Photo: Samet's most popular beach.

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Haad Sai Kaew literally translates as "Crystal Sand Beach," though its better known English name is Diamond Beach. Either monicker is fitting -- so dazzling white is the sand here that walking on the beach on a sunny day can feel like being in a blinding field of freshly fallen snow at noon on a perfectly clear day.

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Stretching for a full kilometre along the northeast coast, Haad Sai Kaew is both Ko Samet's longest and most popular beach.

While there's no denying Haad Sai Kaew's aesthetic beauty, its atmosphere is not for those seeking tranquility. Pricey resorts, karaoke bars, nightclubs, cocktail shacks, restaurants, shops and lounge chairs line the beach, joining an endless stream of beach vendors, jetskis, speedboats and speedo-donning tourists.

Popular with Bangkok-based Thais and expats along with daytrippers from Pattaya, Haad Sai Kaew comes alive after sunset with seafood barbecues, fire-spinners, DJs and endless cushions set over grass mats on the sand. Don't select Haad Sai Kaew for a sleepy beach getaway.

Accommodation-wise, the guesthouses and resorts here are built almost on top of each other, are uniformly overpriced, and a few are rundown to the point that they're hardly inhabitable. Budget travellers wanting to stay closeby should head about a kilometre south to Ao Hin Khok, or a few hundred metres inland to the village.

Apart from a handful of resorts that stretch a fair distance back from the beach's northern side, the atmosphere tends to be noisier than elsewhere on Samet -- the constant hum of boat engines during the day is replaced after dark by pulsating music.

In other words, if you're coming to Samet chiefly to party, Haad Sai Kaew is the place to be. If you're dreaming of a peaceful beach with gently swaying palms and few other people, you'd be well advised to head to one of Ko Samet's other beaches further to the south.

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