well as impressive chedis (stupas) and stone Buddhas.
Due to its historical richness, it was recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1991, and it continues to be a popular day trip with both tourists and Thais alike. Most of the temples are free to enter, but some of the larger and most impressive ones (Wat Phra Si Sanpet, Wat Phra Mahathat) will charge an entrance fee of 50 baht (about US$1.50).
One of the cheapest and most popular ways to tour around the old ruins is by bicycle, which can be rented for about 40 baht per day. Maps of the city are free in most hotels. The city itself is quite small (less than 6 square miles), so the distances between temples are very manageable – just bring a large bottle of water with you for the day.
Alternatively, motorbikes can be rented for around 300-400 baht per day. If you’re traveling with a group, hiring a tuk-tuk to take you around to the major sights is another viable option – these can be hired for around 1,000 baht/4 hours.
There are a variety of options for reaching Ayutthaya from downtown Bangkok. The cheapest and most scenic option is by train from Hualamphong Station – 2nd-class A/C seats are 245 baht, while a 3rd-class non-A/C ticket is a mere 20 baht (seating not guaranteed). Expect a two to two-and-a-half hour trip.
Another option is catching a bus from Bangkok’s Mo Chit Northern Bus Terminal. Buses leave about every 20 minutes with the last bus leaving at 18:00. Tickets cost 56 baht for a first-class air-con bus, and the journey will take 1.5-2 hours, depending on traffic.
Lastly, minibuses (vans) operate throughout the day from Victory Monument. You’ll find them lined up along the edge of the traffic circle, underneath the BTS overpass. These cost 60 baht per person, and the journey should take only an hour and twenty minutes, assuming you don’t have to wait too long for the van to fill.
2 – Amphawa Floating Market, Samut Songkram Province
To the west of Bangkok, in the neighboring province of Samut Songkhram, lies the small village of Amphawa. Amphawa is the birthplace of King Rama II, the second king in Thailand’s current dynasty. Every weekend (Friday through Sunday), Thais flock to the small canal that runs through this village to enjoy the floating market that has flourished here since the mid-seventeenth century.
While it is quite commercially developed at this point, it still maintains much of its historical charm. The best time to visit the market is between 15:00-21:00, when the waters are filled with vendors selling local goods, clothing, handicrafts, and souvenirs.
The fastest way to get to Amphawa is by getting a minibus (van) from Victory Monument. The queue of minibuses is the same as for Ayutthaya, above – ask the drivers for Amphawa/Maeklong (70 baht, 90 minute ride). The minibus will take you to Maeklong, and from there you’ll need to hop a quick songthaew ride (8-10 baht) to get to the floating market.
3 – The Ancient City: Open air museum
The Ancient City, or Muang Boran in Thai, is a large open-air museum that reconstructs much of Thailand’s rich past. Here you will find reproductions of palace halls, temples, sanctuaries, chedis/stupas, and traditional Thai dwellings. Part of the charm lies in the actual communities of Thai people who are dressed in historical outfits, and performing the daily chores and traditions of the past. As such, the Ancient City is a kind of Thai “renaissance faire.”
While some people choose to walk around the Ancient City on foot, it’s quite large, and with the midday heat, this isn’t a very popular option. Renting a bicycle is recommended, and it is free with the entrance fee (500 baht/person). It’s also possible to join a tram tour with an English-speaking guide (100 baht/person). The Ancient City is open from 8:00-17:00.
Get on air-conditioned bus no. 511 from downtown Bangkok, and take it all the way to the end of the line. If you’re staying in the Khao San Area, you can catch this bus at Democracy Monument, the Grand Palace, or Wat Phra Kaew (Emerald Buddha). The fare is 23 baht. Once you get off, hop on local songthaew No. 36, which will be waiting to zip you over to the Ancient City for 8 baht.
4 – Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm: World’s largest croc farm
The Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm was built in 1950, and is now the largest crocodile farm in the world, with over 60,000 crocodiles of different varieties. The biggest attractions here are the live shows, featuring trainers catching and wrestling the crocodiles with their bare hands.
The shows run on the hour from 09:00-17:00, except at noon, with additional shows on weekends and holidays. Feeding time for the crocodiles is from 16:30-17:30. In addition to the crocodiles, you can also see the many other animals on the farm, such as chimpanzees, camels, hippopotamuses, gibbons, turtles, and boa constrictors. The farm is open daily from 07:00-18:00, and admission is 300 baht for foreigners.
The Crocodile Farm is located very close to the Ancient City (above) and it would easily be possible to combine the two into one day trip. To get to the farm, you would also take air-conditioned bus no. 511 from downtown Bangkok (see above) to the end of the line, and then hop on a waiting songthaew. Pricing is the same as above (23 baht for the bus, 8 baht for the songthaew).
5 – Koh Kret: Man-made island with its own culture
Koh Kret is a man-made island in the middle of the Chao Phraya River, just north of Bangkok in Nonthaburi Province. It was originally created when a canal was dug in 1722, to facilitate the sailing of ships from Bangkok to Ayutthaya. Later, the Thai king gave permission to the indigenous Mon people to live on Koh Kret.
The Mon, a traditionally isolated minority, have a culture uniquely their own, which can be seen from the different style of the temples upon Koh Kret. The most notable one is Wat Paramaiyikawat, located on the northeastern tip of the island, which features a leaning golden stupa built over 200 years ago, with a reclining Buddha inside.
The best time to visit Koh Kret is on weekends, when everyone is out and the shops are all open. The island’s biggest draws are its handmade desserts and its pottery. The island is small, and it’s possible to walk around it in 2 hours, seeing the temples, shopping, and sampling the local food.
The quickest way is by taking bus No. 166 from Victory Monument (19 baht) – ask the driver to take you to Koh Kret. When you get off, it’s a two minute walk to the pier, which is located behind Wat Sanam Neua. The ferry to the island is a quick hop that costs only 2 baht.
Alternatively (and highly recommended) is taking the scenic river route. You can get on the Chao Phraya Express Boat heading north from any stop in Bangkok, and take it all the way to the end of the line, at Nonthaburi (13 baht). When you get off, you can catch bus 32, 51, or 104 to the pier (19 baht), or alternatively, you can hire a taxi for about 100 baht. After a day touring the island, you can always get bus no. 166 directly back to Victory Monument, just in time for a cold Singha.
By Paul King
Upon graduating from university, Paul King moved to Thailand, where he lived, studied, and taught for three years. In 2012, he returned home to the US, where he now works as a freelance writer based in Asbury Park, NJ. His website is www.paulkingwriter.com