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This entire beach and bay is officially named Bangrak. However, it has become so common for foreigners to call it 'Big Buddha' after the huge statue at the top of the beach that even local Thais now sometimes follow and call it Big Buddha Beach, too.
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For clarity, we call the west side of the bay, away from the big statue, Bangrak Beach, and the east side close to the statue 'Big Buddha Beach'. Despite that they’re just different ends of the same two-and-a-half kilometre strip of sand, the two areas are indeed quite different, the west side (here) being much more quiet, the east end often bustling with people and activities.
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The sand and water on Bangrak are just mediocre. The beach is narrow and the water quite shallow. At very low tides big sand bars are exposed in front of many of the beachfront resorts here. At high tide the water might be just waist deep, barely OK for swimming, though water clarity is rarely good.
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The entire areas is urban, with buildings completely lining the beach. But this Bangrak end enjoys a more tranquil environment, firstly because it is away from the airport flight path that passes right over the Big Buddha sector. Here we find many more private homes than hotels, and most beach accommodations here are quite small. But the main reason this has less people is due to the considerable traffic in the Big Buddha area coming to visit the temple, the nearby fresh market and the big jetty that services ferries through the day. This end is also the location of nearly a dozen beachside bars used for sunset viewing.

Those who would like a quieter hotel, along with access to the attractions and facilities of Big Buddha, can quite easily find accommodation in Bangrak and use transport to the other end of the beach.
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Bangrak Beach has long been famous as a budget hotel area, but this is changing with the times. Today we find a number of hotels claiming 3- and 4-stars mixed in among the older, cheaper places.
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Many people – including this writer – use accommodation in the Bangrak area for convenient access. Multiple roads leading out of this area make it easy to get to all other parts of the island.
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by John Everingham

Advice on Thai beaches & beachfront hotels – free from the expert
Want help? E-mail John E, who has photographed 1,100+ beachfront hotels in this site and most beaches in Thailand, for help finding the perfect beach and beachfront hotel. john@beachf.com