The islands of Koh Samui and Koh Tao, which attract thousands of visitors each year, are the most popular destinations for beachgoers in Thailand. But the truth is that Thailand is a tropical paradise regardless of where you land – even if it involves flying into Bangkok first.
Bangkok is one of Southeast Asia’s most populous cities, with a population of over 10 million people. As a result, skyscrapers and urban attractiveness are more popular than sunbathing by the water. You still have options though if you’re in the city for a while and crave some sand and sea. You may still experience the best of both worlds near to the capital, from little islands just outside the city to larger coastal towns a day drive away.
Koh Kood is around 4.5 hours from Bangkok, near the Cambodian border, so it’s more of a weekend getaway rather than a day excursion. Koh Kood is just as beautiful as the famous islands in the country’s south, although it is far less well-known among international tourists. As a result, you’ll enjoy a calm stretch of white beaches and dense tropical jungles virtually entirely to yourself for the most of the year.
On the island, there is virtually little development, no public transit, and mostly only dirt roads linking resorts and a few small fishing communities. The most developed of the beaches here is Klong Chao Beach, which has a few stores and restaurants, a couple of 5-star resorts, and a few bungalows right on the sand.
Bang Bao Beach and Klong Hin Beach both have less expensive and simpler lodgings, but both have equally excellent stretches of beach and breath-taking views of the bay’s azure seas.
Ao Tapao is the island’s longest beach, with minor sections of unspoiled sand at the extreme end. The only beach that cannot be reached by land is Ao Noi. However, grab a kayak and paddle your way to the lovely white sands to enjoy the peace and quiet in near-total privacy.
Ao Manao (Lime Bay) is a crescent-shaped bay in the province of Prachuap Khiri Khan, about four hours south of Bangkok. Tourists are welcome to explore the tree-lined beachfront, which is nominally owned by the local military post.
The bay is mostly undeveloped and provides dark blue-green waters, clean beaches, and a few food kiosks selling ice cream, fish, and cool drinks. Steep limestone outcrops flank the background, providing enough opportunity for great photography, hiking, and climbing. The Khao Lommuak viewpoint is not far away, and it is home to hundreds of friendly dusky leaf monkeys.
Although Pattaya is the closest beach resort to Bangkok, its congested traffic and sleazy nightlife deter many visitors. The secret is to go to Navy Beach (also known as Had Sai Kaew), which is about a 20-minute drive away from Pattaya’s downtown. It’s private and serene, away from the hustle and bustle, surrounded by tropical vegetation and lapped by beautiful blue waves. There are no hotels and only a few basic seafood restaurants on the island. Rent a scooter (which is easy to do in Pattaya town) and arrive early in the day before the excursions start.
Koh Si Chang Island
Few international tourists visit Koh Si Chang. The island sees a lot of shipping barges docked in its port, and it’s usually only crowded on weekends, when Bangkokians looking for a quick getaway make the short trip down. Hat Tham Phang, on the west side of the island, is the sole beach here, and it has some lovely white sand for swimming. It’s also worth visiting merely to wander around the little island and see the quirky temples, clifftop sunset vistas, and a historic colonial palace built by King Rama V. There is lots of wonderful seafood available at reasonable prices, and there are none of the difficulties associated with the more popular islands. On Koh Si Chang, residents go about their daily lives, with tourists playing only a minor part of the local economy.
Ban Krut remind the old Thailand’s days. While it is popular with Bangkokians, especially on weekends and holidays, it is still off the beaten path for most tourists. There aren’t many pubs or shopping malls, but if you want peace and quiet along a 5-kilometer stretch of sandy beach, this is the place to go. There are a few fairly priced resorts here, but there isn’t much to do but hike up to the stunning Khao Tong Jai pagoda, a golden palace perched on a mountain overlooking the beach’s northern end. Ban Krut is a fantastic getaway, only 3-4 hours from Bangkok.
Bang Pu Beach
It is located in Prachuap Khiri Khan with green rock, stone mountain hill and blue sky. Within few hours from Bangkok, this is a beach with very few tourists. Bang Pu is a quiet half-moon in the western province of Prachuap Khiri Khan, bordered by hilly capes and home to a small fishing community. There are few hotels, and the surrounding mountains, which are protected as a national park, are alive with the sounds of more than 355 different species of birds. Bangkok is a short three-hour drive away, or a more pleasant four-hour train ride through the city of Hua Hin.