Thailand’s 3 best scenic journeys we know you’re going to love
Each adventure includes opportunities to sample wares from street vendors, sample local specialties from roadside food trucks, and swap tips with fellow travelers. Part of what makes the journey so much more than the destination These are three highly recommended and unforgettable trips.
1- Mahachai Shortline train
The Mahachai line, which runs from Wong Wian Yai station in Thonburi in the western part of Bangkok, was originally built to transport produce from Samut Songkhram and Samut Sakhon ports to the city’s markets. It’s still a working train transporting goods and people into and out of Bangkok.
Sitting on hard seats among the locals, with the breeze from the open windows and ceiling fans as you cruise through the canals of Bangkok’s suburbs and the mudflats along the Gulf of Thailand, is an evocative journey that offers both glimpses of the hustle and bustle as well as granted monotony of everyday life.
The one-hour trip from Wong Wian Yai to the fishing port of Samut Sakhon is the first leg of the journey. The train arrives in the middle of a bustling fresh produce market.
Just outside the market, take a 10-minute ferry across the Tha Chin River to Ban Laem, where the train departs for the second leg of the journey, the 90-minute journey to Samut Songkhram, another fishing port at the mouth of the Mae Khlong River. Once again, the train pulls straight into Samut Songkhram market, and here vendors use the space between the tracks to place their wares, hastily pushing them away as the train approaches. The Amphawa Floating Market (open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights) is worth a visit on weekends.
Make it happen
Every hour, trains run from Wong Wian Yai to Samut Sakhon, with a few connecting trains at Samut Songkhram. A bus service connects Samut Sakhon and Samut Songkhram, as well as Samut Songkhram and Bangkok’s south terminal.
2- Mae Sa–Samoeng loop
The 100-kilometer Mae Sa-Samoeng Loop winds like a roller coaster through rugged mountains and forested peaks and can be undertaken as a day trip by car, motorbike, or scooter from Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. The mountainous landscape makes the drive the trip’s highlight, although there are many worthwhile detours along the way.
From Chiang Mai, head north on Route 107 to Mae Rim and west on Route 1096. The road here follows the Mae Sa River’s course and becomes more rural. Six kilometers past the turn-off for Mae Rim are the Nam Tok Mae Sa waterfalls in the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, a picturesque spot popular with locals and a good place for a cooling dip.
Continue until you reach the Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens, 12 kilometers from the Mae Rim turn-off. The glasshouse complex is a must-see at Thailand’s first botanical gardens, which opened in 1993. The road ascends through the terraced fields of the Mae Sa valley from here; Mon Cham is a good place to stop for lunch and panoramic views.
The furthest point of the loop is the pretty village of Samoeng. From this point, follow Rte 1269, a winding road that descends from the hills, and then drive back to Chiang Mai on Th Khlong Chonprathan (canal road). The longest and most adventurous motorcycle tour is the Mae Circuit. A 600 km journey takes at least four days.
Make it happen
To visit the Ma Sa-Samoeng Circuit, you will need to rent a car, motorbike, or scooter, as public transport does not cover the route. There are several car rental companies in Chiang Mai. Pressure on your rental agreement, including insurance coverage, as well as your travel insurance.
3- Bus ride from Kanchanaburi to Sangkhlaburi
Kanchanaburi’s World War II memorials and museums, made famous as the setting for Pierre Boulle’s novel and David Lean’s 1957 film adaptation The Bridge on the River Kwai, honor conscripts and prisoners of war who were forced to build a railway into Myanmar during World War II Japanese occupation during the war. Located 130km northwest of Bangkok, the city serves as a gateway to Thailand’s wild west. The adventurous will be rewarded with breathtaking views on the 200-kilometer bus ride to the sleepy town of Sangkhlaburi near the Myanmar border. During the five to six-hour journey, the local can bus glides between mountains of jagged green limestone and traverses a teak reforestation project.
The road from Thong Pha Phum to Sangkhlaburi becomes rough, but it is also one of Thailand’s most beautiful stretches. This remote town overlooking the Khao Laem reservoir is an interesting destination with its mixed ethnic population of Burmese, Karen, Mon, Thai, and Lao people, as well as a corresponding blend of cultures and languages. Extend the scenic journey to the village of Wang Kha by crossing the long rickety Mon bridge (now fully repaired after storm damage in 2013).
Make it happen
Kanchanaburi’s bus station is on Th Saengchuto at the southern end of town. There are hourly ordinary and air-conditioned buses to Sangkhlaburi from here. The air-conditioned bus takes approximately four hours, while the regular bus takes between five and six hours. Buses frequently run from the Kanchanburi bus station to Bangkok (three hours).