If you have a few extra days to spare while you're in Thailand, or are living here and looking for an interesting place to go for 2–3 days, consider one of these great side trips from Thailand.
Each of these places is three or fewer hours by plane from Bangkok, and all are wonderful places to visit.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Hands down, this is the most amazing cultural sight in the region, and even if you aren’t interested in archeology or ancient cultures, you’ll probably find it impressive.
The Angkor Wat temple complex is just one of many you’ll get a chance to visit in the city of Siem Reap in Cambodia. In fact, there are many must-see temples. You can travel overland (bus from Thailand) or take a short flight from Bangkok.
Siem Reap itself was once a very sleepy town, but in the past decade, has been developing at breakneck speed. The first Starbucks in Siem Reap opened in August 2017. There are scores and scores of guest houses and high-end hotels — and enough restaurants and bars to keep you fed and watered while you visit.
If you’re craving a calm, convenient, organized city after the chaos of Bangkok, head to this tiny city-state.
From the moment you land at Singapore’s Changi Airport, you’ll know why many Bangkok residents choose this destination for quick weekend getaways. It’s super clean, for one. And since English is one of the country’s official languages, you won’t have any problems communicating. While taxis are plentiful and safe, you can also use the city’s expansive, efficient public transportation system.
Singapore is a relatively new country; prior to 1819, it had few inhabitants other than the lions that roamed the island. Because of the city's Chinese, Malay, and Indian roots, it’s got a really interesting vibe you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
Singapore also has plenty of fun stuff to do, great restaurants — again, thanks to its Chinese, Malay, and Indian roots — lots of big shopping malls, and a decent nightlife scene. The only drawback is that Singapore hotels can be very expensive compared to the rest of the region. In fact, everything in the city is expensive when compared to Bangkok — especially beer.
If the prospect of blowing lots of cash doesn’t scare you, check out one of Singapore’s casinos. Gambling has only been legal there for a relatively short time and is very high end. The Marina Bay Sands, right on the edge of the city’s financial district, is a casino, adult playground, shopping center, and upscale restaurant all rolled into one.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Somewhere between the frenzy of Bangkok and the organization of Singapore lies Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia.
KL, as it’s known throughout the region, has a good mix of tourist attractions and shopping. Like Singapore, its residents are a mix of ethnic Chinese, Indian, and Malay — along with many other nationalities — so the food is fantastic, as are the many cultural celebrations held almost weekly.
Kuala Lumpur is easy to navigate, with great public transportation.
This popular island off the northwest coast of Malaysia has a fascinating history, the most visible of which is its past as an English colony.
And if you’re looking for a place to stay, the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, an old Chinese courtyard home that has been transformed into a gorgeous boutique hotel, is the best on the island.
Although Thai beaches can be spectacular, the island of Bali offers something a little different and is still definitely worth visiting if you’ve already explored Thailand’s coast and islands.
The beaches are beautiful, but one of the things that makes Bali special is that its interior is stunning. Lush, green rice terraces and mountains make the island worth visiting even if you don’t want to go for a swim. And of course, there’s Ubud, an artsy tourist town in central Bali filled with cafes, galleries, pretty villas, and museums. Ubud is about an hour away from Kuta, the island’s most popular beach, so it’s easy to visit for the day if you don’t want to spend a night.
And although Bali is getting more and more developed every day, it still feels far less frenetic than Phuket and Koh Samui, two of Thailand's most popular islands. Another reason Bali is nicer: the sex trade isn’t as "in your face" as it is in Thailand. That means you can actually take your children or parents out in the evening without having to walk by “massage” parlors and go-go bars as in some places in Thailand.
There’s a reason four James Bond films have had scenes in Hong Kong – it’s visually stunning, exotic, and sexy. There’s no city in the world like it.
This former British colony was handed back to China in 1997 but still retains a vibe (not to mention a culture and an economy) all its own. As one of the largest financial centers in the world, Hong Kong Island is filled with gleaming high-rise towers, bankers from all over the world, five-star hotels, and high-end shopping. Head to Kowloon, the peninsula facing Hong Kong Island, for street shopping and a slightly more "Asian" feel.
Hong Kong’s hotels are expensive — no surprise considering how expensive the city is overall. It can be tough to find a decent hotel for less than $100 per night.
Updated by Greg Rodgers