These days, most of us international traveling Indians have visited Bangkok and Thailand. The usual Bangkok itinerary for a regular Indian includes a visit to the Grand Palace, the temples nearby, the famous shopping malls, a cruise on the Chao Phraya river, the floating markets and the Chatuchak weekend market before they head to Pattaya, Phuket and Krabi. But, Thailand is so much more than this cliche itinerary that most travel agents plan for their customers. Personally, I have been to Thailand many times and have explored from the extreme north to the extreme south of this country. If you ask me for an off-beat holiday itinerary for the same 5 days/6 nights package that involves flying in and out of Bangkok, I would include these 5 off-beat experiences near Bangkok.
Traditional Benjarong village
If you want to experience the ‘Thai way of life’, stay in a traditional Thai home, immerse yourself in a Thai countryside experience and see the famous Benjarong artisans at work, head to the Benjarong village located in Bann Amphawa, about 63 kilometers south of Bangkok. In this heritage village, you can relax amidst gorgeous greenery and see the making of the famous Benjarong ceramics, which make for great gifts from Thailand. The famous Damnoen Saduak floating market is located close by if you wish for a colorful floating market experience.
Risky Market at Mae Klong Railway Station
This is a top off-beat experience from Bangkok for me. Like the floating markets, this market on the railway tracks in the Samutsongkram province is a sight to behold and an even better sight when the entire market disappears to make for the trains. And shopping here for vegetables, fruits, spices, herbs, meat and other fresh produce with the local Thai people is quite the experience. If you are into local markets, traditional Thai atmosphere, great food and a smiling Thai population, the Risky market and the town of Mae Klong has to be it.
Thailand’s Biggest Stupa at Nakhon Pathom
Nakhon Pathom is one of those places located a couple of hours from downtown Bangkok that offers a stunning countryside experience. From housing Thailand’s tallest stupa to great night markets and from a stunning riverside experience to a family run rose garden, organic farm and museum at Sampran Riverside, this small town has it all.
Making of Khon Masks
There is an ancient tradition in Thailand that involves dance, drama and khon masks. This ancient art of khon mask making is still practiced and followed in a small village near Amphawa. Here, you can interact with the mask artisans, learn about the ancient traditions and may be, even see an actual khon performance to help connect all the dots. This village also offers you a rustic Thai experience that is totally off the radar of any kind of travelers. This belt is great if you are into cycling.
Mangroves and Blood Cockle Farms at Baanmaichailane
Baanmaichailane is a place where you can see floating villages, mangrove forests, crab eating monkeys, lots of terrestrial birds and beautiful blood cockle farms. A favorite with the locals, this village located on the backwaters offers a pretty different experience to the rest of Thailand. For me, the highlight is going on a longtail boat through the small creeks on the backwaters and looking for crab eating monkeys on the low hanging branches. Luckily for me, I got to see 2 large groups of these macaques. This is another of those off beat locations that offer great relaxed getaways and a rustic experience.