Go back to Old Bangkok
Bangkok is scattered with glinting gold palaces, ornate temples and chaotic markets, giving the entire city a mystical edge. Wander around Wat Arun, the ‘Temple of the Dawn’, gaze up at the dazzling Grand Palace, get an eyeful of the giant Emerald Buddha in Wat Pra Kaew, amble around Jim Thompson’s beautifully preserved Thai house and grab a traditional massage at Wat Pho. The modern city buzzes around these age-old sights, so you’ll literally see the old world nudging up against the new.
Temples and Tuk-Tuks in Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya is the ancient capital of Thailand and a peaceful place scattered with crumbling ruins. With a name meaning ‘Not someone to be messed with’ in Sanskrit, it was once a formidable city bordering the Khmer kingdom, famous for its decadent palaces and countless temples. Wander between the ruins, take a sunset tuk-tuk tour of ancient sites and get a feel for the faded grandeur. In its heyday, over a million people lived here, outnumbering the population of London and Paris. In 1767, the city fell to the Burmese after two years of fierce fighting. Golden statues of Buddha were melted, temples were desecrated and manuscripts destroyed.
Sleep on the rippling River Kwai
The bridge over the River Kwai is the stuff of legend and sings with a sad kind of beauty. On the way to the river, you can take a trip on the Death Railway, built by 60,000 Allied POWs taken by the Japanese during the Second World War. Linking Thailand with Burma, it’s a reminder of a brutal and harrowing past. After lingering for a while on the bridge, you’ll head to a floating hut lit with flickering oil lamps for an atmospheric night that you’re unlikely to forget.
Soak up the atmosphere of Sukhothai
Fascinating and filled with beautiful sights, Sukhothai was the capital of the Siamese kingdom between 1238 and 1376. Once the spiritual soul of the entire country, its name means ‘The Rising of Happiness’ and has long influenced Thai literature, art and language. Now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s somewhere steeped in atmosphere. Take a tuk-tuk to the historical park or rent a bike and head there on your own two wheels – it’s totally up to you. Along the way, you’ll pass imposing ruins, impressive temples and giant Buddhas, giving you a real glimpse into the ancient past.