Head north from Bangkok and you will see the vast urban sprawl begin to blend to slow-paced agricultural towns and wide open rice paddies. This region is known as the Central Plains and it is criminally overlooked by tourists visiting the country. Many simply skip over the region to head north to Chiang Mai, but to do that is a shame. Here are our top five suggestions for fantastic places to visit in the Central Plains region.
One of the former capitals of Siam, modern day Thailand, this sleepy city 80 km north of Bangkok is now the most popular site in the region for tourists. That is thanks to the huge number of ancient and crumbling temple ruins to be found within the heart of the ancient city here. Spread out around a 4 km wide island, the ancient city is perfect to explore by bicycle and for those wanting to escape the heat and pace of Bangkok.
Travel North-West of Bangkok on the infamous ‘death railway’ and you will reach the province of Kanchanaburi. The area is well-known for the railway bridge, The Bridge Over the River Kwai, the inspiration for the famous movie of the same name. The bridge, and the railway, were built under extreme harsh conditions by prisoners of war during World War II and the region is a must for history buffs and the inquisitive alike.
Another former capital of Thailand, Sukhothai is home to many beautiful but crumbling temples similar to Ayutthaya. The temples of Sukhothai are from around the 14th century and were at the time, the most vibrant and visually stunning in the country. Today, the winding ruins of this ancient capital still make for a spectacular sight and one that is best explored by bicycle.
This city, located almost directly in the centre of the country is probably the main landing point for visiting the historical ruins of Sukhothai. With train links to Chiang Mai and Bangkok, Phitsanulok makes a great stopover location when travelling between the two. It’s just an hour east of Sukhothai and the town itself has some great places to eat as well as the historic Wat Mahathat.
If you’re looking for untouched scenery and great hiking off the tourist trail then Umphang province is definitely the way to go. This lush region near the Burmese border has plenty of great waterfalls, a nature sanctuary and fantastic hidden temples to discover. If you do go, make sure that you read up beforehand and know exactly where you’re going!