Photo: Stop on your way to or from Samet.

Haad Suan Son and Laem Mae Phim

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Beaches extend for 25 kilometres to the east of Ban Phe, interrupted only by the occasional cape or cluster of rocks. While Haad Suan Son and Laem Mae Phim don’t stack up to Ko Samet’s beaches from an aesthetic standpoint, the seafood is fresh and the working-class Thai holiday atmosphere can be a lot of fun. A day trip or overnight stay rewards travellers who are tired of the big-name beach destinations.

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See how the locals like to holiday.

See how the locals like to let loose.

Setting out on a motorbike from Ban Phe, we hummed east along the coastal road to the four-kilometre-long Haad Suan Son. Named after a large protected pine forest, the shady tan-sand beach stretches for nearly five kilometres and hosts a colourful seafood market in the early evenings. You also get a good view of Ko Samet, with Nadan Pier easily distinguishable. One of the the best parts is a scenic stretch of road studded with towering ironwood, umbrella and son trees.

There's a refreshingly small amount of concrete at Suan Son.

There’s a refreshingly small amount of concrete at Suan Son.

Located a mere two kilometres east of Ban Phe’s Nuan Thip Pier, Suan Son Beach is a good option if you could use a quick dip before catching a bus. Street chefs will deliver grilled fish and squid, among other goodies, to beach chairs set up beneath the trees, and a handful of small Thai-style resorts offer rooms if you feel like sticking around. You could also pay 30 baht to pitch a tent at the arboretum that backs the beach.

Boat life.

Boat life.

After a quick stop at the Chinese shrine that overlooks Suan Son from the eastern headland, we cut briefly inland before hanging a right (east) to return to the coast along Route 3145. The road passes close to several smaller beaches like Haad Sai Thong, Ao Sai Yai and Haad Sai Kaeo. Here you’ll find large properties owned by the likes of Novotel and Marriott along with family-run spots with names like Bee Happy Beach and Dave’s Mountain. We also passed several expat-owned condominiums.

The grilled squid alone is worth the trip.

The grilled squid alone is worth the trip.

The smooth road swoops down to the western end of Haad Laem Mae Phim. Backed by trees and pavilions, the six-kilometre-long beach offers loads of empty space, even when the many Thai visitors descend on weekends and holidays. As with all of Rayong’s coastal beaches, quite a bit of tidal garbage can become visible. This isn’t the place to snap postcard-worthy shots of a tropical beach paradise, but we enjoyed a local-style holiday atmosphere that’s missing from Ko Samet.

Spending a night or two in Laem Mae Phim isn't a bad idea.

Spending a night or two in Laem Mae Phim isn’t a bad idea.

Laem Mae Phim is also a bustling beach town with several places to stay and a long lineup of seafood restaurants stacked along the eastern end. We stopped for a delicious spread of grilled squid and yum talay (spicy seafood salad) at a seaside eatery called Krua Mo-lay.

Seafood and more seafood.

Seafood and more seafood.

Our last stop of the day was Laem Ta, a small cape that ends at a fishing village just beyond the east end of Laem Mae Phim beach. From here you can arrange boat trips to visit the turtle conservation centre on nearby Ko Mun Nai and snorkel off the other two islands of the Ko Mun group; local operator Toy Tours (T: 081 945 1928 ; 081 451 4862) offers group excursions starting at 590 baht. This is also where you’ll find the private pier for Ko Mun Nork‘s exclusive resort.

Who wants an inflatable alien?

Who wants an inflatable alien?

If you have more time to spare, you could head inland from the east end of Laem Mae Phim to visit the Sunthorn Phu Monument in Klaeng before going 10 kilometres further to explore Prasae’s 2,400-acre mangrove forest. If you don’t get your fill of beaches here, head west out of Ban Phe to Khao Laem Ya and Haad Mae Ramphueng.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Ban Phe.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Ban Phe.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Ban Phe.
 Read up on how to get to Ban Phe, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Ban Phe? Please read this.
 Buy a SIM card for Thailand—pick it up at the airport when you arrive.
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