In need of fresh air, wide open spaces and verdant vistas? From beach break to jungle sojourn, Bangkok offers its residents a variety of wonderful weekend destinations. Below are our Top Five choices for easy, kid-friendly getaways from the capital.
- Hua Hin – Located 190 kilometres from Bangkok or a 2.5-hour drive, Hua Hin is a beachside town that perfectly juxtaposes nostalgic charm with modern conveniences. Here, traditional markets, temples and peaceful beaches co-exist with modern shopping centres, vineyards and fine dining establishments. Aside from the area’s many beaches, including Hua Hin, Khao Tao, Khao Takiab and Suan Son, there are a number of activities ideal for kids, including the Black Mountain Water Park; Swiss Sheep Farm, Panee Butterfly Farm; and Plearnwan, a vintage-themed complex with food carts, shophouses and fun products of yesteryear.
- Khao Yai – A highlight of the Khao Yai area is Khao Yai National Park, an expansive nature reserve that has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Incorporating one of the world’s largest intact monsoon forests, Khao Yai houses a variety of wildlife, such as elephants, gibbons, tigers and hornbills. It is great for family activities such as jungle trekking, bird watching and hiking. The area also features vineyards, golf courses and adventure parks, such as Life Park and Thongsomboon Club. About 180 kilometres from Bangkok, Khao Yai can be reached by road or rail. On the way there or back, be sure to drop in on Farm Chokchai.
- Ayutthaya – A once formidable Siamese capital destroyed in the 18th century, Ayutthaya offers plenty of history and culture. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Ayutthaya Historical Park features crumbling stone palaces, ruined temples and ancient Buddha images – perfect for a weekend of exploration. Hire bicycles or engage the services of an elephant (with mahout) to tour the ruins. Approximately 80 kilometres from Bangkok, Ayutthaya is an hour by car. For those with more time, the city can also be accessed by boat on the Chao Phraya River, a slow but more scenic route.
- Kanchanaburi – Situated in a lush valley 130 kilometres from Bangkok, Kanchanaburi is a sleepy little town best known for its role in World War II (and setting for the 1957 film The Bridge on the River Kwai’). Here, occupying Japanese forces built a rail route, nicknamed the Death Railway, to present-day Burma using captured Allied prisoners of wars (POW), among other labourers. Today, war museums, POW cemeteries and the infamous Bridge over River Kwai draw visitors seeking local history. Families will also enjoy elephant rides, hikes and bamboo rafting in jungle surroundings, as well as paddling in the gentle falls of Sai Yok Noi, visiting the seven-tiered Erawan Waterfall and marvelling at Lawa Cave’s huge caverns. Karnchanaburi can be easily reached by road or rail.
- Ko Samet – Fringed by sandy beaches with dense forests in its interior, Ko Samet provides the setting for an idyllic escape. Part of a national park, the isle is better suited for at least a two-night stay, as it takes about four hours to make the 200 kilometre journey from Bangkok by car (to Rayong) and ferry or speedboat to the island. Ko Samet is wonderful for kids – its shores boast fine white sand, rock clusters teeming with small marine life at low tide and calm waters. Long stretches of beach, including Hat Sai Kaew and Ao Vong Duan, can get loud at night, as they house many bungalows, restaurants and bars. The secluded Ao Phrao is better for those seeking peace and quiet; however, be aware that Ao Phrao was affected by an oil spill in July 2013 and the environment may not be as pristine as before.