Gulf of Thailand

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One more idyllic tropical Paradise in Thailand, Sai Noi Beach!

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

© Frank P. Schneidewind

 

 

An estimated 250 KM South of Bangkok on Phetkasem Road is another true beach-gem to be found. A nice bay for bathing and swimming with fine sand, hardly any tourists and virtually none of the side-effects, as found in the tourist magnets and hot spots. Developments are typically Thai style ad so are the prices asked here. Less than a handful of food vendors tend to the needs of the guests and provide basic Thai dishes, cold drinks and a bit of beach furniture, such as relaxing beach chairs, tables and umbrellas. Turn left, when coming from the North about 20 minutes after you passed Hua Hin. Just the same approach as to Suan Son Pradhipat, only a bit further South.

 

Even the TAT could give this treasured area no less than 4 stars in order not to loose their face entirely in public, despite the total lack of tourist developments. Accommodations are indeed difficult to locate, but first signs of tourism can be spotted. It will not gain Hua Hin’s fame, but the world famous seaside resort town makes a great stepping stone and for those staying in Hua Hin, these fabulous beaches are surely worth a day trip. On a rented scooter, moped or car, one can cover the distance on the sunny side of half an hour. Beachlovers just need to follow road number 4 towards Pranburi.

An idyllic beach for those with kids or seeking to chill out.

Sai Noi stretches from Khao Tao, the bold mountain with it’s rocky surface in the South to large boulders in the North. We were surprised by it’s cleanliness and found it in the same condition on subsequent visits.

No brochures can be had about Sai Noi, nobody needed to photoshop away sharp rocks or dirt here! Undiscovered yet by beachchair-blockers, umbrella-mafias or full moon DJ’s, great for us since 2001!

The back row under the shady trees is ideal for those, who wish to dine by the seaside or just enjoying the breezes. Beachwalks reveal a busy beachlife, predominantly in the northern section, where crabs have their homes and can be watched from a distance.

The waters are shallow and very suitable for children of all ages and water fun, good swimmers need to wade a distance before depth is sufficient. Even on a perfect day in High season, Sai Noi doesn’t count many visitors. This location seems to be near perfect for those, hunting for alternatives to overcrowded beaches elsewhere. Prices were found to be extremely moderate with drinks and snacks only slightly over main street market rural Thai charges. Use of the provided beach furniture was free for customers or charged a minimal daily rate for all day occupation.

The water quality was at all  times good enough for water activity, no questionable debris or trash was spotted here. Nature in general appeared widely undisturbed and the lush forests in the backdrop plus the near National Parks offer a variety. Sarm Roi Yod with it’s caves is worth a trip, so is the fishing village nearby.

Shells and occasional seaweed line the water’s edge, the tide and all features like waves and currents etc. seem to be much less dangerous and milder in the Gulf. A cow or water buffalo can at times be spotted, with the later one being a welcomed extra attraction to the guests here. Pastures border the northern part of Sai Noi and the farming never stopped existing here.

For all those, that enjoy lenghthy beach walks, the Sai Yai beach to the North stretches far and offers a similar environment. Minus the food establishments, beach furniture providers and drink vendors, I should add.

Sai Noi can be reached by train or public bus (from Sai Mai Terminal Bangkok) to Hua Hin (around 200 Baht). A taxi or Tuktuk to Sai Noi may cost you 300 to 500 Baht. Any southbound bus can take you for 20 Baht to the kilometer marker 244, from there it is only about 1800 meter to you beach chair. Southbound buses leave Hua Hin several times per hour.

 

 

Prachuab Kiri Khan – Ao Manao, the Air Force Beach

Monday, February 8th, 2010

 © 2010 Frank P. Schneidewind

 

 

 

The Royal Thai Airforce Base has to be trespassed, in order to get to Ao Manao, the picturesque bay on the Gulf of Thailand. At least, when entering the bay from Prachuab Kiri Khan, the geographically elongated Province just North of the Isthmus of Kra. Thailand’s land mass is here very thin on a map, it stretches only a few Kilometers between Burma and the Gulf coast. The Province’s northern end at Hua Hin is far, but the beach quality in the Province in general is above average for Thai beaches! Fighter jets are stationed here, RTAF Airwings 5 and 53 have a home here.

(c) RTAF

© RTAF  (photo used with permission)

 

Besides the beach, there is a beautiful Golf Course (open to guest golfers) and also inexpensive accommodation available. Here in Prachuab Kiri Khan, the rooms may set you back 300 or 500 Thai Baht per night. Yards from the beach with no annoying mass tourism side-effects such as noisy beer bars or red light brothels nearby, perfect for a chill out or family oriented travelers with kids. Golfers pay 200 Baht for a full round of 18 holes on the Greens, that is 10 % of what they would pay in greenfees alone on Phuket or Koh Samui!

A full week of great golfing by the seaside with bathing beach nearby for the price of a single nights accommodation and one day of play elsewhere! To know where to do what is the key to travel and stay in style without getting ripped!

 

The runway needs to be crossed axially here, watch for incoming fighters or starting airplanes! Both ways need to be watched.

The bay has a big and wide fine sand beach and countless sea pines for shadowing the area in the PM. In the mornings, when the sun shines from the east, you may want a spot under an umbrella. Beach chairs and umbrellas are free for customers of the abundance of restaurants, they are all Thai style. Charges from 30 Baht for a basic snack or meal (fried rice). Big bottles of a soft drink or Coca-Cola (1 Ltr.) run 30 Baht with cups of ice served on demand. I consider that to be at the lower end in Thailand. Elsewhere you pay more just to sit in their chairs (Pattaya, Khao Lak, Jomtien, Patong or Chaweng)   Inflatable toys are a big hit with the kids, rubber tubes can be rented cheaply here as well!

Mainly Thai people enjoy this, I am glad, that no tourist agency ferries or shuffles their paying folks here. That keeps the prices low in general and provides also for great destinations for the not so well-heeled, expats and locals. Expect it to be a bit more crowded than shown here on weekends and public holidays or during school breaks. These snapshots were taken on a half day stopover during a car trip on a Saturday.

The sand has a nice and acceptable color, no real dirt was to be located. Someone keeps this place clean and removes trash and debris. We came here six times already and always found the beach maintained and almost free of any visible trash. Quite a recognizable difference to the so-called “high quality” (equals high charges for everything) over-touristed beaches in Khao Lak and elsewhere, where public beaches aren’t maintained well!

You note the sand-pills, which the crabs here produce in low tide on the wet sand, they don’t live well in contaminated waters or on dirty beaches. Here they have millions and you can watch them doing their daily work from your beach chair or mat.

You can reach Prachuab by train from Bangkok or public bus from Sai Mai Terminal easy. By car it is a bit far for a day-trip, but very suitable for an extended weekend from Bangkok. Phetkasem is the traffic artery to all southern Provinces and touches the periphery oh this neat little city. Stay at least for a break, you will come back for more!

The water is only clear after a time of no rain, but I did not have any objection or reason, not to swim here. The shallow beach is very suitable for non-swimmers and kids as well.

I take the opportunity and grab some ZZZZZ’s (a needed nap ) in this photo here, while my sis-in-law watches her young one enjoying herself at the water’s edge. There is always a nice breeze going, the horseshoe shaped beach is flanked by mountains, sharp eyes can spot some temple activity there. We loved the extended stopover breaks here, it does surely beat short naps in a car or wasting your funds at a “famous” beach!

Watching a playing child here can be done fairly safe from some distance, there are no big waves in this protected bay and also no rip-currents near the shore. The Tsunami victimized Andaman Sea shore (Khao Lak, Phuket) has in general higher waves and currents (tourist drownings), more of a tide and more severe storms or floodings per year. I consider the gulf waters tamer and safer. Diving is much more attractive out there, the Gulf is too warm and too shallow for the abundances of reefs to be found between Ranong and Langkawi (Malaysia’s northernmost island), so the snorklers and divers are better off  at the Andaman side for sheer variety and species. Families with Kids or simple much better off on the Gulf side. Snorklers and Divers may note, that the islands Koh Tao, Phangan and Samui still offer a great underwater display of fauna and flora, but increasing temperatures may soon draw a line for further growth there.