Central Thailand consists of 22 provinces, some of which are of particular interest for visitors. It is an area rich in history with the ancient city of Ayutthaya, the Khmer temples of Lopburi, the Death Railway in Kanchanaburi, Royal Palaces and Nakhon Pathom, the oldest city in Thailand with its famous Phra Pathom Chedi, the tallest stupa in the world.
Central Thailand is the country’s most populated area with Bangkok with its 12 million people being the centre of activity.
Evidence has been found that people lived in Lopburi as far as 3,000 to 4,000 years ago, during the Bronze Age. During the 10th century Lopburi came under influence of the Khmers. A number of ruins, like the Prang Sam Yot Khmer temple still exist and are open to visitors.
Later on, Lopburi came under influence of Ayutthaya and became the second capital of the Kingdom. King Narai had a Summer Palace built in the city of Lopburi, which has been turned into a museum, the Somdet Phra Narai National Museum.
Today the city is known for its large monkey population. Many of them stay around the 13th century Prang Sam Yot. You can feed the monkeys, but be careful with your belongings. If the monkeys believe there is food inside a bag, they might snatch it. Every year in November the Lopburi monkey festival is held, during which local people bring the monkeys huge amounts of food.
Petchaburi & Ratchaburi Province
Ratchaburi Southwest of Bangkok and Petchaburi more to the South are two adjoining provinces close to the capital with lots of attractive places for visitors. One of Ratchaburi’s best known places is the Damnoen Saduak floating market, a fun way to experience the traditional Thai market on the water.
Both provinces have a number of impressive natural caves, like the Khao Luang caves close to Petchaburi. These caves are famous for the Buddha images inside and the rays of sun light coming in, giving the place a mystical atmosphere. King Mongkut’s Summer Palace, Phra Nakhon Khiri is an impressive place on top of a hill in Petchaburi town, visible from far away. The beautiful long sandy beach of Cha-Am has a very different atmosphere than Pattaya. In weekends and during Thai holidays it is very popular with Thai people.
Close to Bangkok and easy to reach by public transport is Ayutthaya, the old capital of Siam, as Thailand used to be called. The city goes back to the 14th century and developed into the richest and biggest city of its time. In 1767 it was destroyed by the Burmese.
Today, Ayutthaya historical park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located on an island surrounded by three rivers. Many of the temples, palaces and other buildings still exist, some of them well preserved making it a magnificent place to visit for everyone interested in history and architecture.
Just South of Ayutthaya is Bang Pa-In, where the Bang Pa-In Summer Palace of the Chakri dynasty can be visited. Most fun and relaxing way to go to Ayutthaya is to take a river boat from Bangkok, passing sites as the Wat Arun temple and the Grand Palace.
Chonburi Province is one of Thailand’s major beach destinations with Pattaya and Jomtien beach and Koh Larn island the most popular places. Pattaya can be reached by taxi in a little over an hour from Bangkok’s international airport, and has more to offer than just the beaches.
There are theme parks, international standard golf courses, markets, museums, temples and of course Pattaya’s infamous night life. Accommodation is available from guesthouse to 5 star resort. Restaurants in Chonburi and especially in Pattaya cater to every taste, from Thai and Indian to food of almost every Western country.
Getting around in Central Thailand
Thanks to its proximity to Bangkok, there are plenty of public transportation options available in Central Thailand. A number of cities can be reached by air served by carriers as Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Nok Air and Air Asia.
The State Railway of Thailand has a train service from Bangkok into every direction. Check their website for departure and arrival times and fares. The main train station in Bangkok is Hualamphong station on Rama IV road. You can get there either by taxi or MRT subway.
Travelling by bus is very popular in Thailand, and therefor there is a large number of bus services to every corner of the country. You will leave from one of Bangkok’s three bus terminals, depending on destination. The Northern bus terminal (Mo Chit) on Kamphaeng Phet 2 road is the terminal for North and Northeastern Thailand and serves cities as Chiang Mai and Sukhothai. The Eastern bus terminal (Ekamai) in Ekamai district serves Eastern Thailand with destinations as Pattaya and Trat (for Koh Chang). If you are going to the South or West like Koh Samui, Phuket or Kanchanaburi, head for Bangkok’s Southern bus terminal in Thonburi.