Gorgeous Rayong

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Not far from Pattaya is a province known for its gorgeous seafood, delectable durian and fine beaches. Yet despite these attractions, Rayong is unlike Pattaya. It is not as touristy and it even has that sleepy feel to it. Although fine hotels line some of its beaches, the tourists visiting Rayong are mostly locals.

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The few foreign tourists who stray into the province mostly proceed to Ban Phe, a busy fishing port and jump-off point to KohSamet, the island with the whitest and squeakiest sand in the kingdom. The island is a 30-minute ferry ride away. It is a favorite among farangs as it has something for everyone — from funfilled beaches with jet skiing and live music to tranquil, secluded spots where one can enjoy sand, sun and sea in complete privacy. But while foreigners find island beaches more exotic, the locals have their own idea of what constitutes a better beach.

Such place doesn’t need to be isolated or off island. In fact, it is just about five kilometers farther down the highway from Ban Phe. This beach, known as the Suan Son Pine Park, is a popular picnic area among locals. It is squeaky clean and as white and sandy as those of Koh Samet, though not as tranquil and isolated. It is in fact busy on weekends when people from other parts of the province, including those from Bangkok, flock to the beach to frolic. Tall casuarinas trees give Suan Son its unique charm.

These trees line each side of the road, which runs along the one-kilometer beach. Interestingly, the crowns of the trees from each side meet above head, making the whole length of the road look like a green tunnel. The area, quite expectedly, teems with food stalls and food shops. And because it is not a farang haunt, food prices are cheap here. Accommodation is also available for those who want to stay overnight. It comes in the form of bungalows or guesthouses, which are reasonably priced.

The venturesome can rent a boat to explore the smaller islands nearby like Koh Kudi, Koh Kham, Koh Platin and Koh Talu. The climate here is typically tropical– hot from March through May, rainy from June through October, and cool from November through February. Average daily temperature throughout the year is 27 degrees Celsius. During the rainy season, rainfall is usually brief and the rest of the day is normally clear and sunny. Traveling around Suan Son can be relaxing because the traffic here is light and the roads are very smooth. The surrounding areas are mostly quaint fishing villages, too laidback that they offer a perfect escape from the bustle of the city.

A stroll along the beach will give you a first-hand look at life in Thailand’s coastal villages. Only a little over an hour from Pattaya (via Sukhumvit Road towards Sattahip) or two hours from Bangkok, Rayong is a popular getaway destination among urban holidaymakers who prefer a more peaceful beach atmosphere than the nearby touristy Pattaya. Those who are continuing on to Koh Samet will also find Rayong the perfect base, as it’s possible to do a bit of sightseeing and shopping before hopping on a speedboat or a ferry at Baan Pae.

Separated from Koh Samet by a 45-minute ferry ride, the city area feels like a world apart. It retains a pleasantly localized atmosphere, where you are more likely to bump into Thai families or groups of young university students than foreign tourists or backpackers. Young urbanites from Bangkok often drive out here to enjoy a great seafood meal or dig their toes into the soft white sand, before heading back with a lung full of clean fresh air.

Attraction
A launching point for land and sea explorations with long distance bus terminals, ferry piers, food stalls and a lively handicrafts and seafood market, Baan Pae is a hive of activity. Laem Mae Pim, perhaps the second most popular destinations after Baan Pae, is an ideal spot for relaxation, with a lineup of beachside eateries and calm, inviting waters. Other attractions further inland include Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Herbal Park, Sopha Arboretum and the Rayong Aquarium.p3

Activities

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More popular for it is lineup of beachside seafood restaurants and shady beaches than for water sports, Rayong beaches are peaceful and relatively free of large crowds. Marine excursions are limited to fishing, snorkeling and diving at nearby islands such as Koh Kruai, Koh Thalu, Koh Pla Tin and Koh Kham. Island hopping is also an attractive option for those in search of a little adventure. Golfers will find a haven among Rayong’s range of well-designed courses, including the 72-par championship course at St. Andrews 2000 Golf and Country Club and Eastern Star Country Club.

Restaurants
Rayong is never short of mouthwatering seafood. In fact, dining is as much an experience for the eyes and ears as the palate, as many restaurants are situated by the beach, with an outdoor deck that juts right into the water. So, dining p2at these venues almost guarantees a great view. With a bustling seafood market, Baan Pae is one of the best places to go get a serving of freshly caught steamed crab, prawns and the all time favorite sea bass with lime ginger sauce. Finish off a satisfying meal the local style – with a plate of fresh tropical fruits.

Nightlife
Rayong is more famous for its causarina-shaded beaches and translucent blue sea than as a nightlife hotspot. However that’s not to say that there’s none around; a one-km strip Ratbamrung Road, which runs parallel to the main Sukhumvit highway in the city center, houses a large concentration of pubs, bars and nightclubs with stage shows and strip dancers. Getting Around Well connected by an efficient network of buses and songtaews (passenger- carrying trucks), public transport is the best option if you don’t have a car. Within Rayong, several lines of public buses operate between popular tourist destinations. These buses are color-coded and most run from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Ferries to Koh Samet depart from Baan Pae Pier on an hourly basis from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and drop tourists at major beaches, such as Sai Gaew, Ao Thaptim, Ao Phai, Ao Wong Duen and Ao Wai. The trip takes about 45 minutes, but if you take a chartered speedboat, it’s reduced to 15 minutes.

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SOARING HIGH IN PATTAYA

p11Blurb : Parasailing is for those seeking a rush of adrenaline The knowledge that you can do what many people can only dream about gives a sense of power incomparable to none. That’s why parasailing has become the newest sport to attract those seeking a temporary rush of adrenaline. In Pattaya, the wind speed is ideal for parasailing, which has become a favorite sport of adventurers, given the challenge and thrill that it brings. Parasailing is something that few have even dreamed about, much less tried.

“My heart started to beat faster once the boat turned slowly. Suddenly, the parachute took me higher, causing an air-pocket effect,” said a first-time parasailer who requested anonymity. “One’s knees feel rubbery. There is an unexplainable sensation to the whole thing. You practically feel like a bird. It’s just great,” said another neophyte. Indeed, the sport gives those up in the air a different perspective of everything on the ground, and definitely a natural high.

p12So, how does one get to fly and watch the world while in Pattaya? It’s simple. Just go to the beach and ask for the parasailing team to attach the harness to your waist. Don’t forget to wear swimming goggles for eye protection. Then, get into the water and wait to be lifted to the sky. While there, feel the wind and the freedom. Enjoy a panoramic view of Pattaya below which only the birds see every day. The parasailing experience is something that will keep you “high” for a long, long time. Try it while you are in Pattaya.

Health hazards to watch out for

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Having a holiday in Thailand should be a fun and healthy one for you.

However, we would like to remind readers that although Thailand has excellent health care and controls, please do watch out for various health hazards that could ruin your trip.

Insect bites Insect bites and stings are the most common problem while holidaying in Thailand. Mosquitoes are the most menacing, while least deadly they are most abundant and their bites most itchy. There are repellant creams and lotions for sale widely.

When stung by bees or wasps, don’t panic. Most victims experience only discomfort. Those who are allergic may develop anaphylactic shock and get medical attention immediately. Drinking water Drink bottled water only. Make sure the seal is intact.

Water served in reputable restaurant is generally safe though. Cubed ice is fine. Avoid chipped ice. Also, make sure that you drink at least two liters of fluid (non-alcoholic) daily. Infection Microbial and viral infections cause trouble for the greatest number of people.

Intestinal infections resulting from diarrhea is most common. There are more serious infections such as hepatitis. Always use condoms to protect against all STDs. Snake and poisonous bites Should you intend to hike through grassy or forested area, make some noise along the way. If you’re taking a trek at night, carry a torch or flashlight.

If you’re bitten by a snake or other nasty insects like scorpion, try to remain calm. Immobilize the affected limb by binding it to restrict the flow of venom. Get medical help immediately.

Sunburn…  Apply 30+ sunscreen on exposed parts of your body. If you want to have a good tan, don’t try to acquire it by overexposing yourself to the sun. Take it slowly. A little exposure each day is best.

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The small-island charm of Si Chang

Just off the coast of Chonburi is a perfect island getaway – easy to reach, its sights can be toured in less than a day, leaving one enough time for the beach. Ko Si Chang’s main draw, however, is its sleepy vibe and small-town charm that other Thai islands lost long ago in the drive to attract tourists.

Getting to Si Chang is easy thanks to regular mini-vans to the port of Sri Racha. When you arrive, it’s worth taking a look around. Because of the many Japanese companies based in the area, businesses cater especially to Japanese expats – every second shop is a sushi bar and most signs are in Hiragana. Boats to Si Chang leave hourly and aren’t for the faint-hearted. At first glance, they seem rickety and most are overloaded with day-trippers carrying fishing gear. Sri Racha is close to the Laem Chabang deep sea port, so there’s a lot of shipping and the ferry boats often weave between the bigger vessels.

Jump ashore at Si Chang’s bustling pier and you’ll be offered (in the laid-back island way you’ll learn to appreciate) a Tuk-Tuk. These aren’t the cramped and view-blocking Bangkok versions, but large four-seaters with room to stretch out. It’s cheaper to take the same driver if you want to see the sights. If you’re just here for a beach break, the island’s best spot is the bay of Tham Phang, on the west coast.

There is a nice stretch of sand and sheltered swimming with no annoying jet-skis. I like to spend the day sitting under the beach umbrellas eating fresh crabs or barbequed shrimps, but there are other attractions if you can get out of your deck-chair. And it’s worth exploring Si Chang. Despite being small, the island plays its part in Thai history.

Thailand is justly proud of having never been colonised, but Si Chang was briefly taken over by the French in 1893 during a struggle over control of Laos. Until then, the island had been a getaway for King Rama V the Great, who built his teakwood home here: the Manthatratanarote Royal Mansion.

The small-island charm of Si Chang After the Gallic incursion, the mansion was taken down and rebuilt in Bangkok where it’s now better known as Vimanmek Palace. But the lovely landscaped gardens are still intact and show it must have been a glorious place in its heyday with inviting bathing pools under the trees, made up like natural grottos.

While only the foundations of the palace are still in place, the sturdy teak homes King Rama V the Great built for people to recuperate from illness still stand, with grand views of the Thai coast. Take a walk out on the handsome wooden pier and you can see dozens of international ships at anchor. It seems little has changed since the 17th century when the island was called Amsterdam due to the huge number of vessels belonging to the

Dutch East India Company. Do visit the sprawling Chinese temple on the hill known as San Chao Pho Khao Yai, with its colorful dragons, mystical murals and ancient statues. A cutecable car is there to take you up the hill. Further above the temple is a replica of a Buddha Footprint in its own shrine. The view from the top will take your breath away, if there’s any left, as it’s an exhausting climb. Top tip: there is a back road to the top where your driver can drop you off. The relic was brought from India by Prince Damrong Rajanuphab in 1892 and is now a pilgrimage site.

When staying overnight, enjoy the sunset views from the Tham Phang point before visiting the old town to eat. There are seafood places by the roadside cooking freshly caught produce. There’s no nightlife on the island, other than watching the locals wandering round chatting in their pajamas. It seems a long way from partying Pattaya, down the coast. But this little slice of yesteryear offers the perfect break.