Where to go in Thailand for your next vacation, besides Bangkok’s bustling malls

The most common destination for travel in Thailand is Bangkok, and the one thing that Singaporeans love to do in the country’s capital is shop.

But if you’ve visited Bangkok’s malls one too many times for an all-out shopping spree, then why not look beyond to discover sights that are much richer in culture and history?

Here, we share where to go in Thailand for your next vacation, including a bridge built during World War II in Kanchanaburi and a 306-steps temple in Chiang Mai!

Where to go in Thailand: Bangkok

Chao Phraya River, Bangkok

where to go in thailand
Credit: Елена/Pexels

Discover Bangkok from a different perspective when you bob along the Chao Phraya River, a waterway that winds through the heart of the capital.

The river is not a huge departure from the familiar Bangkok city, but it does let you enjoy the open landscapes and pass the capital’s major attractions such as the monumental Wat Arun, Wat Pho, and Wat Phra Kaew temples.

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Credit: Zbigniew Bielecki/Pexels

Since there are plenty of river cruises and sightseeing tours available, it’s no challenge to float your way down this scenic waterway!

Book the Chao Phraya White Orchid River Cruise for S$26.75 instead of S$53.55 on Klook.

The Grand Palace, Bangkok

where to go in thailand
Credit: The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace is Thailand’s famous palace complex that was once the place of residence for the country’s kings and their families.

Today, however, it’s accessible to anyone looking to discover its grand yet intricate architecture, hand-painted murals, and the iconic Emerald Buddha, which is made from a single piece of jade stone.

Popular with tourists for its grand sights and history, the Grand Palace also holds special significance to Buddhists as a sacred temple and pilgrimage destination.

Book the Bangkok Grand Palace & Wat Phra Kaew Guided Walking Tour for S$16.69 on Klook.

Where to go in Thailand: Kanchanaburi

The Death Railway, Kanchanaburi

Credit: PumpkinSky – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Kanchanaburi is a small town that’s west of Bangkok, connected to the capital by roads and railways, and less than 70km away from the Thai-Burma border.

Best known for its dark World War II history, it’s no wonder that most who visit Kanchanaburi won’t miss visiting the Death Railway, otherwise known as the Bridge on the River Kwai, a reference to the 1957 epic war film by David Lean.

The Death Railway has its name because tens of thousands of prisoners of war died when forced by the Japanese captors to build the bridge, which would support them in the Japanese’s invasion of India and Burma.

The bridge still stands today, over Kanchanaburi’s river Kwai, and you can stroll over its solid steel ridges and shuffle out of the way when trains pass through on its tracks.

Book Kanchanaburi Highlights Day Tour: Death Railway and River Kwai Bridge by AK Travel for S$13.39 on Klook.

Erawan Falls, Kanchanaburi

where to go in thailand
Credit: Klook

Time slows down in Kanchanaburi since the town is not only steeped in history but also clad in beautiful natural landscapes like scenic countrysides, winding rivers, and yes, gushing waterfalls.

where to go in thailand
Credit: Diliff – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Erawan Falls is the most popular waterfall destination in Kanchanaburi, featuring limestone hills and seven tiers of waterfalls that each collects in a clear emerald pool.

You get to snap on a lifejacket and jump right into two of these “pools” – clear waters, muddy floors, and schools of fishes – and swim or soak your day away.

Book the Erawan National Park Tour: Erawan Waterfall and Bridge over the River Kwai – Full Day Tour for S$86.79 on Klook.

Hellfire Pass Memorial, Kanchanaburi

where to go in thailand
Credit: Amazing Thailand

Those who are interested in World War II history shouldn’t miss taking a trip to the Hellfire Pass Memorial, which is an extension of the Death Railway, at Kanchanaburi.

Hellfire, or Chong Khao Kad, is the section of the railway that was obstructed by mountain rock but still completed on the blood of the prisoners of war; they were forced to cut through the rock using scant tools like picks, shovels, and hand drills.

The railway is no longer in use, but it has been preserved as a memorial pass dedicated to those who suffered and died while building it. You’ll be able to walk through the 500-metre-long pass and view photographs, tools, and other exhibits to learn more about what happened during Second World War.

Where to go in Thailand: Ayutthaya

Historic City of Ayutthaya

where to go in thailand
Credit: UNESCO World Heritage Centre

North of Bangkok is Ayutthaya, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was once the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom. After the Burmese army invaded in 1767, all that’s left of the bustling cosmopolitan city centre are ruins, relics, and ancient temples, which have become clues to the capital’s lively past.

At Ayutthaya, you’ll want to visit historical temples like Wat Yai Chai Mongkol, Wat Maha That, and Wat Panun Choeng, which reveal the city’s grandeur. You might also stumble upon famous sights like the statue of Buddha entwined in a tree’s roots or the colossal Wat Lokayasutharam reclining Buddha statue.

Book the Ancient Ayutthaya Tour by AK Tour for S$48.59 on Klook.

Where to go in Thailand: Sukhothai

Sukhothai Historical Park, Sukhothai

where to go in thailand
Credit: Tourism Authority of Thailand

While Ayutthaya is the second capital of Thailand, Sukhothai is the first, and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site too. Translating, literally, to the “dawn of happiness”, Sukhothai is where you’ll find the earliest royal places and Buddhist temples, set amid idyllic green gardens and serene lotus ponds.

where to go in thailand
Wat Mahathat. Credit: © Vyacheslav Argenberg, CC BY 4.0

You can explore treasured sites like Wat Mahathat, Wat Si Sawai, and Wat Sorasak on foot or even by bicycle (which you can rent there). Amidst grand architecture and beautiful ruins, you’ll be brought back to Thailand’s golden age and get to picture the dawn of its civilisation.

Where to go in Thailand: Chiang Mai

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai

where to go in thailand
Credit: Alberto Capparelli/Pexels

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is not just another of Thailand’s temples but is considered one of the most beautiful complexes that are located on a mountain’s summit.

For anyone visiting that means lots and lots of stairs (306 in total) before you reach the temple’s golden peak. Notably, the staircase is also lined on both sides with two mythical seven-headed nagas that stretch all the way from the bottom to the top of the stairs.

where to go in thailand
Credit: ErwinMeier – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

A seasoned travellers tip? Visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in the early morning to catch a beautiful sunrise from the temple’s terraces, or after dark to witness a sparkling view of the golden pagodas and statues against the night sky.

Book Doi Suthep and Hmong Village Half Day Tour for S$26.35 on Klook. Or, behold the temple at night with the Doi Suthep and Wat Umong Night Tour, priced at S$24 on Klook.

ChangChill, Chiang Mai

where to go in thailand
Credit: ChangChill

Chill with gentle free-roaming beasts at the ChangChill elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai, home to six beautiful female elephants.

The name “ChangChill” means “relaxed elephants” and, indeed, the sanctuary is true to its name. It gives its elephants at least 10 hours a day to roam freely, drink and bathe in the rivers, and graze the natural foliage – all so that their elephants can relax and just be elephants.

Instead of intrusively riding, feeding, or bathing the elephants, you get to admire the gentle giants from observation decks that overlook their habitat, or at a safe distance inside the forest.

where to go in thailand
Credit: ChangChill

Other activities you can join while you’re at ChangChill include an Elephant Cooking Class where you prepare meals for the elephants, and enjoy Thai refreshments at a rest pit that’s right above an elephant mud pit – you just have to be careful not to get in the spray zone!

An elephant-friendly venue, ChangChill sets the standard for elephant tourism in Thailand, which is why you won’t want to give this place a miss.

Kaomai Estate 1955, Chiang Mai

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Credit: Kaomai Estate 1995

Skip visiting the Kaomai Estate 1955 in Chiang Mai, and you never get to see what the inside of a tobacco drying barn looks like for yourself.

The Kaomi Estate 1955 has been awarded the UNESCO Cultural Heritage Conservation for New Design for a reason: it’s a sixty-year-old tobacco factory that’s been turned into a museum and cafe, the buildings still retaining their unique architectural structure.

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Kaomai Estate 1995 café.

That means visitors can walk right into the (previously) tobacco barns and (now) museums to learn about the site’s architectural heritage; or, they can lounge in the beautiful, spacious, high-ceiling café that was once draped in dried tobacco leaves.

There’s plenty to do outdoors too. You can visit the outdoor amphitheatre located in the heart of the estate, or weave your way between the barns to behold age-old trees that still remain rooted in place.

Thailand travel itinerary and tours

where to go in thailand
Credit: Javon Swaby/Pexels

In all, there’s so much more to discover in Thailand besides the bustling Bangkok malls. From The Death Railway in Kanchanaburi to the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai, Thailand is home to so many places that are rich in culture and steeped in history – it’s hard to cover them all in one vacation.

where to go in thailand
Credit: icon0.com/Pexels

While you can book tours that cover the individual sites, we’ve also found one that visits all the 10 places we listed, in 10 days!

Bookmundi’s Highlights of Thailand tour is priced at US$1,714 (approximately S$2,359) and takes you from familiar Bangkok to exciting new places in Sukhothai, Ayutthaya, and Chiang Mai, to name a few.

For tours that bring you to various parts of Thailand, you can also browse Bookmundi’s page here.

Related read: 14 best night markets in Bangkok that we’re sure you’ll keep going back to