Category Archives: Bangkok

Ethical Elephants Thailand

Hopefully you found this Thailand blog post because you know that riding elephants is cruel and instead, you are looking for a way of helping elephants in Thailand. Please note this post is written in 2022, post covid pandemic and I visited the animal sanctuary recently.

To help elephants in Thailand, you have two options:

  • Visit an ethical elephant sanctuary Thailand
  • Head to a National Park to see wild elephants

Both are amazing experiences and I fully recommend seeing these incredible creatures. For a more intimate and upclose experience then consider a Thailand elephant sanctuary or for a real jungle trip and to see elephants where they truly belong then visit Khao Yai National Park, the best place in Thailand to see wild elephants.

For information about how to experience wild elephants in Thailand, click here.

This post will focus on one of the best elephant sanctuaries in Thailand and where you can actually experience a lot of Thailand’s wildlife. Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand has established an elephant sanctuary near Bangkok called I Love Phants Lodge.

I have visited this amazing rescue sanctuary multiple times and friends and I always recommend this Thailand animal sanctuary to visitors and fellow expats.

The elephant enclosure at I Love Phants, a humane elephant sanctuary near Bangkok

Where to stay to see elephants in Thailand?

Stay at the I Love Phants Lodge and wake up to the sounds of the elephants trumpeting and the gibbons calling. I feel this is the best jungle experience with a luxury twist (and that’s how I sold it to my Mum!). It has a swimming pool, various bungalow options and villas to choose from and offers frequent wildlife tours to see the rescue animals in Thailand. The accommodation on offer is fairly limited so be sure to book this humane elephant sanctuary in advance so you don’t miss out.

swim and watch the rescue elephants in Thailand
Sitting on the edge of the swimming pool and elephant spotting

Rescue Wildlife Thailand: Where do the rescued wildlife come from?

All the animals at the I Love Phants Lodge are rescue animals. The elephants you see here have been rescued from the entertainment industry and from poorly-run zoos. Many of the other rescue animals were rescued from Thailand’s dark pet trade, including gibbons, apes and primates. Many of their stories are incredibly sad but by supporting ethical animal experiences in Thailand we can all help to counteract the awful lives these animals have led before. This is therefore, the best  animal sanctuary in Thailand and, if you love animals, you’ll love your stay at the I Love Phants Lodge.

other rescue animals like gibbons at the rescue sanctuary
Gibbons (my favourite) at the animal rescue centre in Thailand

Ethical animal tourism Thailand

Unfortunately, during my years of living and travelling around Thailand, there is not much ethical animal tourism here. It was only 10-15 years ago where tourists could see elephants in Bangkok, a place where no jungle wildlife should be, let alone an animal that can feel vibrations through its feet. Luckily, along with ethical elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai, more and more tourists are calling for no riding elephant sanctuaries and I have seen first hand the impact this has had. When I first visited Thailand 10 years ago, there was ONE elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai that refused to give tourists rides. Now, almost every Thailand elephant sanctuary offers no-riding experiences which is definitely a win for these amazing creatures.

Elephant Reserve Thailand

The I Love Phants lodge feels more like an elephant reserve in Thailand. It has a huge, spacious central enclosure where elephants can roam freely, with the exception of the more aggressive bull elephants who have their own enclosures. You can view the elephants from the outdoor restaurant, from the swimming pool and from your hotel room window! There are many enclosures and the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand are constantly expanding as they rescue more and more animals from a life in the pet trade or entertainment industry.

Elephant Viewing Platform aka swimming pool

Elephants near Bangkok

This is the best Bangkok elephant sanctuary as it is found about 2-3 hours drive from central Bangkok. On my last trip, I combined it with a visit to the beach in Hua Hin, which was just a 1 hour drive from the elephant sanctuary.

Food at I love Phants: The humane elephant sanctuary

There is one restaurant and it is very reasonably priced, as well as a bar so you can enjoy your beer and watch the elephants. The buffet breakfast was included but I was disappointed not to see more vegetarian options for a rescue sanctuary! I hope this will improve over time.

Thailand Wildlife Tour

Several times a week, the foundation run a wildlife tour. You go in a small vehicle (like a long golf cart) and are shown all the enclosures in the sanctuary and told the stories about the different animals and how they were rescued and came to be at the Wildlife Friends Foundation.

This is the best place to see wildlife in Thailand because, in the jungle, you never know what you might see (or what you might not) and this is the best wildlife sanctuary to visit that means you experience the animals and support a much needed rescue centre in Thailand.

To book your stay, follow this link to see room options. Alternatively you can book on the website but I found they charged additional fees on my debit card (despite having a Thai bank account!) so I recommend going through Agoda to avoid this, click on the elephants below to compare room prices on Agoda!

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Whale Watching Thailand

One of the best ethical animal experiences you can have with marine life in Thailand is to go whale watching. Wild Encounter Thailand run amazing boat trips to experience whales just an hour from Bangkok. This makes it one of the top day trips to do from Bangkok and a must do for anyone who loves the ocean and seeing marine life in Thailand.

Information about seeing whales in Asia – Thailand

Where to see whales in Thailand?

You can see Bryde whales in the Upper Gulf of Thailand. The boat leaves from Samut Sakorn province, approximately one hour from Bangkok, making this one of the best day trips from Bangkok to experience.

When to see whales in Thailand?

The best time of year to go whale watching is between the months of August-October when the whales are feeding regularly in the Gulf of Thailand. They come here for the anchovies and mackerel.

What kind of whales can I see in Thailand?

Bryde whales are some of the biggest marine mammals in Thailand and can be seen here every year. Bryde (pronounced Bru-da) whales can reach up to 16metres long and live up to 60-70 years old. They are generally solitary animals but may come together for mass feeding events. Mothers and calves are seen together fairly often.

Why are they called Bryde whales?

They are named after a Norwegian man who used to hunt them. No comment on why he gets a whole species named after him.

What are the whales doing so near Bangkok?

The Bryde whales are often feeding, which is an awesome sight to see. You can also see these Thai whales swimming and on both my trips I was lucky enough to experience mothers and calves.

Where is the pick up spot?

Pre-covid Wild Encounter Thailand would run minivans  from Bangkok to Samut Sakorn but during covid times we took a taxi there independently.

Who runs the trip?

Khun Jirayu with Wild Encounter Thailand. He is extremely knowledgeable about the whales and many other animals and birds too. I am looking forward to my next trip after December to see Irawaddy dolphins!

Practical Questions about Whale Watching in Thailand

What is the boat like?

At the time of writing, Wild Encounter Thailand use a medium size boat. It has an air conditioned cabin in the middle with seats and coffee and water facilities. Two toilets at the back of the boat and viewing areas from the front and on the upper deck in front of the captain’s cabin.

What are the timings of the trip?

Our day trip to see the Bryde whales started from 8am in the morning and we arrived back at the pier at 3.30pm approximately. This did not include getting from Bangkok to the pier in Samut Sakorn.

The whale watching day trip includes lunch on the boat, we were offered various choices a few days before our trip, including vegetarian and vegan options.

Is the whale watching in Thailand child friendly?

Yes, there were families on our boat.

Are life jackets provided during the boat trip?

Yes we were informed during the boat briefing where life jackets were stored, including for children.

Can I swim with whales in Thailand?

Short answer, no. The whales are some distance from the boat and the visibility in the water is extremely poor so there would be no point  in swimming with the whales as you would not see them!

Might I get seasick on the boat?

While I personally did not feel seasick, one of my friends did when it was a little choppy. The water generally is calm but if you are prone to seasickness then this could affect you. The boat often stops to observe the whales so can rock during this time. Seasick pills were provided on board.

How much does whale watching cost?

At the time of writing we paid 2500 baht per person with a discount for being vaccinated. We also took an antigen covid test before boarding which was 200 baht. It was a DIY kit and we had the option to do before arriving if we wished to source our own test.

Marine Life Thailand: Irawaddy Dolphins

The third time that I did this whale watching trip from Bangkok I was lucky enough to see the very rare and endangered Irawaddy dolphin. We saw two pods of these adorable marine mammals on the same day as the whales!

What to wear to go whale watching?

The boat is comfortable and does have AC if needed. I would wear appropriate clothes for hot, tropical weather and take a light jumper as it can get windy. It can also be very sunny and hot so I recommend a cap and suncream.

I think whale watching is the best activity to do in Thailand and encourage others to experience the whales too!

You can find more information about Bryde whales here.

To reserve your spot on the trip then please contact Khun Jirayu via Facebook on Wild Encounter Thailand.

50 Things To Do in Bangkok, Thailand

A Chiang Mai local recently said to me ‘but yeah, there’s not much to do in Bangkok..’. Now while I agree that Chiang Mai has lots of adventure activities it left me feeling slightly indignant about Bangkok, my home for 3.5 years.

What cultural activities can you do in Bangkok? The best activities to do in Bangkok are on the below list:

Here is the list of my top 50 things to do in Bangkok that will never leave you feeling bored in this crazy Thai capital:

For a slimmed down version, read my must do and must see activities in Bangkok here

  1. Visit Bangkok’s temples

  2. Jim Thompson’s House Museum

  3. Drink at a skybar

  4. Party on Khao San Road

  5. Watch a Muay Thai match

  6. Do yoga

  7. Go to Thailand’s oldest cinema – Scala in Siam

  8. Eat street food

  9. Go wake-boarding

  10. Enjoy local nightlife at Bangkok’s clubs

  11. Go to  a Pilates lesson

  12. Go swimming

  13. Try a  Muay Thai boxing class

  14. Have a chocolate buffet afternoon

  15. Rent a bicycle and cycle around a park

  16. Have afternoon tea at a posh hotel

  17. Go to a ladies night for free flow prosecco

  18. Visit a cat café

  19. Go rollerskating

  20. Take a cycling tour

  21. Visit a butterfly house

  22. Go market shopping

  23. Volunteer

  24. Go to a theme park – Dream world

  25. Have lunch by the river

  26. Sing karaoke

  27. Spot monitor lizards in Lumpini park

  28. Explore Chinatown

  29. Cross the river to cycle around Bang Krachao

  30. Visit the flower market

  31. Go to an art gallery

  32. Visit the science museum

  33. Go iceskating

  34. Take a cooking class

  35. Take photos from a viewpoint – the Golden Mount temple

  36. Go on a river boat

  37. Visit a floating market – mostly food and souvenirs

  38. Snack at the Unicorn Café

  39. Go on Bangkok’s wheel at Asiatique

  40. Get a manicure or pedicure

  41. Relax with a massage – Thai or other

  42. Try SUP or knee boarding

  43. Paint your own picture at Paintbar

  44. Go surfing at Flow House

  45. Spend the day at a water park – I love Jungle water park in the North of Bangkok

  46. Party on a boat

  47. Eat cheap at a food court

  48. Watch a show – Siam Niramit

  49. Shop at a night market

  50. Take a salsa class at La Rueda, Asok

If you’re pressed for time and just want the ‘don’t miss’ activities check out my top things to do in Bangkok

If you have longer and feel the need to get out of Bangkok, read my post on exploring around Bangkok for day trips and weekend getaways

Moving on from Bangkok? Book your trains, buses and ferries here! Discounts available for multiple trips and tickets…



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Enjoyed my list of 50 things to do in Bangkok….then pin me for later!

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Best Weekend Getaways from Bangkok

Staying or living in Thailand and looking for the best weekend getaways from Bangkok? After living in Bangkok twice, both pre-covid and post covid I have visited many destinations near Bangkok and have done a lot of weekend trips outside of Bangkok.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a booking I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

Most Thailand visitors find themselves in Bangkok at some point during their trip. I find many people have a love/hate relationship with Bangkok and it’s my mission to try to convert tourists to loving this crazy city that I call home. If you love the beach, nature or history, read this Bangkok blog to find out where to visit for a weekend trip outside Bangkok.

Khao Yai National Park

One of my favourite short trips from Bangkok is to spend the weekend in the jungle. Khao Yai National Park is one of Thailand’s oldest national parks. If you love nature and the wilderness then, this is the best weekend trip from Bangkok. It takes approximately 2 hours to travel there from Bangkok. You can see wild elephants, monkeys, gibbons, snakes, porcupines, deer and many more inside Khao Yai National Park.

My top recommendations are to book a jungle day trip with Greenleaf Tours, who have awesome, knowledgeable tour guides and I have been with many times before.

The best budget place to stay near Khao Yai is Wynnhouse. I stayed here in 2022 and it was fairly accessible to head into the park from there although there are not that many restaurants around.

If you love camping, consider camping overnight in the park by renting motorbikes and heading into the park independently.

Please note there is a National Park entrance fee of 400 baht. Once you have entered you will be required to pay again if you leave and re-enter but not if you camp overnight (information accurate at time of writing in 2022)

How to get to Khao Yai National Park from Bangkok: Minivans from Ekkamai take about 2/3 hours and will drop you in Pak Chong.

Read here for more information about Thailand’s National Parks

Bangkok day trips
Get back to nature and spot wildlife in Khao Yai!

Best weekend getaways from Bangkok: Koh Samet

Koh Samet is one of the nearest islands to Bangkok and is therefore very popular with Bangkok residents. It has some lovely white sand beaches, particularly Ao Prao beach which boasts clear, turquoise water. At the weekends, it can become crowded and turns into more of a party island although it hasn’t yet returned to its pre-covid party glory.

I have stayed at two fantastic mid-range accommodation in Koh Samet and would recommend both. Pre-covid I stayed at the lovely Tubtim Resort which has spacious wooden bungalows bang on the beach, with green lily pads growing everywhere.

In 2021, post covid I enjoyed a very quiet beach on Koh Samet and loved staying at Silver Sands Koh Samet. 

How to get to Koh Samet from Bangkok?

Take a minivan ride to Rayong from Bangkok and then either take the local ferry or a shared speedboat. Both can be booked  when you arrive at the pier. Please note these boats do not run into the late evening.

Bangkok day trips
Koh Samet – Bangkok’s famous weekend trip island getaway

Weekend Trips from Bangkok to Lopburi

A few hours on the train from Bangkok (costing approximately 40 baht) you can find yourself in the ancient city of Lopburi, famous for its monkeys and temples. It’s all slightly off the tourist trail which might be a welcome sight for many. I recommend collecting a map of the different temples from the temple opposite the station and deciding on where to visit. All temples that I visited were walkable and there are certain ones that are home to huge families of macaques. Please be aware of not feeding the monkeys any food that is not natural for them. They also will grab your sunglasses or anything else in range so be careful.

If you feel like renting a scooter then you can access the gorgeous sunflower fields (seasonal around November- January) and the Peacock temple is worth a visit as well. Along with the birds there is also a great viewpoint if you feel like some exercise up many stairs.

lopburi bangkok day trip

lopburi bangkok day trip
Monkeys in one of Lopburi’s temples

Whale Watching (seasonal Aug-Nov)

Only two hours from Bangkok, the enormous Bryde whales can be seen! Entering the Gulf of Thailand to feed on anchovies these gentle giants are incredible and one of the coolest experiences I’ve had in Thailand. Wildlife Encounters Thailand offer weekly trips for 2500 baht including transfer from Bangkok and lunch on the boat. An amazing day out and still possible post covid in 2022.

I have recently been on this trip twice to see both the Bryde whales and Irawaddy dolphins in Thailand and absolutely love this day trip from Bangkok.

I have a whole blog post dedicated to whale watching in Thailand so please read here for more information about seeing whales near Bangkok!

For more about other wildlife in Thailand, read this article

Bangkok day trips
A Bangkok day trip that was a whale of a time!

 

Another island near Bangkok: Koh Lan

One of my favourite weekend getaways from Bangkok is Koh Lan which is an island just off of Pattaya. Cheap accommodation and a couple of beautiful white sand beaches are there to welcome you. This used to get very busy (pre-covid) with huge tour groups. Jump in a songtaew (truck) or motorsi taxi for 20-30 baht and spend the day exploring lesser known beaches and taking in great views of the island! I really enjoyed my stay at Castello resort, it’s walkable to the pier. However, my last weekend trip top Koh Lan was pre-covid so I am looking forward to a Bangkok weekend getaway there soon!

Find out more about Thailand’s paradise islands and where to visit

Bangkok day trips
Monks on a beach in Koh Lan, Thailand. A lovely Bangkok weekend trip

A weekend trip from Bangkok to Ayutthaya

An interesting and cultural Bangkok day trip or weekend trip to experience some Thai history. Head to this ancient temple town, one hour by train or minivan from Bangkok. Rent bicycles cheaply and enjoy cycling around and soaking in the culture of these ancient temples and a former capital of Siam. Don’t forget to try my favourite dessert roti sai mai – kinda like a rolled up candyfloss.

Bangkok day trips
The ideal cultural Bangkok day trip: explore the ruins of Ayutthaya

Best Weekend Trips from Bangkok: Kanchanaburi

If you are interested in World War II history, then Kanchanaburi is a must visit as a weekend or slightly longer trip from Bangkok. Tourists come here to see the bridge over the River Kwai and understand more about the dark history of this area where prisoners of war were held by the Japanese during World War II. It is quite far for a Bangkok day trip but I have done it before in one day. I recommend staying one night though. Two hours by car/minivan or a little longer on the train.

Weekend Trips from Bangkok to Erawan Waterfall

You can combine this with a Bangkok day trip or overnight stay from Kanchanaburi. Visit these stunning, blue coloured waterfalls with 9 steps inside Erawan National Park. Around 45 minutes by car from Kanchanaburi, bring a picnic and spend the afternoon swimming in stunning pools, cliff jumping and getting back to nature.

Bangkok day trips
Bangkok Day trips: Swimming in blue waterfalls in Erawan National Park

Beaches near Bangkok – Hua Hin

One of Bangkok’s nearest beaches and very big for kite surfing, this is definitely possible as a Bangkok day trip or weekend getaway. A large stretch of yellow sand beach for hanging out on and a wide range of accommodation is on offer here. Swimming is not always recommended as there are jellyfish lurking! Cha-am is another beach stop just before Hua Hin. You can take minivans or the slow train to either place from Bangkok.

Bangkok day trips
View of Hua Hin from Takiap Beach, a good Bangkok day trip or weekend visit.

Bangkok Weekend Trips: Water Park

Water parks are a great Bangkok day trip and a fun day out. There are many both towards Pattaya or towards Hua Hin. I loved Splashdown, near Pattaya. It is more of an inflatable obstacle course, this brightly coloured water park will have you and your mates running around behaving like big kids, plus a few beers!

Bangkok day trips
Big Kids Day out in Splashdown – funnily enough no-one made it all the way across these giant floating obstacle courses!

Where are your favourite places for a Bangkok weekend getaway? I’m always looking for more inspiration!