Apr 08 2011
Have you had just about enough of Bangkok, thank you very much, with its devil may care attitude and many, many dousing/powderings in celebration of good luck and the new year? A last minute change of scene might be just what you need to truthfully say saawadii pii mai! No really, grab that rain poncho and a pair of swim trunks because it’s time to hit the road.
Just a couple of hours west of Bangkok near the border of Burma, Kanchanaburi nestles in the foothills of some small mountains. It’s relaxed, inexpensive, and positively empty after Bangkok.
Rent a motorcycle and ride around in the countryside, stopping for snacks and to laze about by the river. Nearby is Erawan National Falls, where waterfalls cascade down onto hikers climbing up. There is plenty of freshwater swimming and ample opportunity for Songkran related water splashing in a water-splashing appropriate environment. The food is good and the vibe is great.
Two hours on a 3rd class train (or an hour on a 2nd class train) drops you off in the sleepy former capital of the Thai Kingdom, Ayutthaya.
The Phra Nahkon Sri Ayutthaya Historical Park has a full line up of Songkran festivities on April 13, including pouring water on elephants, bathing the Buddha images, and plenty of monk action. Rent a bike and spend a day and a night cycling lazily around the city and through the temples before hopping the train back to Bangkok.
Koh Si Chang
A small island located off the coast of Si Ratcha, Koh Si Chang (not to be confused with the larger Koh Chang further east) is a fun one-day trip from Bangkok. At least here you’ll be wet and by the ocean.
There’s only one town, but the rest of the island is easily accessible my motorcycle cab or walking, and there is nothing to do here, really, except look at the ocean, maybe go in the ocean, and eat things that come from the ocean. It’s a great break from Songkran revelry. Buses to Si Ratcha leave every half hour from Ekkamai Station, or there’s an early morning train from Hualamphong Station, ferries to Koh Si Chang leave every hour.
Just a handful of hours south on the train, the riverside temple town of Phetburi rarely features on traveller itineraries but it is close to Bangkok, has some decent accommodation, plenty of eateries and makes for a great launching point into the spectacular Kaeng Krachan National Park.
You can do day trips to the park or longer, overnight stays where you either camp out or stay in National Park bungalows. It’s best known for its birdlife, hornbills in particular, and best of all, they don’t carry water pistols and, as they lack thumbs, can’t smear powder.
Tomorrow, Songkran: How to avoid it.
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