Muak Lek, Saraburi
While everyone knows Khao Yai in Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat), there’s a small town in Saraburi you drive past on your way there called Muak Lek. This sleepy province of Saraburi is known to be the door to Isaan, the last town before you hit Korat, which is considered an Isaan region. In addition to playing cowboy
, Muak Lek is known for its waterfalls (nam tok)—Nam Tok Muak Lek, Nam Tok Jed Sao Noi, Nam Tok Dong Phaya Yen. Another must-visit is the secluded Tam Dao Khao Kaew cave (don’t worry, it’s nothing like the famous Chiang Rai cave) filled with the chilling naga and buddha statues. There are also plenty of farms, grapes, dragon fruits, milk—you name it. It also offers a little bougie stay at Issara Estates
, a winery and a resort, which makes the perfect drunken weekend getaway.
Wang Nam Keaw, Nakhon Ratchasima
Chateau Chili & Laven De Brume
Opt out of Khao Yai for Wang Nam Keaw next time you feel like getting away to the mountains. Wang Nam Keaw has all that Khao Yai has to offer but on a much less commercial scale. If you love camping and blending in the nature, Thap Lan National Park
is for you. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to catch a herd of wild water buffalo here as well. There’s also kilometers-long fields of lavender from November onwards every year at Chateau Chili & Laven De Brume
—a community project by the locals who wanted to create some tourism in the area. For other types of flowers, check out Florapark
. For other nature-focused activities, check out Montana Farm
and play with miniature horses, alpacas, shoot some guns and ride ATV around.
Pranburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan
Pranburi Forest Park
If you think Hua Hin is already low-key, Pranburi is even more so thanks to its residential, small village vibe. For cheap, good-quality seafood, head over to Pak Nam Pranburi
fishing village and have their must-try sun-dried squid. The good thing about Pranburi is it offers both forests and beaches. The Pranburi Forest Park
is a well-preserved mangrove forest with wild animals and a nearby homestay. Tub Tim goddess shrine
is a good viewpoint where you’ll get to see Pranburi and its little community from the above. For beaches, take your pick (or visit them all) from Pak Nam Pran and Sai Noi to Khao Kalok. And of course, just like Hua Hin, Pranburi also has a walking street in the evening for you to shop for food and more.
Photo: Phoebe Storm
If you’re taking the train west, you’ll probably know Ban Pong as little more than a kink in the railway line, but this city has impressive street art work from more than 40 artists. Simply park by the market and start exploring. After you’ve taken in the sights there, get to Wat Khao Chong Phran before sunset. Just another temple, I hear you groan? No, millions of bats stream out into the night from the cave above, and you can catch their murmurations for miles around. Go early and hike up or hit the local bat-themed market for some bat tat. As for where to stay, skip the urge to go to any of the small surrounding cities and head for the Antique Riverside Resort
, an adorable little family-run riverside resort with excellent staff, a glass-encased area to keep you from the bugs, and—this is a real treat for the Insta—a bus tricked out to be a hotel room. Yes, it still has the wheel inside.
Kaeng Krachan, Phetchaburi
Photo: Tyler Roney
It’s Thailand’s second largest national park, newly Unesco-ed, and wiggling with wildlife. Rapids flow on the Phetchaburi river near the Kaeng Krachan dam where enthusiastic (and slightly insane) visitors jump into the river from their hotels and restaurants. If you want to get a little bougie without breaking the bank, stay on the landed rice barges at Kaeng Krachan boathouse for a view over the reservoir. That’s what the tourists do, but there’s also an honest-to-goodness wildlife safari experience in the hours-long rough drive up to Phanoen Thung Camp (weather and season permitting). You can drive yourself—if you’re feeling lucky—but it’s best to book a guide. Keep your head on a swivel for gibbons, langurs, panthers, and you can even find a released sun bear at Phanoen Thung Camp. The wildly affordable Baan Maka Nature Lodge
has bird and animal hides for photography, and can lead you on a walking night safari to find slow lorises, owls, and snakes.
Koh Si Chang, Chonburi
Photo: Prapon Chanasenee
There’s no need to head far south for small, well-preserved islands. Koh Si Chang is perfect for a quick remote island trip when you don’t have much time. It’s 45 minutes on a boat from the mainland’s Koh Loy pier. Once you’re on the island, you can rent a motorbike to get around, and there are plenty of places you can stay for fairly cheap. Apart from the beaches, there are two natural spring water ponds—one you can swim in and another you can drink from. For educational purposes, head over to the Chonlathassathan Marine Museum for 10 zones of everything marine.
Baan Praew, Samut Sakhon
Baan Suan Cham Chuen
Coconut lovers, Baan Praew is your heaven. This part of the country is known for the most delicious coconut ice cream. You can stay at Baan Suan Cham Chuen
homestay, right next to the Damnoen Saduak Canal. The family who owns this homestay also has a coconut farm where the father will happily take you on a boat tour. On top of coconuts, just a short boat ride away you’ll find a mulberry farm, pink guava farm, and a rose apple farm—where you can go scrumping right off the tree and tour a dragon fruit farm to bring back some goodies. The big golden buddha at Wat Lak Si Rat Samoson.
Kraprao and Coffee
On top of Ayutthaya, where you can spend a day looking at ancient structures, Phra Prang Sam Yot and Wat Phrasi Rattana Mahathat are considered iconic must-sees. Beware of monkeys, Lopburi is known for their monkeys. From November to January every year, you will find fields and fields of sunflowers. If you’re hungry, stop by Kraprao and Coffee
. Don’t be fooled by the red brick building at the front, take a walk out back and you’ll find a long wooden bridge cutting through the huge field—perfect for your Instagram.
Victoria Water Lily Malai
While you may have been getting drunk on Chit Beer at Koh Kret, Nonthaburi has a lot more to offer, though Koh Kret itself is worth an entire day trip. Head over to Dhabkwan Resort
for a massage and food surrounded by six of their traditional Thai houses built in the Ayutthaya era. You know those giant water lilies you can sit on? You can actually do that in Nonthaburi, at Victoria Water Lily Malai Garden
. There’s a floating market, Bang Ku Lad, on the weekend; it’s not too big, but there will definitely be enough food for you there.
Kui Buri, Prachuap Khiri Khan
Photo: Tyler Roney
This area is known for perhaps one of the most famous and photogenic caves in the entire country, Phraya Nakhon Cave. It’a bit of a hike (and a much worse hike if the boats aren’t running), but inside is a truly unbelievable cave scene complete with sun-dappled pavilion and buddhist structures. However, the other secret to Kui Buri is the wildlife. Okay, sure, this is Thailand and it’s not exactly hard to see elephants, but at Kui Buri National Park, you’ll have a rare opportunity to spot these gentle giants in the wild alongside guar and other forest creatures at sunset. Bring a long lens. If nothing else, the drive through the karsts of Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park are reason enough to go.