Bang Saen is located in Chon Buri province about 80km from Bangkok. It is on the same coastline as Pattaya and is the location of choice for many Thai families who wish to avoid the foreigners in Thailand’s sin city. It has a mixed reputation among Thai people with some saying it was dirty and others telling me it has improved a lot recently. As such I was unsure of what to expect but I went there last week with my girlfriend and wanted to share my experience in this Bang Saen guide.
Finishing work on Sunday we headed for victory monument to catch the van to Bang Saen. Outside the Century movie complex we waited for 10 minutes and our van departed at about 7.45pm. Traffic at this time was very quiet and including the obligatory gas stop the journey took 1 hour 25 minutes. The vans leave every hour, or when they are full, and the same applies for the return trip. The return van is located on the opposite side of the road from where you are dropped off. At a cost of 110 Baht per person it is very reasonable. It is worth noting the drop off point is Burapha University, about 500 metres from the beach, but we asked our van driver to take us to the end of the road which he was more than happy to do.
Arriving at this time we drove by a few bars next to the university campus which were filled with students and musicians. However the beach front was quiet with the only noises coming from the sea and the wind rushing through the coconut trees. The beach is 2.5km long and at night is lit by floodlights making it feel safe and pleasant to stay out at night.
The first step was to find a hotel as I had guessed there would be plenty of options and wouldn’t need to book in advance. Peak nights in Bang Saen are usually Friday and Saturday and as such there was plenty of choice available. There are a couple of high level hotels such as the Sez Hotel and Tide Resort with rates over 2,000 Baht per night. In the side roads there are many local style hotels which work out at around 400 Baht per night. Our first night was in the Bird Hotel which is located on the north end of the beach. At 690 Baht it was good value and the room had good air conditioning. However we found the northern part of the beach to be very quiet with only 2 or 3 dining options so on day two we moved to the south end of the beach. Our hotel was located down a side road and didn’t have a name, in fact I was just a house converted into rooms. For 500 Baht we got good air conditioning, a very small bathroom and a friendly gecko keeping insects away from us. Overall I think the room on the second night was a bit too basic and it will be worth spending 800 Baht + to get a good room, I recommend looking at Agoda for the best deal but stay at the south end of the beach.
Dinner on the first night was spent at one of the many student bars. These kind of places are found on the road between the university and beach and all look very similar. We sat down and ordered 4 Thai dishes and a jug of Leo which came to 550 Baht so a reasonable price. However the live band were too loud so conversation was difficult. It seems that all the bars here have the same problem so we decided to walk back to the hotel which was around 30 minutes from the restaurant.
Waking up on the first morning we set off for breakfast. I often use our little trips to get a good western style breakfast. However as Bang Saen is very much a Thai destination so western style dining is limited. We headed for Cafe Kantary which is located at the start of the beach road. The restaurant offers a wide variety of food and drinks with an international vibe.
For the strawberry danish opposite and a mango smoothie I paid 145 baht which I thought was a reasonable price. The atmosphere inside is very relaxed with wide open spaces and plenty of natural light. You also have the option to sit outside if you want some more sun. They also offer lunch and dinner options with the home made pizzas a great choice at around 180 baht. They also serve a wide range of drinks, both local and international. You can get English cider or German beers although at over 200 baht per bottle it can work out quite expensive.
After breakfast it was time to hit the beach. After the reports I had had from various people I was expecting something similar to Pattaya beach, lots of rubbish and disappointing water quality. Overall I think the quality of the sand and water is a bit better than that in Pattaya but it is still a long way from the quality found in the south of Thailand. However I knew before I went that Bang Saen was not going to match Phuket so I was prepared. I found it acceptable and once sat on the deck chair ( 50 baht for the whole day with a table ) I could start to relax.
Unfortunatley there are hawkers here trying to you everything from food to shell necklaces but a quick but firm ” mai ow krap” ( I don’t want thanks ) will get them walking on. Also with the beach being very quiet we were perhaps approached more often than normal. When lunch arrived we ordered food from our chairs, this turned out to be a mistake. We ordered a second round of the same drinks and paid about 25% less by just walking 30 seconds to the stalls ourselves. A large Leo will costs 80 Baht and a seafood dish between 100-300 Baht. I have to say the quality of the sea food in Bang Saen, and especially at the beach, was the best I have ever had. You can tell it has been caught within 24 hours and it is a world apart from the average sea food found in Bangkok.
As evening came we headed back to our room and got ready to find somewhere nice to eat dinner. As we had eaten a lot of seafood we decided to get something different. I took this opportunity to try and get some western style food again as I find it hard to ind in the area I live in. We found the Silom Steakhouse which is about 20 meters away from Cafe Kantary. It offers many burgers, steaks and pasta dishes all around the 100 – 150 Baht price. Add to that a couple of Heinekens and a bill of 500 Baht was enough to fill us up. Along Bang Saen beach road there are a few local style restaurants offering traditional Thai food and sea food with lower prices. I heard during the weekend there are even more dining options.
As we didn’t fancy drinking in the student bars we decided to go have a drink at the beach. There aren’t any bars directly on the beach but there are people selling ice cold beers or you can pick one up from a 7/11. The beach is lit up at night by floodlights which makes it feel safe and a nice place to be. We were there at around 10pm and as you can see many other groups were still around. Sitting on the sand listening to the waves crashing was a lovely way to end the night. Again it isn’t the same as one of the islands but still a much nicer setting than a busy Bangkok road.
The next morning we had time for another danish and smoothie at cafe Kantary before heading back home. The van station is behind the Laem Thong shopping mall, next to Pizza Company. We couldn’t find it so just asked a local who pointed us in the right direction. Vans leave on the hour or when they are full. We arrived at 11am and our van left at 11.45am. Arriving back at Victory Monument at 1.30pm.
Bang Saen Verdict
Overall I would recommend Bang Saen as a destination for someone who wants to escape Bangkok for 1 or 2 nights. Maybe Hua Hin has a better beach and facilities but I found the prices and atmosphere far better in Bang Saen.
With nearby Pattaya being a magnet for foreign tourists there are not many non- Thais in Bang Saen. Over the 3 days I was there I saw around 10 foreigners, 3 of whom were teachers at the university. I felt this was a major benefit to the town as I really felt I was in a traditional Thai resort and as such had a more relaxing time. It was also nice not to have foreign music in every restaurant or to have any backpackers trying to make this a new Khao San by-the-beach. Also you don’t have the sex tourists, or the bar girls, and this makes the beach a pleasant place to be even at night, which is not possible in Pattaya.
If you go there with the expectation that what you will get is a low key traditional beach resort then I think you will have a good trip. If you have 4 or 5 days to use I think you are much better travelling to the Southern beaches but for 1 or 2 nights Bang Saen is a good option to consider.