Bangkok. Bustling, boisterous, beguiling Bangkok. A vibrant, exciting city to live in, but let’s face it, sometimes you just need to a break; an escape for the soul, if you will. About once a month when we decide a weekend excursion out of the city is in order, we generally look for a place that Bangkok is not: calm, quiet, and green. We aspire for our toddler to hear, see and experience nature, to star-gaze, to bob in the ocean, to sink his feet into green grass, to run, trip, and tumble across great expanses. If you want to get technical, you can do almost all of those things in Lumpini Park, but bobbing in the murky green water with the monitor lizards is not really the kind of nature we’re looking for.
During our first year and a half in Thailand, we’ve discovered many getaway gems, but it is the following ones that keep us going back for more. They are toddler-friendly, reasonably-priced, and an easy two-to-three hour drive out of town. They require minimal planning and reward with maximum enjoyment; altogether a pretty sweet deal.
- Rim Phae Beach, Rayong
When the sand and surf call, we head southeast. Our family has traveled to Rim Phae Beach at least half a dozen times; enough to consider it our “home away from home.” We stay in a small community of large homes on the beach. The three-story, three-bedroom homes are ideal for a quiet family-only getaway, or can easily accommodate two-to-three families for a regaling weekend away. We spend our days swimming in the pool, playing in the sand, taking dips in the ocean, grilling on our patio, strolling down the beach in search of local cuisine, admiring the bright orange sunsets – you get the point. When it’s too hot out to play, we jump in the car and visit Rayong Aquarium (for 30 baht/person, admission is a steal!), check out surrounding local villages, or nap. If we’re feeling particularly adventurous, we hire a speedboat from our beachfront to Koh Samet – a 20-minute jaunt away.
Crystal Beach is lush, serene, and private. While it pains me to give away details on our best kept getaway secret, I would feel remiss in my toddlejoy duties if I didn’t, so here goes:
- Drive: 2.5 hours (part highway, part local roads)
- Stay: The Crystal Beach House or Rayong Beach Villa
- Expect to pay: Around 6,000 baht/night (if you share with another family, split the cost and it becomes 3,000 baht/night, etc. etc.)
- Bring: sunscreen, beach/pool toys, food for grilling
2. Khao Yai
When the mountains call, we head northeast. Billing itself as Thailand’s wine and cowboy country, Khao Yai boasts an eclectic mix of steakhouses and wineries. As you drive past vacation homes and restaurants, you are oddly-reminded of Tuscany, Napa, and Bordeaux. Khao Yai is also home to Thailand’s largest national park, Khao Yai National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site. The air is fresh, the surrounds are green and rolling, and the wildlife is plentiful. Khao Yai is where we go to really relax. And dare I forget to mention, Khao Yai is where Logan goes to get his tractor and golf cart fix (as evidenced by the pictures below). There is plenty to do in Khao Yai, but what you should not miss is the following: a trip to Khao Yai National Park (whether a two-hour drive in the park to satisfy a baby/toddler nap session or a guided hike); an afternoon lunching at PB Valley Khao Yai Winery (eat the food, perhaps skip the wine); and a visit to Chokchai Farm (if you’re not up for the entire three-hour tour of Chokchai, you can ask to meet up with the tour at specific points, such as the petting zoo). There are a bundle of places to stay in Khao Yai, so make sure to do your research. Use Agoda to book in order to get the best deals. We have been so spoiled by one resort in particular, that we refuse to stay anywhere else (details below).
- Drive: 2 hours (mostly highway)
- Stay: Kirimaya Resort (hotel) or Muthi Maya Resort (private pool villas)
- Expect to pay: On Agoda, rates usually run USD 148/night for a standard room at the Kirimaya, and USD 237/night for a private pool villa at Muthi Maya
- Bring: hiking clothes, bathingsuits, bug spray
When we’re tired of going east, we go northwest. In a full admission of honesty, we’ve done Kanchanaburi far fewer times than Rayong and Khao Yai. In fact, we’ve only done it once. But I can tell you, one trip is enough to know we’ll be going back. Although a little bit more difficult to reach than Khao Yai, it has all of the natural beauty of Khao Yai and then some. It is not as crowded or as developed as Khao Yai, and if you’re a true adventurer, it offers bundles of waterfalls, springs, and day-hikes to explore. If you’re the athletic type, keep an eye out for the River Kwai International Half Marathon, which takes place in Kanchanaburi every year. Couple a short getaway with the success of completing a half-marathon, and I’d say you have a pretty good weekend on your hands. As for accommodations, utilize Agoda to find the best deals and the resort of your choice. We really enjoyed the private pool villa at the Mida Resort (details below), which is located on a beautiful swath of the River Kwai.
- Drive: 2.5-3 hours (some highway, mostly local roads)
- Stay: Mida Resort
- Expect to pay: On Agoda, rates usually run USD 59/night for a superior room or USD 157/night for a one-bedroom private pool villa
- Bring: hiking clothes, bathingsuits, bug spray