The Pros are many for the dedicated Rayong fans
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Not well known among foreigners, Rayong is a popular Thai beach destination
Rayong has its dedicated fans, mostly Thai families in Bangkok who crave a weekend escape. For them the positive points of Rayong – often related to accessibility from Bangkok and avoidance of Pattaya-like crowds – significantly outweigh the negatives. But more and more foreigners are also coming to appreciate this quiet coast. Here we try to discover why.
Rayong takes 3 hours driving from Bangkok
Being three hours drive from the capital, Rayong is at the end of the line, the farthest of Bangkok's weekend beach getaways. It can even be reached in two and-a-half hours – if you can miss the traffic. Rayong thus sees far fewer people each Saturday and Sunday than the beaches closer to Bangkok. Also, the quiet, natural and more 'Thai' atmosphere here motivates those dedicated Rayong fans in Bangkok to take the little extra time for what they consider big benefits along this coast.
Rayong is very quiet, peaceful except during Thai holidays
As with the other beaches like Hua Hin, Cha-Am and Koh Samet whose principal function is to provide a weekend escape for Bangkok's stressed millions, Rayong is a beach destination that fills up on the weekends and is suddenly very quiet through the rest of the week.
This has real implications for foreign visitors, and while some might enjoy sharing their beach with lots of Thai families for two days per week, others might not. However, the Thais generally concentrate in a few specific locations, like the busy beach at Mae Pim. They don't come looking for solitude, for in Thai culture a beach full of people, activity, food and drink is an ideal beach for family fun.
weekends, when busy, still easy to find quiet places
While the beach and restaurants at Mae Pim throb with people and energy each weekend, the long Rayong coast still has endless peaceful escapes for those who seek a quiet, tranquil beach. While Thai families often stay in resorts scattered along lonely sectors of the coast, during the day they often drive down to Mae Pim to join the crowds. Here their children can meet others, and play in sand and water while the adults eat, drink and sleep in the shady underworld created by the joining of 1,000 beach umbrellas.
very 'Thai' for those seek Thailand, not a tourist resort.
With Pattaya and Jomtien having been overrun by foreign tourists, and Koh Samet is currently experiencing a transformation from 'Thai' to 'foreign' resort island, Rayong surely retains the strongest local flavour of all beach destinations in this part of the country. Those foreign visitors eager to avoid the tourist crowds and have a holiday in a distinctly Thai environment may find Rayong to their liking.
nearby Thai towns give a view of the 'real' Thailand
With relatively few foreign tourists in this part of Thailand, it is easy to find the 'real' Thailand – though you need a car to get about and hunt for it. Hiring cars and motorcycles is cheap and easy all over Thailand. From Rayong's beaches interesting urban centres and rural landscapes can be reached quite easily to both the east and west. Rayong provincial capital and the fishing port of Ban Pae lie to the west, and are closest. Rayong is one of the country's more industrialized areas, with lots of heavy traffic on the roads and a countryside that is far less natural.
Lying to the east, in stark contrast, Chantaburi is Thailand's richest fruit-growing province, and the source of its prized morn thong durians, plus rambutan, mangoes and myriad other tropical fruits that are exported across Asia.
Touring Chantaburi province and its rich orchids is an excellent way to discover the 'real' Thailand.
Mae Pim Beach; excellent seafood restaurants & market
When you find crowds of Thais eating enthusiastically, you can assume the quality of the Thai cuisine there is high. Thais are exceptionally finicky about the spicing and flavours of their food, and local restaurants that don't serve thing just right soon go out of business.
Mae Pim Beach has the biggest seafood market and strip of oceanside restaurants along this coast – a magnet for Thai families. Each restaurant has a display of live seafood, though in recent years these have seen the variety of ocean fish drop dramatically. Today many are farmed, or from fresh water. But most importantly, the flavours in the Thai food served all along this strip will be the real thing.
many activities for kids and families
Children look for fun on the beach, not peace and quiet. So those with young children can do no better than join the weekend exodus of Thai families and head for Mae Pim Beach, the really active part of Rayong. Children are kept engaged with lots of beach activities, and other kids to play with. Parents can find their bit of relaxation and distraction in the beach restaurants, all within good, safe view of sand, water and children. It's the Thai way to enjoy the beach, and it works well for families of all nationalities.
retire by the beach? Rayong condos for a quiet life
Rayong is just beginning to become widely known in the condo and retirement market. While nearby Pattaya and Jomtien are awash in high-rise condominiums, more choices are becoming available here each year. While the primary market for developers remains Thai families in Bangkok, the number of billboards appearing along the highways here in English tells us they are also eyeing the new market of foreign retirees. With this being both a new market, and further from Bangkok, expect better prices here than in Pattaya or Hua Hin. The number of foreigners occupying the condos is still relatively small, but expect this to change in the coming years as the older resort areas become increasingly congested, and more expensive.