Living in the urban metropolis of Bangkok one frequently has the urge to ‘escape’ and somewhere near the ocean generally tends to be the first option. It’s a great idea and some of the resorts are not far from the city but the problem is that generally about half of Bangkok’s population of 10 million also has the same idea! This creates havoc on the roads on a Friday afternoon as they leave and on a Sunday as they return.
Faced with these challenges we considered Hua Hin, (very nice, about 2.5 hours away but only one road back), and Pattaya.
Bang Saen was actually chosen by mistake but it proved to be a favourable one! Journey time from Sukhumvit just 1 hour 25 mins and no traffic either there or back! One the journey down we used the Motorway route(it has the advantage of an excellent services area with a vast choice of food), and the elevated Expressway for the return. Road tolls (THB.105) are the same for both.
Bang Saen is one of the closest seaside resorts to greater Bangkok but it still retains a ‘sleepy seaside’ atmosphere(until the crowds arrive!). Bang Saen seems to have it’s priorities well organised when it comes to construction, there are no dominating sky scrapers and the highest buildings seem to be limited to 6 or 7 floors.
I had booked an apartment through Booking.com, I always use this App as I like the description, accurate location and good pricing. I won’t mention the specific apartment as it was from a private owner but it seems to be indicative of the choice in the area. There are many small hotels and individual apartments offered on Booking.com and this is simply the easiest way to book. However do check with the property directly that they are open!
We were located in the non-commercial area towards the harbour. Here the beach space is limited but so also are the number of parking space, so less people. Thais arrive here, park up and enjoy their picnic on the beachfront. A nice happy and familiar atmosphere. There are some small café’s for the afternoon, one or two bars(currently closed) and lots of vendors selling food and drinks. Simple and easy.
In the evening head towards the main roundabout as this is the more commercial area. Here on the beach road you will find several large establishments. Most offer food and before live music. The establishments are rather ‘grand’ in a simple way. For example Scala Bar is a massive establishment with indoor and outdoor seating. Grand design, impressive bar decorations and a range of seating options. Food here is very traditionally Thai but there is a menu in English. All the dishes that we tried were well presented and most enjoyable and the prices very reasonable. This is the type of place that simple Thais will come for an evening of ‘extravagance’. All parties either order a tower of beer or a bottle of whisky with mixers. The prices are reasonable and they can enjoy their evening. Live music used to continue through the evening with the bands changing regularly.
Saturday morning saw quite a change to Bang Sean as the hordes were descending from Bangkok. The area to the right of the main roundabout is so typical of Thai seaside towns within close reach of Bangkok. It’s well laid out with parking spaces, a promenade and the typical swathe of umbrellas defeating even the smallest of sun rays(Thais don’t like to be in the sun). Rows of deckchairs and ordered like soldiers on parade. Towards the seafront are spaces of parties of 8, further back for 4 people. You have to pay for this privilege and Thb.120 secures you 4 chairs and a rickety table. Vendors descended like mosquitoes with every type of food you can imaging, toys for the kids, tattoos and of course massage. It’s a real Thai experience and good luck to the foreigners who try to fit in these undersized deck chairs.
Despite the busy weekend, there was plenty of space for everyone. I must be turning Thai as I did not venture out from the protective coverage of the umbrellas until a massive storm threatened to remove anything that was not tied down.
To surmise, If you want to get out of Bangkok for a couple of days and spend time by the ocean without the traffic congestion, then Bang Saen is to be recommended. Don’t expect much atmosphere or even seaside restaurants, just a cheap and easy getaway from Bangkok.
Please remember that there is No Smoking on any Thai beaches and this is largely enforced.
In these post Covid times situations are changing rapidly. Whilst alcohol sales are now allowed with food in restaurants, bars are not yet open. For up to date information the Tourist Hotline on 1672 is able to provide reliable information in English.