Bangkok is one of Singaporean’s favourite travel destinations. It’s not surprising, considering its proximity, huge bargains, numerous attractions, and delicious food. However, when you’ve been there too many times to count and seen all the familiar landmarks over and over again, that’s when you think you know Thailand like the back of your hand.
Well, that obviously can’t be all to Thailand! There are so many cities in Bangkok that offers an entirely different experience. Thailand has so many cultural, historical, religious, and natural gems that you’d really be shooting yourself in the foot if you limit your travel to just Bangkok.
Here are 10 places you definitely need to consider when you are planning a different trip to Thailand.
Ayutthaya was a flourishing kingdom of Thailand (formerly Siam) from 1350 to 1767, and possibly the most prosperous city in Asia during that era. Even though the kingdom collapsed some 250 years ago, the ruins of palaces and temples remain behind for the curious tourists to behold. To travel back in time to these historical sites, you only need to head to Ayutthaya Historical Park – located on an island surrounded by three rivers in the town of Ayutthaya.
Wat Chaiwaathanaram (meaning Temple of Long Rein and Glorious Era) was used by the king for religious ceremonies, and for the burial of the royal family.
Wat Phra Mahathat (also known as Temple of the Great Relic) reveals a strange sight of a Buddha statue’s head wedged between the trunks and roots of surrounding trees. The story is, a treasure-seeking thief moved the Buddha head away from the main temple, but found it too heavy to move it out of the courtyard.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet (Temple of the Holy, Splendid Omniscient) was considered the grandest and holiest temple of the royal family. No monks were allowed to live there; instead, the temple was used solely to perform religious ceremonies for the king.
How to get there: Ayutthaya is located less than 100km away from Bangkok and can be easily accessed by taxi, bus, minivan and train.
Buses for Ayutthaya leave Mo Chit Bus Station every half hour and take about 90 minutes to arrive. Make sure you head to Ayutthaya bus terminal (Lines 26, 77, 96, 104, 136, 145, and 509 go to the Ayutthaya bus terminal) to board the right bus.
Taking a minivan will get you directly to Ayutthaya in 75 minutes. Board the van at Victory Monument, Exit 2 and take note of the van loading station.
If you want to take in picturesque scenes of Thailand on your way, head to Hua Lamphong Station to board the train. It takes about two hours to reach Ayutthaya, but you have plenty of sights to feast your eyes on.
Thailand’s highest mountain, Doi Inthanon, is situated in Chiangmai and remains a popular tourist spot for its numerous waterfalls, diverse wildlife and its distinctive tribal village, Mae Klang Luang Village. Interestingly, Doi Inthanon is named in honour of King Inthawichayanon, one of the last kings in Chiang Mai, who wanted to preserve the forests in the north of Thailand. He specifically ordered his remains to be placed in the park after his death, which was thereafter named after him.
Wachirathan is only one of the numerous waterfalls you can spot while hiking up Doi Inthanon, providing the necessary respite to an exhausting journey. You can also get a glimpse of rare wildlife on your way if you’re really attentive.
Mae Klang Luang is home to the Pga-gan Yaw people, a Karenic tribe from Burma. The greatest view of this small village is the terraced paddy fields – result of the villagers’ hard work. Tourists and locals alike can appreciate this humble life by learning about traditional Thai agriculture and staying overnight at the camping spaces or residence houses available. Furthermore, during the monsoon season from September to mid-October, a thin layer of fog covers the paddy fields, imbuing the tranquil landscape with an aura of mysticism.
How to get there: The fastest way to get to Chiang Mai is to fly directly from Singapore there (five to six hours with one stop), or from Bangkok there (about one hour). Otherwise, you would be spending up to 16 hours by bus or train.
3. Hua Hin
If Bali is one of your favourite destinations for a getaway, then you have got to check out Hua Hin District, well-known as a family-friendly beach paradise. This district is famously touted as the place where royal and noble families built their summer houses and come to for a vacation – and it has since developed into a full-fledged resort for the weary people.
One of the most popular beaches in Hua Hin, this beach offers a variety of activities and dining options, not to mention several hotels and villas you can rent for easy access to the seas. If you enjoy the thrill of water sports – water skiing, parasailing, scuba diving – then you can fill your day with these action-packed fun. Otherwise, you can take a quiet stroll along the scenic waters or ride a horse through the sandy paths.
Another popular recreational activity is to take a hike up Monkey Mountain, which, like its name suggests, is home to a family of macaque monkeys. You can feed the monkeys, take photos of them and play with them like you wouldn’t get to do in urban Singapore – just be careful not to anger them or else they’ll bite. There is also a Chinese temple with an impressive 20-metre tall golden Buddha statue overlooking the sea.
For just 200 baht, you get to feast your eyes on one of the most glorious and awe-inspiring views in Thailand. The Kuha Kharuehat pavilion you see above is constructed to commemorate the visit of King Chulalongkorn the Great (Rama V), and you can even see his signature on the wall of the cave. What is so special about this pavilion is that it is built inside a limestone cave, radiating a majestic aura when the light shines through the cave’s roof and illuminates it.
How to get there: Hua Hin is located about 144km away from Bangkok and can be accessed by taxi, coach, bus and train.
If your immediate destination is Hua Hin, look out for the Roong Rueang coach at Suvarnabhumi Airport, which will bring you straight to Hua Hin in three to four hours. Tickets can be booked online or at the airport itself, near Exit 8.
If you want to shop in Bangkok before heading to Hua Hin, then head to Southern Bus Terminal, or Sai Tai Mai, afterwards to catch a bus (Lines 511 and 515 head to Southern Bus Terminal). The bus takes three to four hours and departs every 20 minutes. You can get your tickets at the terminal
For the most straightforward transportation, take the train from Hua Lamphong Station. It takes around three to four hours and you can get your tickets at the station itself.
Kanchanaburi has a rich World War II history, being the site of Death Railway built during Japanese occupation of Thailand. The poor living conditions and hard labour enforced on the prisoners of war during its construction has a tragic story that invites visitors to share in, making Kanchanburi a place of deep historical and emotional value. Besides its war history, the town also boasts of its idyllic natural attractions where one can have a relaxed getaway.
Thailand-Burma Railway Centre is an interactive museum, and an information and research facility dedicated to present history in a respectful, factual and non-partisan way.
Erawan Falls is a seven-tier waterfall formed by the action of limestone activity in the area. Each tier has its own unique name, and it takes dedication and effort to hike up the surrounding trails to see the final tier at the top. If you’re not up for the hike however, the first tier has its own rewards – a refreshing swim with the fishes.
For a truly authentic nature getaway, book yourself an overnight stay at River Kwai Jungle Raft Resort. The entire resort is built on thatched bamboo and sits above the river, making it only accessible by boat. Furthermore, the floatel does not utilise any electricity – no lights, no internet. You only have traditional kerosene lamps to illuminate the dark nights.
How to get there: Kanchanaburi lies 123km west of Bangkok and can be reached by taxi, train, bus, or minivan.
The train for Kanchanaburi departs from Thonburi Station two times daily, at 7.50am and 1.55pm. Miss it, and you’ll have to find other transportation options. The journey takes two-and-a-half to three hours, but you will be in relative comfort. For the return journey, the train departs at 7.19am and 2.48pm. Tickets can be bought at the station itself.
If you’re tight on cash, consider taking the bus from Southern Bus Terminal, Sai Tai Mai. Look out for an office next to Sangchuto at the west side of the terminal, as the bus departs from there every 20 minutes. The journey will take three to four hours.
If you prefer a more comfortable journey on a minivan, head to Sai Tai Mai or Northern Mo Chit Bus Terminal where many minivans will be waiting to bring to you to Kanchanaburi. The journey will take three to four hours.
5. Khon Kaen
Despite being an important city of Thailand with well-developed infrastructure and facilities, Khon Kaen still remain one of the less frequented area for tourists. If you want the avoid the crowds of Bangkok but still access all the shopping, dining, and experiential activities there, why not travel to Khon Kaen instead?
Housing archaeological findings from Northern and Eastern Thailand, this museum showcases an extensive range of utensils, tablets, pottery, even skeletal remains dating back to prehistoric eras.
Aura Farm recently opened their doors to the public in 2018, and is a place where you can have a hands-on experience milking the cows, planting vegetables, and making ice-cream and cheese from raw milk. Dining options such as cafe, restaurant and even an ice-cream parlour are available in the farm, made from their own hand-grown ingredients.
One of the must-see attraction is definitely the Wat Nong Wang Temple, an impressive nine-storey pagoda that gives you a bird’s eye view at the highest tier.
How to get there: The fastest way to get to Khon Kaen is to fly directly from Singapore there (six to seven hours with one stop), or from Bangkok there (about 50 minutes). However, you can also take the train and mini there from Bangkok.
Head to Hua Lamphong Station to get your tickets for the train. The train departs at 8.20am, 6.35pm, 8pm and 8.45pm daily and takes seven to eight hours to arrive.
Alternatively, you can take a minivan from Mo Chit Northern Bus Terminal, which will take seven to eight hours to arrive as well.
6. Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi (or Phi Phi Islands) boasts of one of the most beautiful beaches in the world – with pearly white sand, stunning rock formations, and crystal-clear waters It is the paradise we’ve all dreamed of. Wind down by the beach and enjoy all the water activities that you wouldn’t get to do in Singapore.
Do you recognise this bay? Koh Phi Phi’s very own beach – Maya Bay – was featured in a blockbuster movie, The Beach, starring Leonardo Di Caprio!
The waters around Koh Phi Phi are home to two shark species – leopard and black-tips sharks. Have a swim with them through the clear sea and enjoy this personal encounter. Don’t worry, these sharks are small and harmless.
Finally, you can’t go to Koh Phi Phi and not visit this iconic Viking Cave. The name is inspired from cave paintings of several boats – including that of a Viking ship, hence its name! The cave is home to a flock of swiftlets and is the harvesting ground for our well-loved Chinese delicacy, bird’s nest. Visitors regrettably are not allowed inside the cave, but you’d come extremely close to it on a long-tail boat.
How to get there: The fastest way to get to Koh Phi Phi is to fly directly from Singapore to Krabi (one-and-a-half hours), and take a ferry from Krabi’s Klong Jilad Pier to Koh Phi Phi Don (one of the islands in Koh Phi Phi). The ferry departs four times daily at 9am, 10.30am, 1.30pm, and 3pm. The trip will take one-and-a-half hours.
Lampang is also frequently referred to as mueang rot ma, which actually means ‘horse carriage city’! When you arrive, don’t be surprised to see horses travelling on the streets alongside cars and motorbikes; they’re actually a common mode of transportation in the province.
Go back in time to the 19th century when horse carriages are the main form of transportation for most people. Now, it makes for a great way to slowly explore the Lampang, and of course, gives you a great photo opportunity.
While Thai Elephant Conservation Centre is not the only elephant camp in Thailand, it is the only state-run centre dedicated to research and treatment of sick or distressed elephants. Moreover, the elephants are able to paint and even form an orchestra! You’d be able to see their performances up close, not to mention ride and bathe the elephants (at designated times so as not to overwhelm the sensitive animals).
Chae Son National Park is the place to explore all of nature’s wonder – featuring two waterfalls (Chae Son and Mae Peak) and a hot spring where you can cook eggs for a light snack. In addition, the park is home to several tree and animal species – including deers and monkeys.
How to get there: The fastest way to get to Lampang is to fly directly from Singapore there (about three hours), or from Bangkok there (about one hour to one-and-a-half hour).
8. Rayong City
Rayong City is loved for its beach resort, but did you know that Rayong is also a bustling town that showcases an exciting night life? Here, you’d get to experience the best of both worlds – relaxing summer holiday at the beach and a wild nighttime escapade at nightclubs and karaoke lounges.
Koh Samet is very much comparable to Koh Phi Phi in their pearly white sand, crystal clear waters, and scenic views of the beach. Water activities such as snorkelling and fishing are available, not to mention all those delicious fresh seafood you can chom on by the beach.
Walk through this amazing 2,400 acre Tung Prong Thong (Golden Mangrove Field) that catches light in the day and transforms into a golden paradise. At the end of the boardwalk sits HTMS Prasae, a de-comissioned war ship that you can explore.
Ban Phe Market deserves your evening because of the fabulous bargains and scrumptious food you’d be able to get – not forgetting super affordable and fresh seafood!
How to get there: The only way to get to Rayong City is by minivans or airplane.
Airplanes will take about 40 to 50 minutes to arrive in Rayong from Bangkok.
You can also take the minivan from Ekkamai (Eastern) Terminal or Mo Chit Northern Terminal in Bangkok. The minivans depart every 20 minutes and will take around three hours to arrive.
9. Surat Thani
Surat Thani is often overlooked, being a in-between port for travellers going to the east islands of Thailand. But it has some of the most interesting sights and national reserves in Thailand that you really shouldn’t miss.
The jungle surrounding Khao Sok National Park is considered to be the remnants of a rainforest that is older and more diverse than the Amazon, accommodating over five per cent of all animal species. The forests are largely unexplored, making for a mysterious and awe-inspiring adventure. Moreover, you can even take a long-tail boat out or go canoeing in Cheow Larn Lake.
Behold an interesting sight of old against new at Chaiya, home to a magnificent Srivijayan shrine (Wat Phra Borommathat Chaiya), believed to have been built 1,300 years ago, as well as the ruins of Wat Kaeo.
Surat Thani prides itself on producing the juiciest and largest oysters so you definitely need to check out the oyster farms at Kradae and Tha Thong River. Just board a long-tail boat from Tha Thong Quay and you’ll reach in 30 minutes.
How to get there: Surat Thani is 645km away from Bangkok and the fastest way would be to take an airplane there from Bangkok (around an hour). Alternatively, you can take the train or minivans there.
Get your tickets for the train ride from Hua Lamphong Station in Bangkok, which departs regularly and will take eight to ten hours to reach Surat Thani.
Minivans also depart every 20 minutes from Tai Mai (Southern) Terminal and Mo Chit (Northern) Terminal in Bangkok, and the journey takes an average of ten hours.
10. Ubon Ratchathani
As you’d probably already know, Buddhist traditions are rather strong in Thailand, and Ubon Ratchathani is notable for its culture of forest-dwelling monks. There are numerous temples and monasteries you can visit to observe the Buddhist practices. But if that is not your cup of tea, Ubon Ratchathani also has its natural treasures, dating back a few thousand years ago.
For visitors who are interested in experiencing the life of a monk, you can register yourself at Wat Pah Nanachat, a forest monastery for mainly non-Thai people. Book a few days’ accommodation at the monastery and observe all the rules and routine of a monk.
Discover prehistoric red cave paintings in Pha Taem National Park that dates back 3,000 years ago and take a guess at the lifestyle of the people who lived in it.
Enjoy the breath-taking view of the sunset against the expanse of sand dunes – it’ll be a sight to remember forever. The sand and coastal dune area was caused by a natural phenomena – change of tides – during the end of Ice Age about 14,000 years ago.
How to get there: Ubon Ratchathani is situated 616km away from Bangkok and the fastest way there will be to take a direct flight from Bangkok (around one hour 10 minutes). Alternatively, you can take the train and minivan from Bangkok.
Head to Hua Lamphong Station to get your tickets for the train heading to Ubon Ratchathani. There are eight trains departing daily and will take roughly between eight to eleven hours to reach your destination.
Buses to Ubon Ratchathani also depart regularly from Mo Chit Southern Bus Terminal, and will take eight to eleven hours to arrive.