Category Archives: Rayong

What to do on Koh Samet


This is the last in my series of blogs about my visit to Koh Samet and Rayong. I did enjoy myself during this trip to this beautiful tropical island in Thailand. It was a shame that my time was limited. I really want to make a return trip though I will make sure it is during the week to avoid the crowds. In this blog I want to tell you a bit about some of the activities you can do on this island other than sunbathing and swimming.

I told you before how I walked from Sai Kaew beach down the coast to Ao Thap Thim. On the map the island doesn’t look that big but it will take you some time to walk down the coastline. Your alternative is to go on a boat tour (I will talk about this in a minute) or to rent a motorbike. This costs 100 baht per hour or 300 baht for the day. (On smaller beaches it will be 400 baht for the day.) It is advisable to rent for the day as it is better value for money. I had to leave my Thai driver’s license with the guy though I guess a passport would be just as good. I have very limited experience driving a motorcycle and so I wasn’t too sure if this was going to be a good idea. However, for a little extra, I rented an automatic motorcycle which was exactly like riding a bicycle. No need to worry about changing gears or anything.

The roads around the island are pretty bad and I imagine would be impassable during the rainy season. Be careful when you are driving because of  the hairpin bends and loose gravel on the roads. As I was approaching the crest of a hill, someone came over the top towards me and right in the middle of the road. He hesitated about which side to pass me on and ended up falling off his bike at my feet! The songtaew buses go up and down this road, so best to drive slowly and carefully. Try to stay on your side of the road but that is not always easy due to the many holes. The signs for each beach are posted in both English and Thai so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding your way around.


When you arrive on the island you will see notices on just about every beach advertising boat trips around the island. Prices for these start at 350 baht per person. A six hour trip around the island costs from 400 baht which is good value for money. The trip includes snorkeling, fishing, lunch and a visit to a fish farm which has sharks and turtles. Use of mask and fins are included in the price. For 600 baht you can visit some of the nearby islands. The full day tour runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Or a shorter day is 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Night fishing trips start at 6 p.m.

On the more popular beaches like Hat Sai Kaew you can take part in various watersports. You can rent a jet ski for 1,200 baht for 30 minutes. Or, if there is a group of you, try a ride on a banana boat which costs 700 baht for a 30 minute ride. Swimming in the sea is free of course though will cost you 30 baht to sit on the deckchairs. In the evening, restaurants on Hat Sai Kaew lay out mats on the beach with traditional Thai triangular cushions to lean on. However, with mosquitoes biting my ankles I didn’t fancy staying out too late. It wasn’t that long ago that Malaria was eradicated from the island. So, make sure you take appropriate precautions.

I think I have only scratched the surface here. The island is a national park after all. So, you can also go on walks into the interior. There is plenty of beautiful natural scenery to see. However, if sunbathing is your thing, then it is easy enough to walk down the coastline to find a quiet and secluded beach. I wouldn’t say Koh Samet is the perfect tropical island. I have seen a lot better in Australia. However, it is the nearest tropical island to Bangkok. There is no doubt I will be going back again. Though I wouldn’t necessarily spend all my time on the island. I found the beaches on the mainland to be more convenient and therefore more relaxing.

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.

Koh Chang to Rayong

I was telling you yesterday about our stay on Koh Chang. The next morning we checked out and caught the car ferry back to the mainland. I unfortunately hadn’t brought my maps of Rayong nor any of my multitude of guidebooks. I did remember some things about the area but I couldn’t remember any specifics. As I mentioned before, my map book of Thailand was pretty pathetic. From the car ferry we were soon back on highway 3 which is more commonly known as Sukhumwit Road. This took us through Chantaburi which is famous for its fruit. They were selling so much fruit alongside the road that we just had to stop. The rambutans were really delicious and so cheap. Only 10 baht a kilo compared to 19 baht here in Samut Prakan. I bought three kilos. From here we kept driving along highway 3 and past the intersection at Klaeng. This is the shortcut back to Bangkok on highway 344. Remember I told you that we were “robbed” by the highway police along this road? So, instead we kept driving along Sukhumwit Road towards Rayong.

A short while later we came a across a sign for the Sunthorn Phu Monument and a place called Cape Mae Phim. I have already written several times about Sunthorn Phu but I wanted some pictures of this memorial for a blog I am planning to write on his birthday next month. The idea of visiting the cape also sounded interesting. As soon as we turned off the highway we were on our own. This road wasn’t marked on my map. But, it felt right and we were confident. Well, sort of. We had our fingers crossed that this road would lead us down the coast towards Rayong!

The monument wasn’t really that impressive and hardly worth a detour. We stopped briefly to take some pictures. We then kept driving until we finally reached Cape Mae Phim. Bingo! This was more like it. An extremely long beach with clean sand and blue sea. The atmosphere reminded me of Bangsaen but only a fraction of the people. As the beach was so long it would have been easy to find a secluded spot. This was a typical Thai resort. At the top of the beach there were deckchairs and beach umbrellas in the shade of tall trees. Then there was a stretch of empty beach and then the sea where fully clothed people were jumping up and down in the water.

We decided to continue driving along the coast road. We were impressed but we didn’t really want to stay in the first place we found. There might be better. After a while the road took us inland and then back to the sea for more beaches called Suan Wangkaew and Suan Son. A bit further up I spotted a large island which obviously was the famous Koh Samet. I haven’t been there yet. I will save it for another trip. By this time we were in a market town with narrow streets. Here we found many piers advertising boat trips to the island. Some said “open 24 hours”. I noted that there were places where you could safely park your car while you visit the island.

We continued driving until we came to Mae Ramphueng Beach. This one was also good. It also seemed to be more popular as there were more choices of hotels. However, I think the best thing is that this beach was 12 kilometres long. Easy to choose a quiet spot here. So, we decided to stay here the night and then drive back home the next day. We found a luxurious hotel with a very large room for 900 baht for the night. As it was still early afternoon and more importantly a blue sky, we quickly unpacked the car and got changed into our swimming gear.

Now comes the time to compare this beach experience to the one we had on Koh Chang. However, this is not easy as it is so different. First of all, we were in a proper hotel this time. Also, to reach the beach we had to cross a road. Like I mentioned before, this beach had deckchairs and tables at the top of the beach. All of this was shaded by trees. We paid 40 baht for a table and then went for a swim. Of course, this time we had to keep an eye on our clothes while we swam. For this beach holiday we needed some money which we had hidden away in our clothes.

Koh Chang has a lot of advantages with the bungalows. But, I like the set-up in this traditional Thai style beach resort. After swimming we went back to our deckchairs. You cannot sunbathe here because the whole area is shaded by trees. Of course I could have dragged my deckchair into the sunlight but I would have been the only person doing this on the entire 12 kilometre stretch of beach! So, I stayed where we were. Now came the best part. After a short while, some people came up with menus! We basically could order anything. In fact, you could just stay there all day and eat and drink. Everything you need will come to you. And the price was very reasonable too. I was impressed.

The question is now, which holiday destination would I return to next time? That is difficult. They both had good attributes. However, I am tempted to come back to Rayong next time as there is a lot more to explore here. But do you know what the best thing is? When I drove back on Sunday afternoon, it only took two and a half hours! It usually takes two hours to reach the beaches in Pattaya even though it is much closer. This fact alone makes Rayong an attractive location for another beach holiday. I am also tempted to explore the area to look for a holiday home! I saw some condos being sold for only 500,000 baht! But, I suppose I should start saving my pennies first.