Weekends Guide for Expats
Many expats have moved to Thailand with their families and have children at international schools. Therefore, the weekends are regarded as family time. There are countless ideas for weekend activities in Bangkok. As previously mentioned, shopping and cultural activities abound, sporting opportunities are numerous and there are cinemas, sights and theatres to visit. However, there are also a number of theme parks, wildlife parks and historical places of interest close to Bangkok.
Despite being an urban sprawl, Bangkok is also home to a number of parks and gardens where children can run and play and release all of their excess energy. Many of the larger parks are perfect for picnics and having a family game of football.
Chatuchak Park was opened in 1980 as a greenbelt area in Bangkok and has grown considerably since then. It has been joined with Queen Sirikit Park and Wachirabenchatat Park, although they are separated by Kampaengphet 3 Road. The park is home to an artificial lake, a train museum and botanic gardens. Shaded areas with picnic tables are also available as are: food stalls, pavilions hosting live music and an enormous green expanse which is ideal for an afternoon game of football. It is located above Chatuchak metro station and close to Mo Chit Skytrain station so it is very easy to reach.
Lumpini Park is another popular retreat for families on the weekends. It, too, boasts rare open green spaces and an artificial lake where boats are available for hire. There is a cycle track which encircles the lake and in the hot season is enjoyed by many swimmers who are hoping to cool down. It was opened in 1920 by King Rama VI and there is a statue of the king as a tribute. It was once located on the outskirts of the city, but now lies in the heart of the main business area between Ratchadamri and Witthayu roads. Children love the park as it is patrolled by police on horseback and has a number of play areas. It is also home to the city’s first public library, dance hall and pavilions. The Silom metro station is the closest to the park, although the Skytrain station Sala Daeng is also nearby.
Safari World is a zoo in Bangkok housing a safari park and marine park. There are a number of animals including lions, tigers and elephants and the highlight for many is the lion and tiger feeding show. It is a chance for children to learn more about all the animals housed here and see them close up. The enclosures are all very spacious and similar to each animal’s habitat in the wild. The marine park is a must for sea lovers, boasting a wide variety of fish, dolphins, rays, sea lions and sharks. The dolphin and sea lion show is a hit with everyone who visits as is the crocodile garden. There is an information centre on site as well as a number of restaurants, a gift shop and ample parking. It is located in the sub-district of Klongsamwa. For more information visit: http://www.safariworld.com. Entrance fees are 700 baht each for a combined ticket to both the safari and marine park.
Dream World is a theme park located just outside the city centre in Rangsit. It is a good place to take children of all ages as there is something for everyone. There are fun fair rides to enjoy, amusement stalls, street parades, daily shows, restaurants and a gift shop. The park’s central location means that it can be easily reached by train, bus or car. It costs 450 baht per person to enter and the ticket is valid all day. For more information, and a map, visit http://www.dreamworld.co.th.
Siam Water Park is the biggest in Asia. It boasts water slides, swimming pools, wave pools, whirlpools, a man made sea pool complete with surf, a lake hosting water sports, botanic gardens, restaurants, a small zoo, an aviary, playgrounds and a lounging area. It is the perfect way to escape the heat and humidity of the city and is just 200 baht for an adult and 100 baht for children. It can be found close to the eastern outer ring road, so the only way to reach it is by road. You can drive, take a taxi or take a local bus. For more information, directions and a map visit http://www.siamparkcity.com.
Bangkok is located very close to some historically significant cities, stunning national parks and even the beach. Ayuthaya, Kao Yai National Park, Kanchanaburi, Jomtien and Ko Samet are all easily accessible and can be visited for either the day or the entire weekend.
Ayuthaya was once capital of Siam but was ransacked by the Burmese in 1765 when the capital was moved to Bangkok. It is one large open air museum boasting countless ruins and historical buildings which are all perfectly preserved. It is this conservation of its ancient sites which has helped it to develop into a popular attraction and will help it grow in the future. As well as the ruins, there are also working temples, elephants, a good selection of bars and restaurants and a number of quality hotels. The city’s close proximity to Bangkok allows people to visit just for the day, or stay overnight if they would rather. It is much quieter than Bangkok but still boasts Western restaurants and expat bars as well as riverside establishments and hotel entertainment. It is just one hour away by road and there are also trains running to and from the capital’s main train station and local buses.
Khao Yai National Park can be found in Khorat, northeastern Thailand. It is about two-three hours away from Bangkok by car, although there are also daily flights, trains and buses. Khao Yai was Thailand’s first national park, built in 1962 and is the second largest in Thailand. It is home to over 3,000 species of plants, 320 species of birds and 67 species of mammals. The mammals who call the park home include Asiatic black bears, Asian elephants, tigers, gibbons, deer, and wild pigs. There are also 80 waterfalls that are good places for having lunch that is taken from one of the many food stalls found here. There are many hotels and resorts of all standards found in Khao Yai which offer an excellent escape from the frenetic nature of Bangkok. There is not much in the way of nightlife, although there is a selection of Thai restaurants and facilities in the hotels. There is also the chance to enjoy night-time wildlife spotting on guided tours. Animals which can be seen at night include deer, wild pigs, civet cats, gibbons and even elephants. The fee for entering the park is 400 baht for adults and 200 baht for children.
Kanchanaburi is about two hours away by car from Bangkok and is famous for the Bridge over the River Kwai. This bridge is the start of the infamous WWII death railway into Burma where over 16,000 prisoners of war and 100,000 Asian workers lost their lives while building it. It is possible to either walk over the bridge or catch the tourist train. Aside from the famous bridge, Kanchanaburi boasts a number of sights and activities for the whole family. There is an elephant sanctuary here, art galleries, a war museum, a tiger temple, waterfalls, working temples and a number of spas. There is also a night market, an abundance of restaurants (both Thai and Western), expat and Thai bars, expensive resorts and mid-range hotels. Trains and buses run throughout the day to and from Bangkok and it is easy to drive. It is even possible to take a taxi, although this will be fairly expensive.
Jomtien Beach is one of the closest beaches to Bangkok at just one and a half hour’s drive away. It is a six kilometre-long stretch of beach and very popular with expats and local Thais. It is very close to the main beach at Pattaya, but those with families tend to avoid Pattaya due to its sleazy reputation. Jomtien is the perfect alternative and boasts golden sands, blue seas and plenty of activities available for families both on and off the beach such as a variety of water sports, Sriracha Tiger Zoo, Nong Nooch Tropical Garden and Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum.
Ko Samet is a very nice little island only a few hours away from Bangkok. You get there by driving to Chon Buri and onwards to Ban Phe, where you can get a longtail boat to the island. It’s a very popular weekend destination for Thais, so prices go up. Expect to pay a huge premium for an air-conditioned room. The island doesn’t offer much in terms of entertainment or nightlife but it has many great beachside restaurants and a nice atmosphere. The beaches are the main attraction and there are several. If you are willing to venture outside the most popular areas you can find almost desolate beaches.