In this series, Lonely Planet’s team of writers and editors answers your travel problems and provides tips and hacks to help you plan a hassle-free trip. When a Thailand-related query came into our inbox, we passed it along to Austin Bush, a 20-plus-year resident of the country and longtime LP guidebook author.
Question: We are planning to spend five days in Bangkok later this month and plan one or two day trips during that time. Do you have any suggestions or recommendations?
Austin Bush: Two options come immediately to mind when considering a day trip from Bangkok.
Visit Ayuthaya’s monuments for history (plus fabulous noodles)
A classic day trip from Bangkok is an excursion to Ayuthaya, Thailand’s former royal capital. Located just 70km (43.5 miles) north of Bangkok, the site is home to some beautiful ruins, as well as some great places to eat. My suggestion would be to take the train, which is slow but comfortable and charming, and affords a taste of the central Thai countryside along the way.
After arriving at Ayuthaya’s tiny train station, cross the river via a ferry and make the short walk to the Ayuthaya Historical Park. Once inside the protected zone, a bicycle is a good way to get around (though I wouldn't recommend riding one on the city’s streets). Highlights include the three imposing stupas at Wat Phra Si Sanphet and the ancient murals deep inside the base of the prang of Wat Ratchaburana. If you’re up for more, head just south of the “island” that forms Ayuthaya’s historical center to Baan Hollanda and the Portuguese Village, sites that document Thailand’s first encounters with the West.
When it’s time to refuel, consider Ayuthaya’s signature dish, boat noodles – so named because they were previously served from tiny barges. These days the dish – rice noodles in a spicy, fragrant pork or beef broth – is served from semi-open-air but fully landlocked venues such as Lung Lek. For something slightly more formal, head to the riverside Pae Krung Gao, a classic Ayuthaya restaurant, and join the locals in ordering a pile of grilled river prawns. For a quick and easy return to Bangkok, hop on a bus or shared van.
A day trip to Amphawa provides a taste of Thai life
For a day trip that’s less about the destination and more about the journey, I’d pitch heading to Amphawa, located 80km (50 miles) southwest of the capital. The trip begins on the Mahachai Line, a rickety commuter train that departs from Thonburi’s Wong Wian Yai Station.
After an hour of snaking through canal-side villages and semi-urban rice fields, you’ll arrive in the port city of Samut Songkhram (also known as Mahachai). Walk through one of Thailand’s most frenetic fresh markets, then take a ferry followed by a motorcycle taxi to the minuscule train station at Tha Chalong. Here, you’ll hop on yet another rickety caboose that ultimately crashes into the fresh market at Samut Songkhram. I mean this almost literally: market vendors must remove their wares from the tracks every time a train pulls in.
If you’re hungry at this point, consider a mini side trip to Don Hoi Lot, a beachy area where Thais make a beeline for cheap seafood. Otherwise, it’s a brief chartered boat ride or a seat on a bench in the back of a commuter truck to Amphawa. If you’re there on a weekend, you can join hundreds of Thais snacking, shopping and doing touristy things at the Amphawa Floating Market. After you’ve explored this exceedingly charming canal-side town on foot, buses can whisk you back to Bangkok.
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