Thursday, 23 October 2014

8 hidden destinations around Bangkok to escape the city madness

You might have noticed, or have already even booked, the different airlines slashing ticket prices for nearby destinations like Bangkok, Boracay, Ho Chi Minh, or even Perth and Gold Coast. While I am one of the many who should be guilty for always purchasing discounted tickets impulsively, I found myself sulking at the thought of Bangkok’s shopping-eating-partying-traffic madness.

On my recent 5 days layover in Bangkok, I had to chance to explore a few underrated places around the city. Thailand is definitely beyond Platinum Mall’s wholesale prices to revamp your closet, Chatuchak Market for a mandatory ‘coconut ice cream’ shot to post on all social media accounts, and Khao San Street for party.  

  1. Lopburi Sunflower Fields
Tucked 150 kilometres north of Bangkok are some of Thailand’s largest sunflower fields. Don’t be surprised if you are first welcomed by the monkeys roaming free-spiritedly and taking over the ancient ruins at Lopburi province, you will have to take a provincial bus or taxi further in to get to Lopburi Sunflower Fields.
With the steep mountains as backdrop, any shot of the sunflowers will look professional. Though the main purpose of these sunflowers is to face the sun, literally, and grow well, the sight of them will elevate your mood instantly.
Tip: The sunflower season begins in November and ends late January. The most ideal time for visit will be in mid-December.
  1. Burma Death Railway, Kanchanaburi
Travel through the war relics of World War 2 at River Kwai. Located 130 kilometres west of Bangkok is the internationally known black iron bridge, Burma Death Railway, built by the Allied POWs and labourers under the notorious Japanese supervision. This place will not only attract war history buffs, but nature-lovers too. The agricultural area along River Kwai features the rural landscape of Thailand - rice paddies, pineapple and sugarcane plantations.
A poignant reminder of the lost lives of the POWs and labourers, around the Burma Death Railway are the War Memorial Cemeteries and War Museums, open to public.
  1. Erawan Waterfalls, Kanchanaburi
Having 7 tiers of pools, Erawan Falls is effortlessly crowned one of the most famous waterfalls in Thailand. Just 150 kilometres west of Bangkok (slightly further west of Burma Death Railway), you can spot the fishes at the mouth of the waterfall as you stand under the interestingly-shaped limestones, and letting the curtains of gushing waters be your masseur for the day.

Escape the tropical humidity; seek refuge under the luscious trees and take a dip in tiers 2 and 3 that offer bigger pools amongst the others.
  1. Amphawa Floating Market
Do not let the overly raved about and hyper touristy Damnoen Saduak Floating Market get to you and embark on a 50 kilometre journey out of Bangkok to Samut Songkran Province. Amphawa Floating Market, that has been around since 17th century, retained its authenticity of selling Thai favourites and also niche stalls selling quality handicrafts. This weekend floating market is filled with local Thais and your face might be a novelty to them. Also, the live bands at the cafes littered along the riverbanks will bring a hearty and cosy atmosphere, this will be one of your best experiences!
As the majestic sun fades under the reign of the fireflies in the night skies, complete your experience at the floating market with a ‘Firefly Tour’ after the market closes at 10pm.
  1. Hua Hin Beach
It is no surprise that this endless stretch of sparkling, white sand beach was King Rama VII’s summer paradise. Just 200 kilometres south of Bangkok, this place has since served as Thai Royal Family’s ideal destination for a short getaway. Though it is still an active fishing port and previously made for Siam’s upper class, it is now an attractive holiday destination for all types of travellers. The accommodations at Hua Hin Beach ranges from affordable, simple guesthouses to luxurious villas overlooking the sea. With the sea set against natural landforms, the activities available are both adventurous and family-friendly, such as golfing, trekking at caves and waterfalls, and the usual sea sports.
What’s more when you can have seafood feasts on the stilts extended into the sea, watching the sun meets the horizon?
  1. Khao Yai National Park
Khao Yai National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the larger Dong Phaya Yen Khao Yai Forest. This thick jungle is 125 kilometres northeast of Bangkok and the second largest national park in Thailand. Khao Yai National Park’s popularity stems from the various activities and natural sightings it offers. Think: 44 waterfalls, 300 species of birds, 1,351 mountain peak, ox-cart ride through the rice paddies, water rafting, sunset hike to Khao Luk Chang Bat Cave.
  1. Ayutthaya
To fill the void left by the Angkor rule, Ayutthaya Kingdom was founded in 1350 by King U Thong. This second Siamese capital after Sukhothai is 85 kilometres north of Bangkok, seated in the valley of Chao Phraya River. The intricacies of its roads, canals, and moats built around the principal structures and monasteries symbolises the extensiveness of the rule from 14th to 18th century.
To better understand and bask in the history of Thailand, Ayutthaya is definitely worth a visit.
  1. Maeklong Railway
As you hear the honking of the oncoming train, feel the adrenaline when you scramble for a safe spot to stand under the lower canvas shelter of the stalls. Simultaneously, watch how swift the hawkers gather their awnings before the train arrives and back to its original position right after. You will experience true Déjà vu.
It’s always saddening to witness culture and places paving way for modernity, however, this market took its stand. This market has been around since 1905 even before the train tracks were up. Well, it doesn’t hurt to have a new name. The locals now call it ‘Talad Rom Hoop Market’, which directly translates to ‘Market Umbrella Pulldown’.

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