Bangkok, Wanderlust / January 3, 2017

Top 5 Drivable Holidays Out of Bangkok


Getting Out Of Bangkok

Are you planning a trip to Thailand with your family?  Are you living here and wondering what to do to escape this concrete jungle?   Fantastic!  Before we moved here we came here on holiday.  We did about three days in Bangkok and then a week in Phuket, I highly recommend this method of visiting the “landof smiles”.  We have now lived here for over 3 years, and as much as I love the hustle and bustle of Bangkok,  the beauty of Thailand lies mostly outside the City of Angels.

So, if you are planning a trip to Thailand, I would suggest a few days in Bangkok but then get out of the city and see the sights or the fantastic beaches that Thailand has to offer.  You don’t even need to take another flight, just hire a driver and you’re off!  (there are reputable references on trip advisor all the time, or post yours in the comments)

Here are our five favorite drivable holidays that are kid tested and parent approved.

Koh Chang

Koh Chang is an island just a 5 hour drive outside of Bangkok.  A very easy drive with lots of sights and trees (which are a bit rare around Bangkok!).  My parents recently visited and wanted to go and check out one of the beaches.  We wanted something drivable because we would be traveling with 5 adults and 4 kiddos.  I found a fantastic AirBNB with 5 bedrooms, a private pool, and beach access.  It was an amazing trip.  We were in a quiet alcove so the waves weren’t big but when the tide went out the shelling was FANTASTIC.  The best shells I have seen in here in Thailand.  The boys had the best time collecting them.  The only downfall of Koh Chang was that we went at the end of May, and that is rainy season.  I didn’t realize how horrible this might have been until I made the reservation and as the time approached I found that this region of Thailand receives the most rain in the country.  Yikes!  We were lucky enough that it didn’t rain all day but it would roll in and out pretty quickly but we certainly got a lot of rain overnight.  Note: all that rain leads to mosquitos…they were out of control!  The boys came back looking like they had chicken pox.  Between the mosquitos and sand fleas.  I would certainly do this trip again…but maybe not during rainy season and bringing more bug spray/repellants.

We found a couple of great restaurants in town that we visited, and you can look all of those up on trip advisor.  Despite the bugs, we did have a great time, and I will say this about visiting Koh Chang during the rainy season…it was so quiet.  We were sometimes the only ones in the restaurants…which is a good thing when our crazy train rolls into town.  The downtown area has some great coffee shops, massages places, and lots of open area stalls with all the Thailand goodies and souvenirs.  Plan this trip as a beach get-away, but make sure to block off some time to get downtown.

Gavin Seems Happy With Koh Chang!

Now, if you’re just looking to hit the beach…

Rayong

Rayong is about a two and a half hour drive out of Bangkok.  Very easy and you can even take the  fantastic motorway.  Nice wide highway and open road.  We stayed at the Marriott, and boy was it beautiful.  The grounds are enormous.  A couple of great pools, an infinity pool that is right next to the separate kids pool, that is right outside the kids club.  This is where we spent most of our time since at the time the little boys were not able to swim and the infinity pool was too deep for them.  Also, because we went with friends and all of the big kids were in and out of the kids club pretty regularly.  The infinity pool also looks right out to the ocean.  The beaches were nice enough to take walks on but I would’t have gone and set up a chair and spent the day on the beach.  The water to me isn’t that pleasant.  There is also a lovely pool that had a zero entry and that was fantastic for our little boys.  There is also a slide…but parents beware if you decide to go down it yourself.  It is not build for adults.  Steve hurt himself (this is a trend for him as he tries to act like a kid).

Steve and Gavin Acting Gavin’s Age

Our other favorite part about this hotel was that there were a couple of bars.  All of which had rotating happy hours.  So you could hit up one happy hour from 3-5pm and then 5-7pm at the next bar.  Both bars of which were located by two of the pools.  The resurants were also very good.  One was even so nice to set up some tables out on the lawn since we were there with about 5 other families.  It was fantastic and felt like we were at a much smaller resort…like Dolphin bay (see next post) but with all the amenities of the Marriott chain and points!

Hua Hin (Khan Sam Roi Yot)

Dolphin Bay…if you are new to Bangkok you may become very familiar with Dolphin Bay because it is only a 3 hour drive outside of Bangkok and because of how family friendly it is.  This quaint little resort is actually about 45 KM south of Hua Hin, so calling it Hua Hin is a bit of a stretch, but that’s what they do on their website.  We have not found another hotel like it.  It is no JW Marriott, but it lovely just the same.  It has regular hotel rooms, bungalows, and even villas (apartments) with 1, 2, 3, and even 6 bedrooms.  We have stayed in all of them except the 4 bedrooms.  Some of the villas with more bedrooms even have private pools.  The greatest thing about the resort is the way the grounds are set-up.   The whole thing is designed like a giant U, with the open end being the beach.   There are two pools that are right next to each other.  One is a lap pool and the other is a kids pool with a slide and a divided baby pool that even some of the littlest guest can stand in.  The restaurant’s deck and seating area is right next to the pool.  Easy to eat and jump right back into the pool.  There is also an open grade area where you can play some soccer and there is also a playground.  The best part about this hotel is that there is rarely a person there without children.  So you are in good company.  Crying kids…no problem…kids up early…welcome to the club.

The food at the restaurant is better than average, and parents can sit and enjoy meals or snacks as the kids play.  They have Chang towers of beer and “Mexicanachos” (chips with cheesewiz) for 400 baht along with other more traditional fare.  The service is very personal, and with so few people, if you stay more than a day, they will know you by name.  The beach is wide, and with the exception of the Jellyfish that tend to show up sometimes, is very safe for kids.  Unlike the beach at Rayong we like spending a little more time on this beach building castles and letting the kids splash in the waves.  You can even take a short boat ride out to “Monkey Island”…which is exactly what it sounds like; it’s an island where there are a ton of monkeys.  Pro Tip:  go on a mid-morning trip after someone has already fed them once, and don’t take little kids.  The monkeys can be rather aggressive and have been known to jump in the boat and on people.

 

Captain Dylan

Hua Hin

Unlike Dolphin Bay, now we are talking about staying in actual “downtown” Hua Hin.  We have stayed at three different places in Hua Hin.  We have stayed at two hotels and one AirBnB.  There are some great restaurants and I love that most of the hotels are within walking distance of shopping plazas with grocery stores, restaurants, and of course…ice cream shops.  The down fall to staying in Hua Hin or staying at these hotels are the horses on the beach.  Think smaller horses that you can pay to ride.  Everytime we would walk down to the beach we would be asked if you want to ride the horse.  While the riders aren’t pushy, and some people will love riding them, we found it distracting and at times, dangerous when the riders didn’t pay attention.

The Afore Mentioned Horses

The best of the hotels in our opinion is the newly opened Marriott resort, which has a lazy river, splash pad, and a few slides for the kids.  They also have a kids club (smaller than the one at Rayong) and a beach that is similar to the one at dolphin bay, but with more horses/people.  Despite that, the beach is good, the central location of the pool/splash pad/slides is amazing for parents who just want to sit and survey the chaos…it was one of our best experiences at a hotel in Thailand.  Also, despite being a Marriott resort and not being required to honor the free breakfast for platinum members, they chose to comp our breakfast at the incredible (yet expensive) buffet…this was nice, but also just an example of the outstanding service that surrounded our entire visit.

When you’re ready to get out of town in Hua Hin, there are some great waterparks within the area.  There are two that really we enjoyed and are relatively new, Black Mountain Water Park and Vana Nava.  I really enjoyed Black Mountain because while we were there it was October while the kids were on fall break and it was during the week.  There was hardly anyone at the Park.  Vana Nava we went to on a weekend and by noon it was super crowded and people were having to wait in line just to receive the rafts that they needed to ride the rides.  Both were very clean by any standard and well managed.

Note: I find that most water parks in Thailand exceed my expectations for cleanliness and apparent safety.  I always feel as comfortable at these parks as I do in any Western country.

Kanchanaburi

While the other 4 were all beach destinations, this one is not.  If you don’t know Kanchanaburi, it is where the River Kwai and Hell Fire Pass are located.  This is also a great place to visit within a 3 hour drive from Bangkok if you’re looking to get out of the city and into nature.  We have been to Kanchanaburi twice now.  Once in August and once in April.  My piece of advice is do not go to Kanchanaburi if you can avoid it in April (Unless you’re going for ANZAC Day).  When we were there is was 110 degrees in the shade and Steve was playing in the ANZAC Day annual Aussie Rules Football game.  Some of those guys played over 100 minutes of footie…I nearly passed out in the shade.  That being said, if you can make it to either the dawn service at Hellfire pass or the ceremony at the cemetery, I highly recommend it.  I hope to write up a post about it later, but they were both informative and moving as we were able to share the sacrifice of “The Greatest Generation” with our kids.  I encourage you to read more about ANZAC Day.

Helfire Pass

Outside of the history, there are some really great restaurants down by the river and some pretty good hotels where you can snag a big room for less than 60USD!  We have stayed at a hotel called the Dheva Matra on one of our trips, and have also done an AirBnB which is also a great option almost anywhere in Thailand.  I recommend this for a long weekend, maybe driving up in the morning on a friday and coming back on Sunday or Monday.  You get out of Bangkok, learn a bit, and spend some pool time or time on the river.

The Bridge Over The River Kwai

Driving Out of Bangkok

So that’s it.  Whether you’re just in Thailand for a week or two as a tourist or have been living in the concrete jungle of Bangkok for years, these should provide some inspiration to change up your scenery.  There are so many more that could have made it onto here including Khao Yai, Pattaya, Ayutthaya, and more.  The big idea is just to get out of town and see more than just big malls and the Grand Palace.  There is so much more to this amazing country; go Wander!

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