Thailand’s beach of shame – Bang Saen, Chonburi

Written by Frank on December 4th, 2009

© Frank P. Schneidewind

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Some fifty to sixty miles southeast of Bangkok, a township named Bang Saen nestles on the shores of the Gulf of Thailand. It is in Chonburi Province and just a short drive away from the tourist magnet of Pattaya. It may have been an idyllic spot some decades ago, but a profit-driven and self serving promoter like the mighty Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) may have done their last beach assessment, long before the dawn of Polymeres, non-bio-degreeable plastics. Wave after wave delivers an endless supply of these, and the blend with the local mix of broken bottles, Styrofoam food containers and other gifts of civilization there, is a colorful arrangement of objects highly visible wherever you look. Nobody seems to care and nobody wants to change this. Mind you, this particular “beach” still serves as their first ever eye contact to the Gulf of Thailand for thousands of visitors, mainly school kids and the work forces of larger companies inland on their “beach breaks”. They travel here from the remotes corners of the impoverished Isaan and the suburbs of Bangkok, what a great place to introduce oceans and beaches of Thailand to their own and underprivileged masses. Most are being bused here with a daily stream of stinking buses, as the idling and parked huge vehicles show it impressively. Here they are resting directly on the beach road and wait for their human cargoes to embark again for their ride home. TAT and others still do promote Bangsaen as a Tourist destination and a bathing beach!

 

The existence of a huge Condominium complex also shows, that profits of any kind want to be made here. A sheer endless row of food vendors on the concrete fortified shore lets the staff rub shoulders, waiting for a hungry visitor. The similarly endless accumulation of their Styrofoam food containers on the beach below, may be carried far with the next gust of wind here or one high and mercyful wave at high tide. At http://www.hatbangsaen.com/ the townships own advertisers promote this destination in the web still as follows (quote) “(Bangsaen)…….transforming into a social Hotspot for Thai nationals. Farmers from the north-east sharing the same beach with Bangkok high-rollers, drinking whiskey, making music, practice dancing and, even, swimming in the Gulf of Thailand!” WOW, that’s really amazing. The trashy beach a “Hotspot” for Thai nationals? But they are surely not wrong, as usual – after all they see themself as the “Monaco of Thailand”, after allowing road races in this insignificant dirty town. We have those also nightly in Pathum Thani, are we the “Indianapolis” now?

 

Mighty storm drains loom directly underneath those eateries, mere street food vendors with a limited selection of local foods. Cozy and simple beach-chairs invite to take place on crude tables way above this beach on the pavement. Paved and plastered grounds they have plenty here.

Trash is being brought by every tide and wave, but old accumulations aren’t removed, they can be revisited on subsequent trips several days later. Our impressions originate not from one, but multiple visits here. Bangsaen’s cleaners (if they have any) seem to have work to do elsewhere. The ocean water changes it’s color and smell due to algae growth at times. Rocks in the water here do sport a coating of organic, slippery and slimy substances plus certain mollusks, whose sharp edged shells discourage from walking bare footed or swim anywhere here at high tide. My previous dog was very fond of every pool or puddle of water, but here he couldn’t be convinced to enter the murky floating trash.

The Golden Retriever seemed to have more common sense, than some people here – because despite the visible dirt there, some actual guests of “Bang Saen Beach” were playing in that liquid!

Given the fact, that none of our visits here between say 2007 and 2009 took place on a sunny day, the beaches dark grey to grey colors never tempted me to remove as much as my shoes. Glass segments of broken Mekhong and Sang Som and Beer bottles were to be spotted everywhere. The southern part of this 4 KM stretch of “beach” looked a little bit more promising, so I went there as well.

Countless plastic objects later, the southern end came into view, dead fish we saw a few, but this shore might be free of regular fish masses like anywhere else along the Gulf, one of the richest bodies of water on this planet in marine life forms.

Unbelievable amounts of Thai citizens, mainly kids, were disregarding the trash and dirt and enjoyed themselves. These “dip in a dump” tourists probably never saw an ocean or real beach in their life before, and they really had obvious fun in there.

Banana boating was popular with the kids and young adults, their one day beach-trip by bus to come here surely made a difference to their rice field lifes in the poorer provinces. Jet-ski’s wouldn’t operate long in this filth, because their propulsion intake would be clogged with plastic bags or else too frequently. Here they use regular outboard engines with their dangerously exposed blades to shred some of the trash. I only hope no one got maimed or his arm or legs cut off by this toy! There are reasons, why these killers are outlawed in other countries to be operated on public beaches. An observer may start to think, that money and bribes overrule all safety and environmental issues in Thailand!

The bused-in hordes of beach fans here flock to the pavement daily in great numbers, most of them do not set their feet on the sand below. For convenience of some and annoyance for all, the buses are parked with idling engines on the beach road for hours. Noisy and polluting, their diesel exhausts do give a change in stink from the organic waste and algae growth below at low tide. Their noise is trumped by megaphones of the herders of these day tourists, and if you are lucky you get some further entertainment from their mobile sound boxes, that would make every gangster-rapper in New York’s Bronx to sell his Bling-Bling in order to have one of these noise makers.

The pavement up here is maybe the main attraction, who knows if these guests ever had the privilege to use their flip-flops on any even ground. All their “beach-activity” is happening before your very eyes if you consume a bit from the street vendors here on the lovely concrete!

Palm trees provide a cheap decoration on this promenade, but they aren’t serviced or have seen any maintenance by landscapers as the ugly rotten parts show, which occasionally tumble down and wipe the crude tables clean of any bottles of drinks or food. There seems to be a forest of beach-chairs, all set up on concrete or pavement, not a single one on the beach.

When the going gets tough here, the flip-flops will come flying off and the bus hordes play the beach games bare footed now, surely on plastered surface – what a fun! Only occasional yells or commands by megaphone keep the hordes in shape.

I begin to understand a “fun day out at the beach” in new ways now – amazing Thailand, I feel so sorry for your people. May TAT one day wake up and stop claiming this seaside resort as an attraction for tourists. Matter of factly, it’s a trash heap with a synthetic infrastructure and health risks for the minors and young adults here. These return home with impressions, that are rather dreadful than memorable. And please stop telling my fellow foreigners, that this is a great place to go and visit. This is not reflecting the reality and a remedy requires some quick and decisive on-site action. Visitors here will broadcast their impressions and share the truth. May the truth and reality prevail in Thailand as well. TAT open your eyes! May Bang Saen receive the attention it needs to improve, a lot of that is imminent!

 

2 Comments so far ↓

  1. Michael says:

    Hi Frank, very good update!  You have a very smart big dog!

  2. Great blog…you're a very good writer.  Keep it up.

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