If you’re visiting Bangkok and want to spend a little sun time on Thailand’s sparkling beaches but don’t have a long stretch of days for a trip to Phuket, Samui or one of the country’s other amazing beaches, think about one of the following beach destinations. All are within easy driving distance of Bangkok, have nice beaches and a good selection of places to stay. Sure, they’re not as spectacular as, Koh Phi Phi or Railey Beach in Krabi, but they’re also convenient to visit over a weekend and won't cost you a bucket of money.
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Hua Hin’s beaches are a favorite among Bangkokians looking for a quick and easy weekend escape. Central Hua Hin is highly developed, with a bustling city center behind the beach, lots of European restaurants, big chain hotels and places such as Starbucks Coffee and McDonalds that will make you feel like you never left home. But since Hua Hin is popular among local Thais as well as resident foreigners, it still retains its “Thainess,” so there are plenty of Thai restaurants to enjoy, too. Hua Hin is about three hours from Bangkok and is easy to get to by car, train or bus.
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Just south of Hua Hin is Pranburi, an up-and-coming resort area that has a lot of the appeal of Hua Hin but fewer crowds and less development. In the past decade Pranburi has become home to some very high-end resorts, so if you’re looking for budget accommodations, better to stick with Hua Hin.
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North of Hua Hin and even closer to Bangkok is the beach town of Cha-am, another favorite destination of foreign and Thai Bangkok residents looking for a place to relax over the weekend. Cha-am has a developed, bustling urban area just off the beach and a heavy concentration of resorts, hotels and guesthouses on the coast, but it also has its share of quiet, peaceful resorts a mile or two from the city center. Cha-am is also an easy drive or bus ride from Bangkok.
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If you want to experience island resort life but don’t have lots of time, Koh Samet is as good as it gets. The small island in the Gulf of Siam is just off the mainland, about three hours from Bangkok -- you’ll need to take a short ferry or speed boat ride to the island itself. Though most of the island is technically a protected area, nearly all of the usable coastline is covered with beach resorts and beach restaurants. Accommodations range from cheap guesthouses behind the beach to just a few upscale resorts in more secluded areas. Samet doesn’t have a wild party scene, but there are plenty of places to get drinks and listen to music.