Escape the city for a day
While you may think this month has several long holidays -- the next one being July 28-31, there are a few more awaiting you in August, October and December. To make your upcoming day-offs count, Guru presents you with a list of destinations and activities that aren't too far from Bangkok, where you can take a day trip to escape from the city.
Khao Chong Lom, Nakhon Nayok
Take a break from the concrete jungle and get in touch with nature by cruising along Khao Chong Lom, Nakhon Nayok. To board the sightseeing cruise, set your course for Khun Dan Prakarn Chon Dam, about a two-hour drive from Bangkok's centre. You can book a charter boat tour for B1,700 for up to seven passengers or join with others for B200 per person, with a maximum capacity of 10 passengers per trip. The two-hour programme features two breathtaking waterfalls, with a 40-minute visit at each stop. Although the monsoon season now may make your city life harder, here at Khao Chong Lom, the ravine is springing to life. And the perk of visiting here during this rainy season, namely between July and October, is that you can reach the third, hidden waterfall by boat, as the dam's water level is high enough for sailing.
(Photos: Amazing Thailand Facebook)
Khao Chong Lom or the "ventilation" valley, got the name from its picturesque landscape, where the V-shaped river ravine serves as a windway. It may give you a flashback to the noted Hozugawa River boat ride in Arashiyama, Kyoto. But cruising along the Chong Lom valley is much more relaxed as you're floating away on the still water. Flanked by the main river are lush mountains and hills, with rocks and boulders contrasting the greenery of the landscape. When the valley is drying up during the off-season, it reveals a few trekking trails where you can challenge your muscles.
Mallika City, Kanchanaburi
Experience what it was like to live during the reign of King Rama V at Mallika City (mallika124.com), Kanchanaburi. Within a two-hour drive from Bangkok or a time-machine ride, in this case, get ready to be whisked off to an ancient village for a day, where you can immerse yourself in Thai history. The place is a living museum where you can stroll around an impressive replica of the quaint Thai village while interacting with villagers or staff dressed up in costumes. You can be a part of that yourself by renting an ancient Thai costume at the entrance. Entering Mallika City will set you back B750 and B600 for kids, which includes a dining package.
Before turning the clock back, you have to convert your baht into an ancient currency, satang, which at B50 gets you a stack of 10 hollow copper coins tied up with hemp rope. Once you step inside Mallika City, you will be amazed by Saphan Han Bridge, a turnable bridge from the decades gone by that you won't see elsewhere in the country. Make a quick stop at the Ancient Market zone inspired by the Yaowarat and Bang Rak neighbourhoods in the ancient period to spend some satang on traditional street food and handicrafts. It's quite an eye-opening experience, as whichever shop you're at, you're encouraged to join the staff in the workshops making foods and knickknacks.
Going back to the Thai history lesson, find out the controversy between the way commoners and the wealthy classes used to live through different types of reuan or traditional Thai houses. One of the landmarks that are worth checking out is the Reuan Pae Floating House, especially if you're looking for a photogenic setting to pull off with your traditional Thai costume. Before you leave, tempt your nose and eyes with a manicured jasmine garden, which offers countless jasmine, or the flower that is nodded as the symbol and name of Mallika City.
Bang Krachao, Samut Prakan
Another destination for taking a day trip while reconnecting with Mother Nature is Bang Krachao, Samut Prakan. Getting there is easy; take a ferry crossing the Chao Phraya River from Wat Khlong Toei Nok pier or go to BTS Bang Na and cross the river at the Wat Bangna Nok pier. Visitors come to the enclave of greenery famed as Bangkok's "green lung" to take a cycling tour exploring natural scenery, where a bike can be rented for only B50 per day.
(Photo: Karnjana Karnjanatawe)
Bang Krachao invokes a feeling of visiting an island that time has forgotten. While riding, you'll find rustic Thai-style architecture tucked away amid lush nature, with a wealth of regional wildlife -- it's hard to believe that the place is just sitting right next to Bangkok's city centre. Add Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park to your bike tour itinerary as the botanic garden has natural attractions hidden, where you find them along scenic cycling routes. Its Khuean Khan Makha bridge offers quaint wooden walkways stretching across an emerald pond, while various viewpoints beneath the shade of trees serve as a pit-stop to catch some breath from all that cycling.
The park is also a favourite for bird-watching, with a seven-metre high bird-watching tower offering a picturesque panoramic view from above. Get Growing Community Farm is the latest addition to Bang Krachao, where you and your kids can have a good time on muddy slides and farm activities. Beyond the abundant nature of Bang Krachao, visitors can pay a visit to the Siamese Fighting Fish gallery or head over to the Bang Nam Phueng floating market on the weekend.
Chon Buri island hopping
A full day of island hopping in Chon Buri will scratch that itch for the vitamin sea you need. Drive a little further from the coastal city of Pattaya to Sattahip District, where it's noted as an ecotourism destination. A boat docked at Thai Island and Sea Natural History Museum will take you to not just one but two paradise islands -- Samae San and Kham islands. Unlike taking a commercial tour, you can design your island hopping plan on both islands because you can sail off from the same harbour with five boat trips per day from 9am-4pm, at B300 for Thais and B600 for tourists.
Compared to the size, Koh Samae San is much larger than Koh Kham. So, plan a bit of your dilly-dallying time on Samae San Island efficiently, as it has two breathtaking, white-sandy beaches that tick all the boxes for your tropical getaway. Each beachy location also has different water activities, such as snorkelling and sea-kayaking. The Samae San island has alter-egos as a national park and a wildlife sanctuary, and you can get even closer to nature at botanic gardens and research facilities. The smaller one, Koh Kham, is packed with scenic routes and beaches for romantic souls. The most photogenic spot on the island is a seaside wooden bridge stretching along coastal rock formations. Apart from a must-do activity like snorkelling, visitors can break a sweat trekking uphill to different viewpoints, exposing you to an ineffable panoramic seascape stretching along the horizon.
Ayutthaya's epicurean quest
Temple ruins and historical sites may be the first things that come to mind when we think of Ayutthaya. However, what's also fascinating about the province is its culinary heritage, which reflects Thai culture and the way of life. Forget your typical temple tour because we've got you an epicurean quest to conquer, where you can savour regional specialities at Michelin-guide restaurants in Ayutthaya. Grilled freshwater prawn is a must when visiting Ayutthaya. As the name suggests, Ruan Thai Kung Pao (fb.com/Ruanthaikungpao) or the "House of Grilled Prawns", is noted for its juicy grilled river prawns alongside authentic Thai dishes. Reservation of both tables and prawns is recommended, especially during the weekends and holidays.
The third-generation family restaurant, Pa Lek Boat Noodles (bit.ly/3IILSGx), is famous for one of Ayutthaya's authentic specialities, like boat noodles. It offers flavourful boat noodles with pork or beef soup, while the dry tom yum-style egg noodles with pork are also recommended. Another memorable slurping experience you can get in Ayutthaya is at Phak Wan Noodles (fb.com/PhakHwanAyutthaya). As you might guess by the name, the highlight here is a beef noodle soup with pak wan or melientha, offering unique and pleasantly vegetal flavours and aromas. More than 40kg of pak wan are used daily and added to every dish here.
Head over to Baan Pomphet (fb.com/baanpomphet) before leaving Ayutthaya, as the riverfront restaurant offers a stylish setting to indulge in the sunset. This restaurant is adjacent to a boutique hotel of the same name, offering authentic Thai food sourced from the river and local farms. Visitors come here not only for the food but also for the distinctive looking of the dining room and its surroundings, whose brick-exposed exteriors or interiors are a playground for Instagrammers. Your food quest in Ayutthaya couldn't be completed without trying roti sai mai or candy floss wrapped in a sesame roti. Opened in 1985, Roti Sai Mai Mae Pom (fb.com/roteesaymhaymaepom) is it if you're looking for an authentic sweet boutique. People must call in their order and pick it up later, as the shop is made to order. Plus, we feel the roti sai mai buzz is coming after Lisa Blackpink just put the sweet treat in the spotlight on her IG.