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Ao Phrao

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Ko Samet's only major west coast beach, Ao Phrao is a scenic bay with a crescent of khaki sand that serves as the focal point for a trio of luxury resorts. The beach is on the grainy side and shallow water relegates swimming to splashing at low tide, but you can't beat the sunsets. Be sure to get here early on weekends if you want a good view to go with your overpriced cocktail. Visit midweek and you might have an entire luxury resort to yourself.

Though its far from the island's most visually stunning beach, Ao Phrao is its most luxurious; rag-tag backpackers should expect a few sneers from staff and customers. It's popular with hi-so Thais, so don't be surprised at sudden influxes of VIP-keepers dossing around while their self-important employers sip overpriced wine at Le Vimarn before jetting off again by high-powered speedboat.

Though it's not cheap, Lima Coco Resort adds much-needed colour and youthfulness to the beach -- not a bad midrange choice if Ao Phrao is your cup of tea.

In July 2013, quiet little Ao Phrao was vaulted into the international news when a thick oil slick washed coated the beach with black crude. At time of writing some three months later, the resorts were readying to reopen and a faint scent of oil was the only obvious evidence of the spill, which was caused by a ruptured PTT Global Chemical pipeline located a few kilometres off Samet's shore.

Though not as catastrophic as initially thought, the spill caused speculation and protests about the environmental degradation of Thailand's industrialised gulf.

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Text and/or map last updated on 10th November, 2013.

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Usually found exploring Bangkok's side streets or south Thailand's islands, David Luekens is an American freelance writer & photographer who finds everyday life in Asia to be extraordinary. You can follow his travails here.

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