Although Thailand may not have vast deserts, gigantic canyons or towering snowpeaks, the kingdom’s scenic routes enchant with their tropical beauty, and bring you close to a unique culture and way of life.
Road to Nam Nao National Park, Phetchabun
Beautiful Deciduous Forest
The road from Lom Sak in Phetchabun Province to Nam Nao National Park is a quite sensational drive. The scenery of majestic mountains, linked together across dark ravines by Phor Khun Pha Muang Bridge (Huai Tong Bridge), is simply stunning. The bridge is supported by the tallest column in Thailand and it is possible to stop to take pictures at the road-side rest area before driving across the bridge to the National Park.
Many people use this road only to go to Chum Phae in Khon Kaen, but for nature loving travellers this road makes a most enchanting drive, with the pine forests of the Phetchabun Range embracing both sides of the road. Along the way to the Office of Nam Nao National Park are a few viewpoints where travellers can enjoy the bewitching views of sunrise or sunset and take photos. At Pho Koh, travellers can view the first light of day shining on the sea of clouds that cloaks the montane forest, while for a great sunset view, make a stop at Tham Pha Hong Cave viewpoint. There is a 300-metre trail from the parking area, through a bamboo forest, to a cave which is also the viewpoint for the sunset. Hidden further down in deciduous forest is Haew Sai Waterfall, suitable for swimming.
Nam Nao National Park, Amphoe Lom Sak, Phetchabun
Road to Chalerm Phrakiat 80 Phansa Bridge, Phatthalung
Travel Over a Wetland Habitat on the Longest Road Bridge in Thailand
The official name of this road bridge is Chalerm Phrakiat 80 Phansa 5th December, BE 2550 Bridge, since its completion commemorated the 80th birthday of King Rama IX. Before it was built, as part of Songkhla Lake Basin Development Project to join roads between Phattalung and Songkhla, locals had to use a dirt road for commuting.
Chalerm Phrakiat 80 Phansa Bridge covers a distance of 14 km over Songkhla Lake wetlands, making it not only the longest road bridge in Thailand but also one of the most beautiful roads in the country. The wetland ecosystem on either side of the road was nominated as one of the Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance. This vast area of wetland is rich with vegetation and indigenous and migratory birds, making the area very scenic. The road bridge is also a good spot to watch buffalo grazing in a way unique to Pattalung: the buffaloes can dive down to eat grass under water during the flood season and are known as ‘the water buffaloes of Phattalung’.
The road bridge is in Amphoe Khuan Khanun,
Phatthalung and leads to Amphoe Ranot, Songkhla, and also has a cycle lane.
Road to Thung Bua Tong, Mae Hong Son
The Legendary Road Trip of Muang Sam Mok
Actually, Bua Tong is a kind of weed sometimes named the Mexican Sunflower, which normally needs to be controlled from spreading. This has turned out to be a blessing for the villagers in Tambon Mae U Kho, however, since the weather and geographical conditions of Doi Mae U Kho are not suitable for farming. Bua Tong has spread and covered thousands of hectares of the mountain’s slopes, making the drive up through the area unforgettable.
In winter (November and December), the whole mountain is covered by the yellow flowers and their green leaves and the winding road reveals spectacular views of mountain ranges alternating with Bua Tong fields. The amazing scenery certainly adds charm to this road.
If you want to avoid the crowd during peak season, go earlier, during the rainy season, for a different view. Before the flowers appear, the whole mountain is lush and green.
Thung Bua Tong, Doi Mae U Kho, Amphoe Khun Yuam, Mae Hong Son
About 12 km from Doi Mae U Kho is Mae Surin Waterfall National Park, with one of the highest waterfalls in Thailand.
Chalerm Burapa Chollathit Road, Chanthaburi
Romantic Route of the East
Passing through Chonburi, Rayong, Chanthaburi and Trat, Chalerm Burapa Chollathit is a popular road in the Eastern region of Thailand and recognised as one of its most beautiful scenic routes. The best part of this road is in Chanthaburi, where it passes many tourist attractions between Khung Wiman Beach and Noen Nang Phaya, the viewpoint overlooking the road as it curves around the mountains’ feet, next to the sea. At Noen Nang Phaya, lovers can attach a ‘love lock’ to symbolise their love. Another place worth visiting is Kung Krabaen Bay Royal Development Study Centre, an important organisation that works to revive mangrove forests.
Continuing along the Eastern Seaboard, there are more stops where you can enjoy looking at the scenery or take photos, such as watching the sunset from Khao Bo Toei Viewpoint, in Khung Kraben Wildlife Reserve. The reserve also has a unique geological landscape: a rock pavement of pink feldspar. At Pak Nam Khaem Nu Viewpoint, you can watch traditional fishing or drive over Taksin Maharat Bridge for a fantastic sea view and find out about Chanthaburi’s history during the time of French colonisation in Indochina.
A cycle lane runs alongside the main road and has become a firm favourite among Thai cyclists. There are also many hotels and resorts along the way, making it easy for you to break your journey wherever you like.
The most beautiful viewpoint is at Noen Nang Phaya, Amphoe Na Yai-arm, Chanthaburi
Route in Amphoe Mae Cham, Chiang Mai
Town of Beautiful Paddy Fields and Impressive Culture
Imagine going for a drive in the rainy season along a road winding through green rice terraces, or during the harvest season when the rice terraces turn golden. To left and right are charming rustic scenes of farmers gathering their crops. For many, this must be their dream road.
Popular in holiday snapshots since the advent of smartphones and social media, the beautiful rice terraces of Amphoe Mae Cham also attract more serious landscape photographers. There are many attractions to visit along the rice-terrace road, such as Ban Kong Kan on the road to Wat Buddha En, Ban Teen Pha’s rice terraces and farms, Mae Parn’s viewpoint overlooking rice terraces and to watch the sunset, and the must-visit Ban Pa Bong Piang’s rice terraces, which have recently gained popularity. It might be a bit difficult to reach Ban Pa Bong Piang and there is no phone signal but you will be compensated by the unforgettable view of the rice terraces.
While you can simply stop your car and visit many of Mae Cham’s rice terraces, others may require a bit of planning and prior arrangement with locals, because access is only possible by 4-wheel drive vehicle.
Rice terraces are most beautiful from August to October (green terraces) and in November (green and golden terraces waiting to be harvested)
Road along the Mekong in the North-eastern Region
The Beauty of Indochina’s Main River
No river road in Thailand can beat the road along the Mekong, the great river of Southeast Asia. One might say that the Mekong is the river that embodies the country’s north-eastern region.
It takes at least a week to fully enjoy the beauty of each province along this majestic river.
If time allows, start your trip in Loei and drive to Chiang Khan, which is a very popular destination. The old town is full of traditional houses on the riverbank, plenty of shops, and guest houses. From Chiang Khan, drive to sleepy Nong Khai, a border province opposite Vientiane, and continue to Bueng Kan, the youngest province in Thailand. Bueng Kan is home to many beautiful temples; especially the fascinating Wat Ahong Silawas, where you can see Sadeu Namkong (the Mekong River’s Navel) a whirlpool in the Mekong.
From Bueng Kan, head to Nakorn Phanom, passing a spot in the river near Chai Buri, where the water naturally has two colours, before paying homage at Tha Uthen Pagoda. Drive through the town along the river to visit an important temple in Franco-Vietnamese architectural style. It is worthwhile staying overnight here and surrendering to the charms of Mekong riverside life.
If you still have time, head South to Mukdahan, a small, peaceful province where interesting attractions line the river road: ancient temples, the Roman Catholic Martyrs of Song Khon Church, shops and trendy accommodation in the city.
If you wish to explore beyond the Kingdom, there are three Friendship Bridges that cross over to Laos from the Northeastern River Road; Nong Khai-Vientiane, Nakhon Phanom- Khammouane, and Mukdahan- Savannakhet.