We explore off-the-beaten-track locales with hidden gems throughout the Kingdom.
By Risa Gambhir
Bangkok has no limits when it comes to what the city offers; we have Michelin-starred restaurants, world-class bars and lounges, majestic temples and much more! Nevertheless, Bangkok is hectic and landlocked. This means a trip to the beach becomes a great excuse to sneak away from all your work troubles… and the Bangkok traffic. From breathtaking beaches to the notorious nightlife to mesmerising mountains, Thailand has got it all.
First Stop: Samut Prakan and Chonburi
Drive less than an hour from downtown Bangkok, along the Bangna-Chonburi expressway, and you’ll find yourself looking over the Samut Prakan district. The Ancient City (entrance fee: THB 300-700), located just off the Sukhumvit road exit, happens to be one of the top spots for Bollywood producers. Stroll through a film set composed of magnificent, traditional Thai-style architecture and vast gardens set over 320 acres. In addition, this muang boran is minutes away from Wat Asokaram, another stunning, heaven-like Buddhist monastery with elaborate white stupas or chedis, to give you a day of both merit and merriment.
Meanwhile, about 70km from Samut Prakan, after getting back on the Bangna-Chonburi expressway, take a quick lunch detour to the unfrequented Bang Saen Beach for some delicious beachside som tum and kai yaang alongside the allure of the waves. Alternatively, Silver Lake Vineyard (entrance fee: THB 100-250) is a must-visit for wine lovers. Other than their selection of grape varieties, the vineyard makes for a perfect romantic setting to enjoy the delicacies of The Silverlake Restaurant with its view of the surrounding hills and the shining lake.
Second Stop: Rayong
For a more laid-back stop, another 90km on the Sukhumvit highway will get you to Rayong. Peaceful beaches, mouthwatering seafood dining and scenic spots make Rayong your ideal weekend getaway destination.
Dining in Rayong can be savoured by your eyes just as much as your palate. Local eats like Classic Forest Restaurant offer the culinary experience of fresh seafood that Rayong is well known for, as well as a magical view of the city by night. Because you’re in the Fruit Mecca of Thailand, be sure to finish off each meal with a plate of exotic and juicy fruits. Next, be mesmerised by the flourishing Golden Meadow or Tung Prong Thong Mangrove Forest Boardwalk. A wooden walkway cutting through the enchanting prairie turns gold with the kiss of morning sunlight, as its name promises. This spot will guarantee you the serenity you just can’t find in Bangkok!
Only a 40-minute ferry ride from Rayong will take you to Koh Samet where you can get your daily dose of vitamin sea. Thankfully, the islands remain well-preserved and are suitable if you’re expecting quiet beaches and bays, such as Ao Wai and Ao Pakarang. Not enough time to visit Koh Samet? No problem. Head over to the picturesque Haad Suan Son beach for a picnic under the shade of photogenic rows of tall trees.
Third Stop: Chanthaburi
If you’re looking to add more action to your trip, Chanthaburi is an excellent fit for you. Only two and a half hours away from Chonburi, Khao Khitchakut National Park will fascinate you with its exquisite waterfalls and the wildlife it harbours. This national park also encompasses the infamous pilgrimage location Khao Phra Bat (Footprint Mountain). On the top of this mountain resides Thailand’s highest Buddha footprint, the gigantic Rock Pagoda, which makes this trip a passage to paradise. Situated beside Mae Nam Chanthaburi, Chantaboon Waterfront Community preserves the “old Chanthaburi” through restored houses, narrow, artistic lanes, and antique coffee shops.
By now, if you still haven’t gotten that perfect Instagram picture you were looking for, head over to the Noen Nang Phaya Viewpoint just before sunset for a panorama that will take your breath away. On your way, take the Chalerm Burapha Chonlathit seaside road which holds the title for ‘The Most Scenic Route in Thailand’. Cruising along this 11 km stretch will have you feeling like you’re starring in a car commercial. Another essential you might want to take on this trip is a bicycle – this road is heaven for cyclists.
Fourth Stop: Trat
End your trip with more adventure a mere three and a half hours from Chonburi on the Sukhumvit road, at the last province on our planner: Trat. This coast on the Gulf of Thailand has numerous underrated islands. Thailand may have a reputation for the best beaches, but Koh Chang visitors enjoy not only the shores but hiking, and dipping into waterfalls, too. Not just this, you can also go fishing, snorkelling and kayaking. Salak Kok Fishing Village offers a Thai-style gondola experience best taken after sunset when thousands of fireflies literally light up your night.
Located about an hour’s ferry ride away from Koh Chang is Koh Kood. This less touristic island has beautiful white sand beaches, tall coconut trees, crystal clear water, pristine jungles and rejuvenating waterfalls, all of which make this island a Jewel of the East. In the mood for something bizarre? Visit Koh Kradad, a deery island. Yes, deery. Thousands of freely roaming deer in the middle of the sea make this unusual island one that cannot be missed.
Exhausted from all the island hopping? Treat your feet to a natural spa at Thailand’s only black sand beach and one of the world’s five, Laem Ngop. All this, while devouring the best salaks grown in Southeast Asia? I can’t think of a better weekend!
So what are you waiting for?
Pack your bags and fill up the tank!