Road Trip Destinations Near Bangkok

The Thai Wedding week culminated with dinner with the newlyweds in celebration of our 23rd anniversary and their union. We discussed plans for our road trip destinations around Bangkok. Check out the list contained in this post for some worthwhile, easy spots to travel to by car if you ever want a nearby escape from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok.

First, a little tale about our celebratory dinner. US Steakhouse received good ratings and we were of course in the mood for beef on a special occasion where we would enjoy one of the fine wine selections we had brought from our collection at home. The newlyweds would leave the following morning for their American tradition of a honeymoon for two days on the beach in Krabi. We planned to stay in Bangkok and they would pick us up in the bride’s truck for us to enjoy some adventure together on their return.

We had not made reservations and on our arrival at US Steakhouse we found the place completely empty! We learned from the owner, a man from Texas, that it was a “Thai holiday”. The following day was Election Day. Actually a day of pre-voting set aside for those who would be gone from their home province the following Sunday (March 24) which was the official Election Day. Thailand is the last existing military dictatorship. As I write this post the results have not been announced and it’s been almost two weeks since the election. Hopefully this country will not suffer from political unrest. But I digress from my tale!

The impact on businesses is negative on these days due to a Thai law that dictates no alcohol sales from 6pm the day before to 6pm the day of. Thus, mostly empty or closed restaurants and bars; two weekends in a row! We ended up having the whole restaurant to ourselves and to be on the safe side in case the police stopped in to check compliance we drank our wine from paper cups. Haha. This was a first for us with such a great bottle as the 2009 Mount Veeder Cabernet we shared with our companions on this special evening. Haha. Our preference is to consume from a nice vino grande by Spiegleau. We really had a great time and enjoyed both the food and the service. The steaks were amazing and generously cut in house and aged to perfection. After dinner we walked the neighborhood including the famous Soi Cowboy which was completely closed which was so strange to see! No girls. No music. No lights.

We lounged poolside most of the two days until the honeymooners returned and we were off on our road trip in the brides Toyota Tundra. She drove half the time and my hubby drove the days where we encountered mountains and curves that were not within the bride’s comfort zone. We ate some of the most authentic Thai dishes we’ve ever had during this trip with the bride doing the ordering as most places we chose were off the beaten path and written in Thai only. Below is a list of our stops, all of which are within 3-4 hours of Bangkok, depending on traffic jam ;-).

1) Prang Riverside Resort. This beautiful resort is located on the Tha Chin River in Samut Sakhon. It is a short 1 hour drive from Bangkok once you are out of the inner city traffic. It’s a whole world away from the rush of the city with small ponds and a park like setting to enjoy. A simple but ample breakfast is included in the room price. We stayed in the bungalows on the river and were quite happy with the size of the room and the deck that we sat out on at night to enjoy music, conversation and Singhas with our friends. We watched Caymans and fish in the water. The resort has bicycles for guests to use and we enjoyed leisurely bike rides in the quiet neighborhood during our stay. There is a night market nearby and many seafood restaurants. We visited the Kra Thum Baen Arts market in this area as well which was an incredible experience. Watching the artists at work hand painting the beautiful porcelains was really cool.

2) Lelawadee Canal Home in the Amphawat District , Samut Songkhram Province. It is just an hour from Bangkok. This area is a quiet farming village. We once again chose rooms right on the canal. These rooms are a little more “primitive” with mattress on the floor but hot water, refrigerator and included breakfast ordered from a menu (with pictures) of six items. My favorite part of the property was a multitude of swings built both over the water and on the grounds. Although we were here on week days we still made a visit to the Amphawa Floating market. Although this market really gets rolling on Friday-Sunday we still found plenty of shopping along the canal and on the side sois to keep us entertained for a couple hours. We visited Bang Kung Temple where the Buddha shrine has been surrounded by the roots of a large Banyan tree, it actually appears as if it was built inside the tree but nature surrounded the Buddha. Awe inspiring. This temple also has statues of all the positions in Muay Thai boxing as it is a historical site for power between the Thai and Burmese. It has a petting zoo and a dock for entrance by the riverside if arriving by boat . It is considered to be good luck to feed animals (all living things) and fish and both can be done here for nominal purchase price of vegetables, popcorn and bread. Visiting temples is always a rewarding way to spend a portion of a day in all areas of Thailand and each is unique in its own right. This district is also known for its abundance of fireflies that add to the beauty of the night sky.

3) Greenery Resort, Khao Yai National Park, Nakhon Ratchasima Province. There are many resort options available near the park entrance. We were very satisfied with the accommodations at Greenery and it was also in comfortable walking distance of restaurants and the night market. There were two pool areas, one of which had an extensive play area for children. Breakfast was included with a great variety of high quality food with cold and hot stations both and the buffet tables were decorated beautifully. The park itself is a wonderful natural preserve, a 3.5 hour drive from Bangkok. The second largest National Park in the country with an entry fee of 400 baht for foreigners and 50 baht for Thai Nationals and 100 baht per car. The park is well known for birdwatching and night safaris, especially for photographers. Although we were not lucky enough to see elephants or tigers in the wild, we did see monkeys and a variety of deer. In one of the pictures below make sure to look closely at the baby hanging onto its mama’s belly. The beauty and intelligence found in nature always keeps me in awe and makes me realize again the gratitude I have for the naturally artistic creations all around us. We drove throughout the entire park and spent time at viewpoints and the visitor’s center. There are several hiking trails. We hiked the one directly behind the visitor’s center and were impressed by plant life, the sound of the birds and we even caught glimpses of snakes and reptiles. Butterflies abound as well. The markers on the trail gave great insight into the varieties of plant life under the canopy of the jungle. Suspended wood bridges lead over the river on entry and exit. Some of the trails are long and run deep into the jungle where hire of a guide is suggested. We also spent some time at the nearby natural springs, Pak Chong where the cool, fresh, clear waters bubble up out of the ground.

4) Muak Lek, Saratburi Province. This is milk cow country! We stayed at a family owned property on the Muak Lek River with the name on the sign only in Thai. It was a quaint spot with a paddle boat and tire swing hanging from a gnarled tree branch over the river. For those who know me well, they are familiar with the little girl in me and my passion for swinging and so in case you are wondering, yes I did climb out that tree limb, launch my self into a swinging motion with one foot in the tire and drop with a splash into the river. You only live once! This area is a popular, 2 hour away day or overnight trip and a popular place to escape for “Bangkokians” so there would be no problem locating a place to stay. We shopped at the market and dined at “home” with dishes/glassware, utensils and grill on loan from the hotel. Many who visit this area either picnic riverside or eat like this from raw or precooked items available at the market or roadside vendors. The market prices for all items from household goods to clothes to food were the lowest we saw in any of our travels. While there is an official entrance to Chet Sao Noi Waterfall National Park with a fee, most people use pull off spots along the river where you can take up some space on the ground or rent thatched roof picnic shelters from property owners along the river bank. Be aware, it gets VERY crowded on the weekend or holidays with cars parked along both sides of the road for a few miles. There’s lots of fun and laughter to surround you as you join the Thais in true relaxation and escape from city life. There are also several wineries that looked worthy of a visit when tastings are available. We happened to forget about Election Day and got shut out but the area is reminiscent of Northern California or Italy with vineyards and orchards covering the rolling hills and flat lands.