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.

and the Cons– what's the problem with Plain Jane Rayong?

In any comparison of beaches in Thailand we cannot escape the vision of countless picture-perfect stretches of coconut-fringed sand on the country's southern islands and the Andaman coast. Comparisons get tough for Plain Jane Rayong when it is lined up against Thailand's finest tropical beauties.
Rayong's loong straight beaches not particularly beautiful

Rayong's most obvious problem is one that is common to virtually all beach destinations high in the Gulf of Thailand – the beaches look nothing like the amazing tropical beauties photographed on the country's southern islands, or the Andaman coast. In comparison, the beaches here are mundane. Quiet and undeveloped, yes, but not spectacular in any way. The photos in the galleries here, covering all beach destinations across Thailand's two oceans, tell this story better than any words.
Rayong's geography is flat and boring, few interesting features

The geography of Rayong is generally flat and featureless. There are few headlands cutting the beaches, and no mountains or bays to provide topographical interest. This boringly flat landscape also means there are few attractions, places to visit or things to do. In some people's estimation, Rayong is one of the more boring beach destinations in Thailand.
popular beaches get weekends crowds from Bangkok

The weekend crowds on Mae Pim Beach are a plus for most Thai families, who come looking for weekend fun, not beach solitude. So foreign visitors in pursuit of tranquillity for a complete chill-out on a tropical beach should understand that come weekends, the Bangkok crowds will arrive.

However, since the locals use their cars to descend upon Mae Pim during the day – no matter where they are accommodated – it is still easy for seekers of peace and quiet to find their private solitude. Just don't stay right there in Mae Pim Beach – it's a long coast with many hotels, bungalows and resorts well spread out.
water quality on Rayong beaches not particularly good

The water on Rayong's beaches rarely appears crystal clear, though it usually seems clean and clean enough to the average observer. Families allow their children to swim in it freely. The real story of water quality is not so bright, however, for there is much that is dissolved along with unseen particulates. The government's Pollution Control Department last rated a Rayong beach in 2011, when it was awarded just three stars from a best-health maximum of five. That's not dangerous for health, but it's a poor sign for the future of this coastline, especially when the same area had rated four stars in 2006. Poor water quality is not restricted to Rayong, however, for all beaches in the upper Gulf of Thailand suffer in the same manner, with almost none still able to attain the four star status they had some years earlier.
rubbish from all Thailand washes into gulf onto beaches

It's a sad fact of life in Thailand – environmental awareness is near zero, and virtually everyone discards their rubbish carelessly. The country is awash in trash and plastic bags, and huge volumes are flushed down the river systems into the Gulf of Thailand. Plastic discarded in the far north of Thailand might eventually find its way to a beach in Rayong. The resort owners fight an endless battle to keep the beach clean in front of their establishments. But it also means that visitors can run into plastic rubbish while swimming, or find it washed ashore spoiling an otherwise beautiful, natural beach.
little to do here off the beach

We've blamed the flat and boring geography for the lack of physical features on Rayong's countryside, but the human landscape is equally mundane. Aside from the seafood restaurants in Mae Pim, there are also few man-made attractions to see or places to go in Rayong. This might suite those beach-lovers looking for a complete, do-nothing chill-out. But there are many others for whom Rayong will simply be too quiet and boring.
by John Everingham

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