To have a good beach holiday, most people also need to have entertainment other than just the sand and surf. During my recent holiday in Rayong, I stayed on Mae Ramphung Beach. I did enjoy myself there but as I had a car it made sense to explore the area a bit more. From our beach, it took us about ten minutes to drive to Ban Phe which is the nearest town. For most backpackers, this is the jumping off point for ferries to the nearby Koh Samet island. You can catch a bus from Bangkok all the way to this busy fishing port. It will take you at least three hours by bus. There are no beaches along the waterfront here and that is why most foreign tourists don’t think there are good beaches on the mainland. Their guidebook also tells them that there isn’t much to see in the town so they spend their time waiting for the ferry on the pier. They are missing so much.
The fish market here is very active and if you arrive early in the morning you can watch them bringing in the catch. We bought some oysters from a fisherman which was really fresh as we watched him carry them off his boat. The price was good and for a little extra his wife even boiled them for us. A bit further up, there are dozens of shops selling souvenirs to the tourists. Apart from the seashell decorations for your house, most people buy seafood. Like dried fish, squid and fish sauce. You can also buy preserved fruit. One of the favourites seemed to be fried durian. Another attraction in this seaside town is the aquarium. I wasn’t going to go at first as it wasn’t long ago that I had visited Siam Ocean World in Bangkok. But, as I only had to pay 20 baht compared to 450 baht for the one in Bangkok I decided it wouldn’t hurt. Plus the air-conditioning was a welcome break from the heat outside. The place wasn’t too bad though all the signs and descriptions are in Thai. It seems a bit unfair that foreign tourists have to pay 50 baht when they would get less out of a visit than Thai tourists. But, that is life.
Suan Son Beach
From Ban Phe, I continued my journey eastwards along the beach road. I soon came to an avenue of pine trees that formed a kind of tunnel over the road. The beach here is called Suan Son and it was even more deserted than the beach where we were staying. From here there are some fine views of Koh Samet which is only 40 minutes away by ferry boat. Like the other beach, you can have a picnic in the shelter of the trees. Or, if you drive further down, you will find a number of makeshift kitchens as well as deckchairs and beach umbrellas. Apparently this 4 km stretch of beach gets very crowded at the weekend when Thai families arrive in their cars from Bangkok. You will find about 20 hotels along this road with prices ranging from 300 baht to 6,000 baht.
Laem Mae Phim Beach
After Suan Son Beach, the road goes inland for a while. Along the way you will pass a few signs for beaches. Most of these are in Thai. We followed a few signs and found some very quiet beaches with limited facilities. Usually just one restaurant. Along this road we also saw many hotels and resorts which presumably had their own private beaches. We kept driving until we finally reached Laem Mae Phim Beach. This is about 45 kms east of Rayong city. The first part of the beach was very quiet and deserted. It looked ideal. Then, a short while later, the road suddenly became four lanes with parking on both sides! Although there were only a few cars as it was midweek, it was obvious that this beach becomes very crowded over the weekend. If you want to stay here, there are plenty of hotels to choose from. Most of the rooms are quite big as Thai families usually save money by staying in the same room. There are all the usual facilities which include jet skiing, banana boats and inner tubes. At the far end there are restaurants overlooking the beach where you can sit down at tables to have a meal. Otherwise you can sit on the deckchairs and have a meal on the beach.
During the week you will have the beach to yourself
Our initial plan was to stay on the mainland for only one night and then catch the first boat to Koh Samet the next morning. I had never been there before and I wanted to compare the beaches on the island to what I had already experienced in Rayong. However, we woke up to the sound of thunder and then later a storm. We decided that if it was going to rain then we would be more comfortable staying on the mainland. The hotel room had a big balcony and I also had my car. More things to do here. As it turned out, the weather did clear up later though it was still overcast. For sunworshippers this would have been disappointing. But, this is Thailand and the water is still nice and warm. You can even go swimming in the rain with no problem. This day was actually the best for us as it meant we could spend more time in the water. On other days it was so hot that we could only go swimming in the early morning and late afternoon. The temperature was peaking at 40 Celsius!
In my next blog, I will tell you about our experiences on Koh Samet.
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