Bangkok Beaches: Sun, sand and sea
Thailand is a country of many guises. In the north there are the Karen tribes and their long-necked folk, the sun-scorched hills and canyons of Pai, and the mysterious temples of Chiang Mai. In the jungles of the center, you've got gushing waterfalls and beautiful winding rivers, along with rolling plains of rice paddies and the occasional stupa of the long-gone Siam kings. And then there are the cities, which pulse and throb with energy and action.
And none more so than Bangkok, the capital of the Land of Smiles and a veritable hodgepodge of steamy street stalls, endless bazaars and fascinating temples. A fine place to visit and the perfect intro to the country, the place can also get a little overwhelming. That's why so many locals make a beeline for the beaches on their days off. You can too, especially with these stretches of powdery white sand and palm-backed tropical Bangkok beaches all within easy reach…
Just a couple of hours south on one of those neon-lit VIP buses from the heady fray of Khaosan Road and you could find yourself strolling up the seaside strips of buzzing Hua Hin. Thanks to its proximity to the capital and cocktail of party bars, great guesthouses and powdery beaches, this district on the Thai Gulf has long been one of the most popular weekend beach breaks for the people of Bangkok. Granted, it's not got the paradisiacal white-hued sands of some of the islands and coves that thread their way along the Andaman to the south, and there's perhaps just a little tackiness in those rows of high-rise hotels that line the shore, but there are the wonderful mangroves and caves of Sam Roi Yot National Park to see, and there are few beach towns quite as accessible as this one from the big city!
Ah, Pattaya: the beach town whose reputation precedes it. Hailed as Thailand's sex capital, arcs of ivory-white sand and swaying coconut palm gardens play second fiddle to what goes on after dark here. That means hefty all-nighters in the clubs that line Beach Road and Walking Street; it means bucket cocktails and frothy Chang beers between the holes-in-the-wall on Soi 7 and Soi 8; it means red light joints and seedy dancing dives by the hundred. And when the 'Changovers' set in after a long night on the town, you can kick-back on the sands of Ao Pattaya and dabble in the aquamarine waters of the Gulf. For many, it's the first stop on the ocean as you move down the eastern side of the country, and a great place to party before delving into the wilds of Cambodia further afield.
Located on the main railway line as it weaves between the karst mountains and the shore south out of Bangkok, the beachside hotspot of Ban Krut is often overlooked by western tourists in the Land of Smiles. However, because it takes just five hours in the car to get here from the big city, the destination is a really popular weekend getaway for dwellers of the capital. It's easy to see why too! Long stretches of palm-backed beach slant down to meet the Thai Gulf; the occasional hill rises, jungle-clad, above; headlands jut out into the ocean and slanting patches of golden sand offer ample room for sunbathing in private. Travellers can also add in a trip to the Golden Buddha, and enjoy some of the best deep-sea fishing treats in the country. Spicy red snapper anyone?
Okay, so it's hardly a hop skip and a jump to the beautiful island of Phuket from the capital at Bangkok, but this mountain-studded province that juts into the Indian Ocean is worth a mention thanks to the presence of its very own airport. Yep, super-cheap flight connections here run several times a day from the city's Don Mueang International, take just over one hour from take-off to landing, and get travellers within easy striking distance of beaches like party-mad Patong, built-up Karon, brilliant Bangtao, and powdery Kamala. What's more, these sands really don't hold back on the tropical beauty front, meaning they've got all the shimmering white colours and lapping turquoise surf Thailand's so famed for! (LBW head here on out sun-drenched Island Teaser West itinerary – just sayin').
Another pearl of southern Thailand that makes it onto this list on the merit of its own on-island airport is Koh Samui, which can be reached on a one-hour flight that runs nearly 20 times every day of the week from the capital's Suvarnabhumi Airport. And what picture-perfect, tropical treats await the passenger willing to make that short hop? Well, only some of the most celebrated and famed beaches in the country, nay, all of Southeast Asia – that’s what! Check out the shining sands along the north shore coves, the backpacker reaches of Maenam Beach, two-kilometer-long Bophut, lively little Chaweng and Lamai – the list goes on… (Oh, and just so you know, we pass this way on our much-loved Treasures of Thailand trip!)
Cha-am is another locally-popular Bangkok beach getaway for Thais heading down south from the capital on the weekends, located just a little closer to the city from the aforementioned sands of Hua Hin. Beloved of families and older folk, the vibes here are noticeably more wholesome than in the Land of Smiles' other hedonistic resorts. That doesn't make it a bad thing, so long as you're happy sipping casual beers on the bay and retiring to watch the sunset early on. Cha-Am Beach is really lovely too, with the occasional peppering of boulders and the perpetual wash of the Thai Gulf; fringes of leaning palm trees and some welcoming local eateries that abut the shore.
Finishing off this list of Bangkok beaches with an offering of long and calm sands that are just a short two-hour drive from the big city is the province of Rayong. Lined with the occasional resort hotel but still largely unscathed by the onset of mass package tourism, this region boasts some of the most laid-back coastal enclaves for travellers departing the capital. However, it's best known as the jumping off point for the island of Koh Samet: A tropical wonderland that's fringed with gorgeous, alabaster-white beaches and dressed in a blanket of wild jungle. This is where you'll find the gorgeous kilometer of Diamond Beach, shimmering Ao Pai, and the windsurf-spotted waters of Ao Wiang Wan – all truly eye-wateringly handsome sands!
Can you think of any other beaches close to the capital that you think our readers may love? We'd love to hear about them in the comments below. Or, if you're ready to head to the Land of Smiles and start exploring gorgeous Bangkok beaches like the ones mentioned above? Be sure to check out our offering of itineraries for Thailand.
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