The Best Weekend Breaks From Bangkok

Tired of the noise, bustle and pollution of Bangkok? While Thailand’s capital truly defines big city living, it’s quite close to several great beach destinations and upcountry retreats that make great weekend getaways.

Need to get out of the city? Pick from any of these four destinations, book a taxi and enjoy a peaceful or wild (depending on your choice) weekend away from Bangkok.

Hua Hin

Located three hours from Bangkok by road, Hua Hin is a family-oriented beach resort city that’s popular with Thais and tourists. The beach here is lined with upmarket hotels, such as the Hilton Hua Hin and Intercontinental.

Since Hua Hin is on the quieter side, it’s best for couples and families. Solo travelers might find the nightlife here a little dull, since options are limited and closing times are fairly early compared to elsewhere in Thailand. Further south, Pranburi is a great choice for couples.

Pattaya

Thailand’s party capital, Pattaya is two hours from Bangkok by car and by far the most popular beach resort close to the capital. This isn’t the place for a quiet getaway, but if you opt for Jomtien or Wongamat instead of central Pattaya, it’s possible to avoid most of the noise.

If you plan on going out and partying, make sure you pick a guest friendly hotel in Pattaya, as many brands forbid non-registered guests. If you’re traveling with your partner, pick a hotel around Wongamat Beach for a quieter experience with a nicer, more refined atmosphere.

Ayutthaya

Famous for its ancient temples, Ayutthaya was once the historical capital of Thailand. The entire city was destroyed by the approaching Burmese armies many hundreds of years ago, creating the archaeological park that covers large parts of the city today.

One of the most popular tourist destinations near Bangkok, Ayutthaya is better for day trips than weekend getaways. We recommend this one if you’re only able to get out of the city for a single night and don’t have time to travel further afield. Take the train for a fun, more local experience.

Kanchanaburi

Further north than Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi is one of the most relaxing upcountry tourism destinations within easy reach of Bangkok. Minibuses depart from Bangkok’s Victory Monument to Kanchanaburi frequently throughout the week and make the journey in about three hours.

Great attractions include the famous bridge over the River Kwai, Hellfire Pass and many other WWII-related sights. Some of Kanchanaburi’s most famous resorts are located along the side of the river, offering beautiful views and a relaxing atmosphere.

Exploring Ayutthaya: Thailand’s Ancient Capital

Feel like getting out of Bangkok but don’t want to spend all day on a bus (or hours on a plane)? One of Thailand’s most interesting historical destinations is just over an hour from Bangkok by van, and it’s packed with interesting things to do.

Ayutthaya is one of Thailand’s oldest and most historically significant cities. The city was founded in 1350 by King U Thong for a rather unusual reason: he wanted to escape an outbreak of smallpox (at the time an incredibly serious health threat) in the nearby province of Lop Buri.

The city was founded and it became the capital of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya (also known as Siam). Within 250 years, the small city had grown into a fairly big one, with a population of more than 300,000 people. This may not sound that impressive today, but in the 17th century it made Ayutthaya one of the world’s largest and most populated cities.

Ayutthaya fell apart in 1767, when Burmese invaders destroyed most of the city. Today, it’s an amazing relic of Thailand’s deeply interesting history and a major tourist attraction for both Thais and people from abroad.

The best place to visit in Ayutthaya is Ayutthaya Historical Park — a UNESCO World Heritage Site that covers more of the old city’s ruins. Good spots to visit include Wat ChaiwatthanaramWat Kudi Dao, and Wat Mahathat, which provide an interesting look into the Siam and Ayutthaya period of Thailand’s history.

Bring a camera (or a smartphone with a good camera), since you’ll want to take plenty of photos of the cool Indiana Jones-style temples.

It’s worth remembering that Ayutthaya is an important historical area, and that dressing like you’re going to the beach probably isn’t a good idea. Wear long pants and a shirt that covers your shoulders, or else you might be turned away at some of the temples due to the city’s somewhat conservative dress code.

If you’d like to escape from Bangkok’s seemingly endless expanse of concrete and spend a day exploring a side of Thailand that many people don’t see (Ayutthaya is nowhere near as popular as Chiang Mai or the islands) then visiting Ayutthaya is a good choice. Getting there is easy — just take the minivan from the public station at Victory Monument.

Kanchanaburi: A Quiet, Peaceful Escape Close to Bangkok

Immortalized in the movie The Bridge Over the River Kwai, Kanchanaburi is a small city about three hours from Bangkok by road that’s one of the best weekend trips in Thailand for people based in Bangkok.

No, there’s no beach. There aren’t any beautiful mountains either (other than a few small hills). But there is a great relaxing atmosphere and some of the best WWII sites in all of Thailand.

Lots of people forget that Thailand was part of World War II, since we mostly think of Germany and Japan (and occasionally Italy, who gave up a little early) as being the Axis. But Thailand was also on the same side, and had several large work camps for Allied prisoners who were tasked with building railroads and other infrastructure for the Japanese.

Kanchanaburi was the center of this, with several camps and the infamous Death Railway now part of the city’s history. While it might have a dark recent history, the Kanchanaburi of today is a peaceful, relaxing city that’s a nice place to visit from Bangkok for the weekend.

Our writer stayed at U Inchantree — a beautiful resort near the River Kwai that’s amazingly relaxing. Although the area around the hotel is mostly made up of tourist restaurants and attractions, it’s still a fun place to spend the day and a nice change to the endless noise and crowds of Bangkok.

Not far from Kanchanaburi, there’s the Hellfire Pass Museum — a moving memorial and museum to the numerous prisoners of war that died during the construction of the Burma Railway. Kanchanaburi is an interesting mix of serene and sad, with WWII sites scattered around what would otherwise be a fairly typical Thai town.

If you’d like to escape from Bangkok for the weekend and like WWII history, visiting Kanchanaburi is a great idea. Even if the idea of war museums isn’t your thing, the city’s chilled out atmosphere, relaxing riverside area, increasing number of nice resorts and good mix of Thai restaurants still give it plenty of appeal.