A whole day in the capital is not enough to feel its incomparable character. Whether it’s shopping or sightseeing, recreational activities in Bangkok abound for a jam-packed itinerary in the city.
An ideal day starts with a ride in the water taxis that ply the length of Chao Phraya River. Hop off to any of the delightful stops along the way, including the complex of the Grand Palace. Don’t miss the equally elaborate architecture of temples around Bangkok, such as Temple of Dawn, Temple of Reclining Buddha, Temple of the Emerald Buddha and Temple of the Golden Buddha.
There’s only one way to escape the sweltering heat in Bangkok during mid-day: Hit the shopping malls for posh designer brands in Siam Paragon, Emporium and Gaysorn Plaza. Aim for bargain finds at Platinum Mall, Siam Square and Pratunam’s wholesale stores. If you’re in the city on a weekend, don’t miss out on dirt-cheap apparel, home décor, and other interesting finds within the maze-like Jatujak Weekend Market.
If you’re in need of unwinding as the sun sets, Bangkok has its famous nightlife in Patpong and Nana. As for accommodations, there is a wide range of hotels, from budget inns to 5-star luxury hotels around the city.
Located 86 kilometers (53 miles) north of the capital, Ayutthaya is one of the most popular day trips for people who are coming from Bangkok. This ancient city was the old capital of Thailand until 1767. Temples within the area date back to the 1300. Hop onboard a long tail boat to immerse yourself in the historical structures that are reminiscent of bygone eras in Thailand. Foremost on the list of attractions are Bang Pa-In Palace, Wat Chaiwatthanaram, Ancient Palace, and Wat Yai Chai Mongkol.
Dubbed as Rose of the North, Chiang Mai is the toast of northern Thailand. Its balmy weather, national parks and tribal villages draw tourists at any given time. During the cold months, the misty mountains create a breathtaking backdrop, which inspires visitors to further explore the many sights of this ancient city, which was established in 1296.
Attractions in Chiang Mai include spiritually important places such as Doi Suthep, a fine representative of northern Thailand’s Lanna culture, and Wat Chedi Luang, a temple with a massive pagoda that rises to a height of 80 meters.
For a rich sampling of the country’s wildlife, include a visit to Mae Sa Elephant Camp, Chiang Mai Zoo, and Chiang Mai Night Safari. Challenge yourself to climb the highest peak in the country, found in Doi Inthanon, which rises 2,565 meters above sea level.
Take a peek into the daily life of the indigenous tribes with a visit to Doi Pui Tribal Village and the Long Neck Karen hill tribes near Chiang Dao Cave. Bring home finely handcrafted parasols from Bo Sang Village, less than 10 kilometers from downtown Chiang Mai, and the popular Night Bazaar.
Chiang Rai is yet another cultural gem found in northern Thailand. The city feels more bucolic and relaxed than Chiang Mai and has its own host of historical attractions. Here you’ll be offered more of the rich traditions of the Lanna culture, through the numerous architectural highlights.
At the heart of the Chiang Rai’s spiritual foundation is the King Mengrai the Great Monument. This landmark is dedicated to the founder of the Lanna Kingdom and is defined by its three giant golden flags. The ornate Wat Klang Wieng impresses with its spectacular design and striking red façade. The original site of Bangkok’s Emerald Buddha is contained in Chiang Rai’s Wat Phra Kaew. Sitting high atop a hill is Wat Phra That Doi Chom Thong, overlooking Kok River. The structure is even older than the Lanna Kingdom itself, having been established in the 10th century.
A contemporary but very striking landmark in Chang Rai is the all-white Wat Rong Khun temple. Built in 1997, this temple has become one of the most prominent tourist attractions in Chiang Rai.
Pattaya is the nearest beach haven to Bangkok, which is only 147 kilometers (91 miles) away. The coastal city brims with endless options for sightseeing, entertainment, shopping and dining. The popular Pattaya Beach is perennially abuzz with lively activities. Grab a beach chair and enjoy the relaxing scenery while being pampered by inexpensive spot massages near the beach. The straight coastline of Jomtien Beach makes it ideal for water sports. Naklua and Wong Amat offer a more quiet pace, if the bustle of the bars and restaurants in the main drag become too much for you.