At the Beach in Bangkok

In the spirit of adventure, I decided to kick off the new month by going somewhere that not many people have gone before. I went to the beach in Bangkok! Yes, you heard right. Bangkok actually has a beachside resort. Not many people know that. It is not even in the Lonely Planet. I first heard about it last year and then I saw a brief mention on tv the other day which reminded me. So, I decided to go and do some exploring.

Bangkok Beach is at Bang Khunthian. It is only about 5 kms wide and is squeezed between Samut Prakan and Samut Sakhon. You saw on my map the other day that this whole area is just shrimp farms and canals. Hardly any roads at all. On my map, there is a road that goes that direction from Samut Prakan but then suddenly stops. So, Bang Khunthian isn’t the kind of place you would pass on the way to somewhere else.

Like before, I had to take the expressway into Bangkok and then cross the river on the King Rama IX bridge. (Incidentally, there are some great views from the top of this bridge and it is a shame you cannot stop to take pictures!) I then drove along Rama II road towards Samut Sakhon. I have driven down this highway before. I have done several weekend trips to Cha-am and Hua Hin as well as a massive drive down to Phuket a number of years ago. After a while I started seeing road signs that said “Talay Bang Khunthian”. Some of them were really big. But, as usual in Thailand, they are good with signs that say straight on but they are not so good at telling you when to turn off! So, I missed the turning and had to do a u-turn. Twice!

I didn’t really have many clues about where to go or what to expect. I knew I could join a boat tour. But I didn’t really know where. Also, the road marked on my map suddenly stopped a long way from the sea! But, it turned out a little easier than expected. I eventually found the correct turning from Rama II road onto Bang Khunthian Road. After about 8 kms or so I saw a small sign on the left that said “ta reua” which means jetty. I wasn’t sure if it was what I was looking for, but there was a big parking lot and a number of factory outlets. I went in and eventually found the jetty. I was just in time, a tour was about to leave. For the record, the boat leaves at 11.30 a.m., 12.30 p.m., 2.30 p.m. 4.30 p.m. on weekends only. It then returns 90 minutes later. It only costs 100 baht for adults and 50 baht for children.

There were about a ten of us that climbed into the very long long-tailed boat. They gave us life jackets and took our photos. That reminded me of a newspaper report after the speedboat tragedy near Koh Samui. The government said that they would now make it compulsory for people to wear lifejackets and that everyone would be photographed. Of course, that made me a bit nervous. How far out to sea would we go in this flimsy boat? But, on my return, I soon discovered that they were taking pictures for a souvenir plate!

I enjoyed the boat trip very much. We went down some small canals passing houses on stilts and many many people fishing. In the photo above, the lady is using this contraption to catch fish. She lowered it into the water for a while and then quickly lifted it up hoping to catch some fish! The mangrove forest was lush and green. The wildlife was plentiful, we even saw some monkeys! On either side were fields of water! These are shrimp farms. You can probably guess that the main occupation for these people is fishing. And the main means of transportation is boat. Just about every house we passed had a boat moored underneath it. Some had two!

After about an hour we finally reached the sea. The concrete marker you can see above is the boundary between Bangkok and Samut Sakhon. It is a famous landmark which I have seen on tv. I guess this is what we all came for. We circled around it for a while. Our guide pointed east and said over there is Chulalongkorn Fort. Too far to see but it made me wonder how long it would take to get there by boat. Maybe quicker than the roundabout route I had to take to get here. If only I had my own boat! Actually, that is one of my dreams. Anyway, back to reality. In the photo on the right, you can clearly see a line of electricity poles. Apparently fishermen used to have huts here but the sea has long since eroded the land. From what I can tell, a lot of this shoreline has disappeared over the last number of years. Our guide said that you can sometimes see dolphins. But, we weren’t lucky today.

It is funny about the electricity poles. You are in the middle of no-where, but they have tv and electricty. Even the small wooden huts made from bamboo had a telelvision set. But, it looked like they didn’t have running water. Outside every house were about six or so large klong jars to catch rain water. This would be their only source of clean water. The houses also had numbers, so I wonder if the postman came down here in his boat to deliver the mail? Some canals in Bangkok even had mobile banks!

Near the stone marker, we stopped at a restaurant built on stilts high above the water. There were quite a few people here eating lunch. Our guide only gave us 15 minutes to get out and stretch our legs. While I was walking around, I noticed several more boats arrive with tourists. It was too soon for another boat to come so I deduced that there must be another company operating boat tours. I decided that when I got back to the car I would drive further down the road as far as I could and see what else was on offer. I also wanted to see if the road between here and Samut Prakan had been built yet. If it had, then that would be a quicker way of getting back.

I will tell you more of my explorations tomorrow. Find out what happens when I literally drive off the map!


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