Daily Archives: May 13, 2006

The Beaches of Rayong

Rayong beach

On the beachfront in Rayong

We often receive letters from people asking for information about beaches near Bangkok. The islands in Southern Thailand, like Koh Samui and Phuket, are world famous. But, sometimes people want to go somewhere a bit closer to Bangkok. The nearest beach to do as a day trip is Bangsaen in Chonburi. It is about 90 minutes from Bangkok. Not exactly the cleanest beach as this is the point where mangrove forest and mudflats become sandy beach for the first time. However, it is very popular with Thai people. 

Further down the same coast is the beach resort of Pattaya which is only 150 minutes away from Bangkok. This is still not a tropical paradise but it is slightly cleaner than Bangsaen. You could just about do this as a day trip but it is better to stay the night. Some people find Pattaya too sleazy and prefer to go to the northern end of the city and stay on Jomtien Beach. Pattaya is a good place to go if you want to be surrounded by foreigners and signs in English.

An alternative to Pattaya are the beach resorts of Cha-am and Hua Hin on the opposite coastline. The King spends a lot of time here so the city has remained more family orientated. Cha-am, which is about 3 hours south of Bangkok, is popular with Thai people during long weekends. A bit further down, you will find Hua Hin which caters for more upmarket tourists and has a mixture of both Thai and foreigners. The quality of the sand and sea is better than Pattaya.

So, where do I go for my beach holidays? I have been to all of the beaches mentioned above and I like them all for different reasons. I also enjoyed my trip to the Beach in Bangkok last year. Not many people know about that one. It is not in any guidebook that I own. It doesn’t exactly have any sandy beaches but you can enjoy the fresh sea breeze. But, that isn’t my favourite. You won’t find the beach I like to visit in any guidebooks. It only takes me two hours to drive there. It has clean beaches and clear water. Where is it?

The Beaches of Rayong

Playing on the Beach in Rayong

The nearest tropical island to Bangkok is Koh Samet in Rayong Province. A lot of foreigners and Thais go there for their holidays as it is a lot nearer than Koh Samui or Phuket. However, Rayong has other beaches on the mainland which are also worth checking out. This is what I have been doing for the last few days. Checking out the beaches for Thai Travel Blogs. It is a hard life, but someone has to do it. Actually, it is quite hard. We spent most of our time visiting and photographing more than a dozen different beaches. There wasn’t so much time for relaxing on the beach or swimming in the sea.

A number of my friends have visited Koh Samet. When I asked them if they have checked out any of the beaches on the mainland, they just replied that they didn’t know about them. It is not in Lonely Planet so foreign tourist don’t go there. Just Thai families. Rayong actually has over 100 kilometres of coastline. If you drive down in your own car then it will take just over 2 hours. We took the Bang Na-Trad tollway to Chonburi where we took the bypass to Highway 7. This is the same route for going to Pattaya. According to the road signs, there is a 30 kms difference between going to Pattaya and going to Rayong. At the end of Highway 7, you either turn right for Pattaya (another 25 kms) or turn left for Rayong (another 55 kms). Most people go to Pattaya. However, due to the traffic there, it can actually be almost as quick driving to the beaches of Rayong. I would go to Rayong any day.

Mae Ramphung Beach

Mae Ramphung Beach in Rayong

The first major beach in Rayong is 11 kilometres after the city. It is called Hat Mae Ramphung. This is my favourite beach and if you are coming here, then try to visit during the week. The place fills up at the weekend. We arrived here exactly two hours and ten minutes after leaving home. The beach is 12 kilometres long and so it is quite easy to find a deserted stretch like you can see in the above picture. The top of the beach is fringed with sea oaks which gives you some good shade. In many places you can park your car under the trees and have a picnic. But, you don’t have to bring your own food because there are many makeshift kitchens set up at the top of the beach. Each of these kitchens have deckchairs, beach umbrellas and low tables. You just sit down on one of these chairs and someone will come with a menu. This will be in Thai so you will need to know what you want to eat. The prices are reasonable. Fried rice with chicken is 30 baht and tom yum goong is 180 baht. They will also charge you 20 baht each for the deckchairs but you can stay there all day.

There are about 50 or so hotels and resorts along this road. Prices range from 400 baht to 6,000 baht per night. We stayed in the Rayong Beach Condotel which is about halfway along the beach. During midweek, a large room with mountain view, air-conditioning, tv and fridge and breakfast will cost you 600 baht. From Thursday night, this same room is 800 baht.  If you are looking for nightclubs and restaurants then you will be disappointed by this beach. There isn’t much here apart from a few minimarts and a dozen or so other shops. But, if you like peace and quiet then it is an excellent location. Even at busy weekends you can find a deserted stretch of sand. However, the downside to this is that the beach won’t be perfectly clean. You will see a certain amount of driftwood and other rubbish at the high tide line. But, it is not really a serious problem.

At the far end of this beach is Ban Kon ao which is a small fishing village. If you enjoy water sports then you can rent a banana boat here for 600 baht for a 30 minute ride. Otherwise you can rent innertubes or just relax on the deckchairs. As this is a Thai resort, most people swim in the sea with all their clothes on. They then spend the rest of the day eating, chatting and sleeping under the umbrellas at the top of the beach. Foreigners are a rarity here, so please dress decently and if you have to swim in your speedo, please cover up when you are walking around the beachfront. Ladies, please don’t go topless. Although most Thais won’t say anything, many of them are offended and shocked on how Westerners dress and behave on the beach.

I will continue with my beach review of Rayong tomorrow.

Mother’s Day v.s. Mother’s Day

It makes sense for Thais that the King’s birthday, December 5, the Father of the Country, is also Father’s Day. Ditto for the Queen’s birthday on August 12 and Mother’s Day.

In the U.S., though, Mother’s Day lands on every 2nd Sunday of May and 3rd Sunday of June for Father’s Day. That threw me off so badly my first few years here.

According to Wikipedia, Mother’s Day was originally conceived by social activist Julia Ward Howe during the American Civil War in 1870 with a call to unite women against war. She wrote the Mother’s Day Proclamation. Nowadays, the day is simply celebrates motherhood and thanking mothers…in the fantastically commercialized way!

Indeed, this weekend is made out to be yet another holiday to buy cards, flowers, and gifts for your moms, grandmothers, and other female friends who have kids, to show your love and appreciation. It’s a warm and fuzzy sort of holiday when everyone says, “Awwww….”

Look at me, I’ve sent so many Mother’s Day cards to folks that at some point I buy a 10-pack. You see, I’d send a card each to my best friend’s mom, my high school host mom, Brandon’s sisters, and some other friends with kids. Brandon’s mom and my auntie aka my other mom (friend of the family) get their own special cards. And of course, I bought one extra one to save for next August for my own mommy.

It’s a sweet holiday for the U.S. but in Thailand, Mother’s Day is more somber and has so much deeper meaning to me.

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A ride on a train… In Sydney!

Hello everybody!

Hope you’re all fine! I just have time to blog, so I promised more blogs, so I will try to make this one as interesting as possible!!
The topic of my blog is transport. I use public transport nearly everyday! I catch a bus and a train and in the end, it ends up being very costly! I do not get a student concession, which would half my fare because I work at a Public Teaching Hospital, and so the government pays me a fortnightly wage! Morning comes, I run to the bus stop and just make it!!
I get on the bus and it is crowded with school kids and business people! It costs me $1.70 49 baht for a 5 minute, one way trip and then I arrive at the station. The station hasn’t changed since I was a baby. Most of the shops have closed down, and it smells like seafood because there is a seafood shop next door!! 🙁 I queue for 5 minutes at the window and pay my $4.40 127 baht for a 5 minute return ticket!

the beautiful view

I walk to the station and the train comes!! OH NO!!! It is too full and no one can fit on the train!! Finally, another comes and I can squeeze on, touching everyone around me!! eww!! I get off the train only to be greeted by Sydney’s’ own ticket checker to try to catch fare evasion! Lots of people do it, but it has cut down now days. I show them my ticket and put it through the machine!

a classic silver train

There are 3 main trains, the old silver trains which are old! Tangara and the millennium train.. They never really took off because they were faulty!! And of course the interstate trains!

You always have to be careful because it is dangerous on trains..

I prefer BTS so much better… 😀

Trains are not the only way to travel here in Sydney! That’s another blog!

Well goodnight!!


Bang Rajan: From movie to real life?

One of the joys of visiting a country is the opportunity to get a feel for the history first hand. In preparation for my April trip I watched two movies based on important events in Thai history: “Suriyothai” and “Bang Rajan”. Both involve conflicts with Burma, the former a victory, the latter the “last stand” in the 1760s, before the Burmese finally conquered Thailand and destroyed the capital, Ayuthaya. The “Thai Alamo” is one way of describing it.

The monument to these events is in Sing Buri, at Khai Bang Rachan. This was only a short drive from where I was staying in north-west Ang Thong so late one morning I set off with one of my hosts.

The site includes an impressive monument, with characters immediately recognisable to anyone who has seen the movie. What is even more impressive is how many Thai people who turn up to this monument to pay their respects, which you can gauge from the number of incense sticks in the photograph.

Around the monument is a reconstruction of the village. The bamboo floors of the sleeping huts looked familiar from the movie, and were much more comfortable than I expected! There is also a building with various posters and models.

As well as the reconstruction there was, of course, a pleasant restaurant. Some lunch fortified us for some more sightseeing.

Across the road there are more artefacts and shrines. The weapons below are supposed to be from the period.

The images in the foreground of this photograph are also supposed to be originals from the time.

And, of course, there is a shrine to the chief monk of the village. Note the prominently-featured sword. Engaged Buddhism?

Of course, you do not need to see the monument to feel the history of central Thailand. The entire countryside in this area reminds you of the movie. The heat, the rice, and the flat landscape that seems to go on forever. It is not difficult to imagine the villagers frantically harvesting rice between Burmese attacks.

It is interesting to put these events into the historical context that we are more familiar with in the West. This was just before Cook’s voyages to New Zealand. Not long before the American revolutionary war and the French revolution. This was not some event of prehistory.

I was interested to have a close look at the Bot. I posted some photos of the recent ordination of a Bot in my home town here. Our Bot does not yet have the markers that you see here in front of and to the side of the building, above the buried Sima balls. The eight markers outside a Bot indicate the consecrated area.

I was pleased to have seen this monument to Thai history. Without some pre-trip preparation it might not have been so compelling. Of course, my preparation was watching a movie, a reconstruction. Still, for whatever reason, it was a moving experience.