One of the best parts of living in Thailand is all the awesome ways you can spend your weekends when you’re not working! Thai school terms have holidays and long weekends galore, and being a TEFL teacher, you have plenty of money to explore the country during your off time. Whether you are just looking to find some fun in and around Bangkok on a normal weekend, or you are looking to travel and explore somewhere totally new on a long weekend, you will never be short on things to do! Here is my guide to having a fantastic weekend in Thailand, split between Bangkok options and destinations a bit farther away.
Bangkok is the epicenter of Thailand for English teachers, expats, backpackers, and natives alike. This sprawling metropolis is more than likely your home base in Thailand and is full of endless bars, restaurants, parties, and activities. A weekend spent exploring all of the wonderful things that Bangkok has to offer is never a disappointment! Here are a few of my favorite bits of the city and things to do:
Khao San Road will forever be my favourite part of Bangkok! It has been referred to as the place where “the West meets the East” and “the center of the backpacking universe” and it certainly lives up to these titles! This road is constantly pulsing with energy and is always full of travelers, as well as locals. It’s the perfect meet-up spot because it is also near many big Bangkok attractions for sightseeing like Wat Pho, the Grand Palace, and the Chao Phraya River. The streets are jam packed with market stalls, hostels, bars, night clubs, restaurants, food vendors, travel agencies, massage parlors, bookshops, motorbike taxis, and so much more! Whatever vibe you are looking for, you will definitely find it on Khao San Road! All of the bars and restaurants casually spill out into the street, creating a carefree, community feel. My friends and I always have a great night out on Khao San!
Soi Rambuttri is like Khao San Road’s little sister street. A bit smaller, cleaner, and more laid back, Soi Rambuttri is a fantastic place to spend an afternoon. The market stalls contain unique, more upscale jewelry and clothing and the restaurants are fabulous. My favorite place for lunch is Madame Musur, which is famous for their northern Thai cuisine!
If you find yourself on the other side of Bangkok, in the Sukhumvit area, you definitely have to explore Soi 11! Famous for its great nightlight, you have endless options on this street. Swing by Cheap Charlie’s, a wooden bar front with eclectic memorabilia decorating the joint, and you are guaranteed great conversation and, as the name promises, cheap drinks! If you want to watch football or get more of a sports bar vibe, the Australian Bar is the place to go, which also has a live band playing songs that everyone can sing along to! Head to Sugar or Levels if you want to dance! And if you wander up a few soi’s, you will find Hemingways, the absolute best place for brunch in all of Bangkok.
Bangkok boasts an array of night markets, some with ravishing art, others with live music, and some that only pop up every once in awhile (like Art Box Market). But, W District is my personal favorite! This is because it is totally lively, but also laid back, making it a perfect place to relax with some friends and enjoy unbeatable food and drinks. The open air square area is like a beer garden with endless options for seating and is surrounded by small shops and food stalls with Thai food, Mexican food, European food, and everything in between! The walls are covered with murals and paintings, sculptures are scattered throughout the area, and you may even catch a live band playing!
Bangkok is known for having the most rooftop bars out of any city in the world! My personal favorite is Octave, on top of the Mariott hotel near the Thonglor BTS station. It has fantastic drinks, a chilled out vibe, and one of the best views of the city I have ever seen! Lebua is probably the most famous sky bar in Bangkok because parts of the Hangover 2 were filmed here! Be prepared to dress swanky and feel like a movie star here, 64 levels up! Some other favorite are Vertigo, Three Sixty, and Above Eleven. You can’t go wrong with any Bangkok sky bar and will have a fabulous time sipping cocktails and enjoying the view.
If you are looking to beat the heat in Bangkok, you have to check out the rooftop pool party at the SO Sofitel hotel, hosted the last Saturday of every month. In the back, there is a garden area with music and a dance floor, while in the front, there is a gorgeous infinity pool overlooking Lumphini Park. Have a swim, have a dance, and meet people from all around the world because this pool party is definitely popular amongst travelers!
One of my favorite ways to spend a day in Bangkok is to peruse the seemingly endless stalls of Chatuchak Market. Only open on the weekends, this well-established market has everything you could ever imagine in its 35 acres and over 8,000 stalls! You can find clothes, home decor, souvenirs, plants, books, antiques, accessories, ceramics, handicrafts, art, pets, collectibles, and so much more! This place has become a Bangkok landmark and you will have a fantastic day shopping and exploring.
This well-known floating market is less than an hour out of the city and totally doable for a Bangkok day-trip. One of my favorite things I have ever done in Thailand and one of the most authentically Thai experiences you can have is spending a day here! Upon arriving to the market, hire a boat driver who will steer you through the winding canals that are lined with market stalls. Watch boats float by that are selling market goods from their inside their boats as well! The surrounding scenery is gorgeous and it has a remote, tucked-away, magical feel.
Traveling in Thailand is extremely cheap and shockingly easy, and there are endless options of beautiful getaways to spend your holiday time. Here are a few of my favorites:
With its laid back vibe and an abundance of untouched nature, it’s no wonder northern Thailand is a hot spot for travellers. One of the best things to do in Chiang Mai is visit an elephant sanctuary where you can spend the day bathing, feeding, trekking, and swimming with beautiful elephants out in the jungle. Other than that, you can cliff jump at Chiang Mai’s Grand Canyon, go for a jungle trek, visit the temples (my favorite is Doi Suthep), explore the night market and walking streets, create delicious northern cuisine in a cooking class, or visit a Karen hilltribe. A trip spent in Chiang Mai is the perfect mix of adventure, relaxation, and culture.
Travel Tips: There are regular trains and buses leaving from Bangkok that will zip you to Chiang Mai overnight! Crazy cheap and quite an experience if you have a long weekend. If you only have a 2-day weekend, catch a flight from Don Muang Airport! You’ll be there in an hour and still won’t break the bank.
If you like island life, you can’t go wrong with a holiday spent in Phuket! One of Thailand’s most popular island destinations is always buzzing with travellers and there is never a dull moment. Explore the gorgeous beaches, visit the Big Buddha, enjoy fabulous food, have a crazy night out on Bangla road, take in the Sino-Portuguese architecture of Old Town, watch incredible sunsets, go surfing in Kata, or go kayaking! Phuket is also a gateway to many popular destinations, like Koh Phi Phi or Phang Nga Bay (the ‘James Bond’ Island), which are only short boat rides away and make for great day trips. Embrace the sandy feet / salty hair beach life and enjoy everything that Phuket has to offer!
Travel Tips: Take a bus from Bangkok if you have a long weekend and are up for the journey or just catch a flight from Don Muang if you are short on time! Only an hour flight and generally pretty easy on your wallet.
This picturesque countryside town is full of natural beauty and fascinating history. Just a hop, skip, and jump from Bangkok, it has become one of my favorite weekend destinations! If you’re into historical sightseeing, make sure to check out the Bridge over the River Kwai (part of the Thai-Burmese “Death Railway”), The Hellfire Pass & Memorial Museum, the JEATH War Museum, and the Don-Rak War Cemetery to feel fascinated, shocked, and humbled. If adventure is more your vibe, take a tuk-tuk out to Erawan National Park to splash around in 7 gorgeous waterfalls (watch out for the nibbly fish!), wander through beautiful stalagmites in the Krasae, Lawa, Nok Nang, and Than Lot caves, or take a boat ride on the River Kwai! Kanchanaburi also boasts great nightlife (the famous 10 Baht Bar), wonderful accommodation (treehouse bungalows on the river), and excellent restaurants!
Travel Tips: Hop on a bus from Bangkok or surrounding areas that will get you to Kanchanaburi in about 3 hours! Not only is it super cheap, but you’ll enjoy gorgeous countryside views throughout the journey.
Any temple lover will fall in love with Ayutthaya, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the old Capital of Thailand! During the Burmese War, the city was attacked and present-day Ayutthaya is built around the stunning ruins. The best way to hit all the sites is to rent a bike for the day to cycle through the temples and ruins which will zap you back in time and make you believe in magic. Enjoy the sunshine, street food, and markets along the way, while taking in the splendour of the Old Capital! When the sun goes down, hop on a boat tour to see the temples lit up the night. Ayutthaya is also scattered with charming coffee shops, bars with live music, and backpacker-friendly hostels. It’s a can’t-miss weekend getaway!
Written by Lane Vogt: EFL Teacher in Thailand, Koh Chang Internships 2016