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?
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 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.