When most people come to Thailand on holiday, they often walk down a well trodden path which was blazed by other tourists over the years. Not many like to try something new which their guidebooks don’t write about. A classic example are the temples. If it is not in the guidebook then it cannot be worth visiting. But, then is often not true. By trial and error, I have found many interesting tourist attractions around Bangkok that are not in any guidebook. At least not in the English language versions. I wrote my first travel blog four years ago. Many of these places I visited hardly had any foreign tourists despite beings so close to Bangkok. However, due partly to the publication of my stories and photos on the Internet at thai-blogs.com, people are now reporting that foreigners are no longer a rarity at some of these attractions. That is the difference between websites like this one and the guidebooks in print version like Lonely Planet. As much as I like them, you will find that much of the information can be several years out of date. And then you would have to wait several more years for the next publication. The guides I write here for excursions around Bangkok are updated as and when I discover new locations. This is the future. We can no longer wait for the guidebooks to get up-to-date. If anyone has recently been to any of these attractions listed, or have ideas for new ones, then please post a comment at the bottom of the appropriate page. Please help to keep these online guides relevant and up-to-date.
Neighbouring Provinces to Bangkok:
To the North – Nonthaburi (20 kms), Pathum Thani (46 kms) and Ayutthaya (76 kms)
To the East – Chachoengsao (82 kms)
To the Southeast – Chonburi (80 kms)
To the South – Samut Prakan (30 kms)
To the West – Samut Sakhon (36 kms), Samut Songkran (72 kms), Ratchaburi (100 kms) and Nakhon Pathom (56 kms)
Samut Prakan is the neighbouring province to the south. When driving from Bangkok, you would be forgiven to think that you are still in Bangkok as these days this small province is more like the suburbs of its bigger neighbour. However, there is plenty to see and do which you won’t find in the guidebooks. The Lonely Planet only mentions the Ancient City which is a fascinating open-air museum, and Chang Erawan, the giant three-headed elephant. But, there is a lot more there to see and hardly any independent travellers. The other main attraction, which got kicked out of the LP during the last update, is the Crocodile Farm and Zoo – supposedly the biggest crocodile farm in the world. But it certainly has the largest captive crocodile in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records. At Bang Phli, which is the same district as the new airport, you will find the Longest Reclining Buddha in Thailand. Not many people know that. You can also go inside to see the Buddha’s heart! The capital of the province is Paknam, which is an old fishing village. Here you can explore the wet market, rent a boat to explore the estuary or Gulf of Thailand, and catch a ferry boat to the other side of the river. Here you can wander around Phra Samut Chedi, which is the locaation for a 9 day festival during October. The temple used to be on an island in the middle of the river. The only island there now is Bat Island which is not only home to thousands of bats, but you can also explore the gun emplacements. Further down the coastline, on this side, you will find Chulalongkorn Fort at the river mouth. This fort, which is still in working order, was built in 1893. You can explore this fort as well as a Royal Thai Navy training ship and go on a mangrove forest walk. Look out for the monkeys. Further along the coast line here you will find my latest find. A temple, called Wat Khun Samut , which is surrounded by the sea at high tide. Also in this area is Ban Sakhla, which is another fishing village literally in the middle of no-where.
Chachoengsao is to the east of Bangkok and is hardly visited by foreigners despite being on the railway line. This is probably because Lonely Planet has deleted this province from their guidebook. The city has one of the largest and tallest temple buildings in the country, Wat Sothon Wararam Worawihan. I sometimes see foreigners here who have gone with Thai family and friends. The Buddha image is much revered by Thai people. It is also a good place to see some free Thai dancing at the shrine. Beside the river, you can go on a boat tour to explore the river and some tourist attractions further downstream, such as an old market and Chinese Shrine. Outside of the town you can visit the Bat Temple which has thousands of bats hanging in the trees around the temple grounds. The river estuary is at Bang Pakong. Near here I visited Wat Tha Kham which was in the process of building a giant standing Buddha. The highlight of this area was a boat trip I went on in the Gulf of Thailand to go Dolphin Watching. I never thought I would see wild dolphins so near to Bangkok.
Chonburi is further south-east from Bangkok. This is where the mangrove forests and mud flats become sandy beach for the first time at Bangsaen Beach. Don’t get too excited as it is not white sandy beaches. But it is only just over an hour from Bangkok and a favourite weekend day trip for Bangkok people. Back from the beach there is a hill where you will find many monkeys. The whole coastline along here have restaurants serving excellent seafood. Not far from the beach I discovered a temple called Wang Saen Suk which has models depicting Buddhist Heaven and Hell. A bit further south you will come across Khao Kheow Open Zoo , which is a bit like Safari World but at a fraction of the price. A nice day out here for the family. None of these places are listed in the Lonely Planet. You will only find the tranquil Ko Si Chang Island which I loved and the Siracha Tiger Zoo. I think anything south of this is no longer a day trip. Some people do go all the way to Pattaya for the day and then return to Bangkok. But, I would suggest staying 2-3 days in Pattaya so that you can explore the area more thoroughly.
West Bangkok has a lot to offer visitors. One of my favourite places is Bangkok Beach. Not many foreigners have been here as you won’t find it in the guidebooks. It is not exactly a beah in the traditional sense as there are no sandy beaches. But you can join a boat tour to explore the area and also eat at one of the many local seafood restaurants. In the Thonburi area of Bangkok you can visit Taling Chan Floating Market and also go on a Bangkok Canal Trip. Further out you will find Ban Phiphithaphan which is a fascinating museum of artifacts from yesteryear.