Self Drive Trip across Thailand (7 days, 2000 kms) : Part 4 (Bang Saen)

Bang Saen, a beach destination in Chon Buri province is situated 100 kms south east of Bangkok along the Bight of Bangkok. Same beach stretches to Pattaya, which is some 30 kms further south. Bang Saen is a haunt for Thais families from Bangkok, who swarm the place during weekends. Otherwise, during weekdays the beach remains somewhat peaceful. We reach here on a weekend evening thus witnessing the beach at its gorgeous best.

We arrive at this cosy guest house run by a friendly Thai lady, Nuan before sunset. It is located right on the beachfront and our room offers inviting view of beach across the road lined with coconut trees and food stalls. Soon we are ready to explore the night market, Bang Saen Walking Street, situated 5-min walk away.

Bang Saen Abode


The concept of walking street here has probably originated from nearby Pattaya. This is a make-shift market set up on weekend nights on the beach front, off-limits for vehicles. The scene is supplemented with performance by in-house band groups, mostly students from local university. It makes a heady mix of street market selling exotic wares, rows of food stalls and a live band show on the backdrop of breezy Gulf of Thailand. On offer are funky jewellery, decoration stuff, paintings, tops, skirts, shorts, footwear, accessories and similar objects of desire, many times over. Other two companions are quick to get in ‘shop-like-tomorrow-may-not-be’ mode.

walking street, Bang Saen

The food scene here is amazing. There are rows of eating joints with sit-outs offering wide variety of seafood and other stuff. We try some known and some unknown recipes. Seafood exotica on offer include prawns, shrimp, squids, mussel, lobster, oyster, sponge apart from fish (includes some unknown varieties), chicken, mutton, pork etc. The main dish is complemented with sticky rice or noodles.

Rice is the staple diet of Thailand. Traditionally, the Thai word for rice is synonyms to ‘eat’ and a traditional greeting is derived from ‘have you had rice yet?’ Jasmine rice is one of the most sought after variety due to long grains and flavour (akin to Basmati). Thai rice is usually of ‘sticky’ variety forming lumps after cooking. Even Jasmine rice, which is supposedly less sticky, have grains sticking together when cooked.

Soup is served in a large bowl which has a hollow portion at the centre filled with red hot charcoals. This helps in keeping the soup hot. There is an outlet offering recipes of banana – the final stuff looks like a banana coated in different colours like pink, orange, blue, green etc.

Soup bowl with burning coal in the central portion

Banana recipes

Next day we walk down to the beach. Beach has its own share of food stalls and other knick-knacks counters. We come across a lady vending ripe jackfruit flesh. This is an exotic dish in Bengal (Bongs famously say that you either love it or hate it – immensely; primarily because of its strong odour and quaint taste). Sharmi tries the fruit and it tastes good. Jackfruits look quite different here. They are larger in size and pricklier in appearance. We saw them yesterday while entering Bang Saen but did not recognise them for what they are. It’s only today, on coming across the peeled version, does the realisation dawn.

Beach Scene

On this weekend day the beach is a “families day out” scene. Families and groups of varying composition have gathered here, as if for a celebration. It is high water time and waves have laid claim to most of the beach front. Outside this, the area is laid out with unending rows of umbrellas erected like a continuous canopy; beach chairs & tables spread squarely under them. The seating can be hired for a small fee for the whole day. We book a 4-seat setting next to the waves and get on to our business; daughter runs into the waves, madam lays herself luxuriantly on the chair and I scamper to the food stalls lined up across the promenade. We spend almost the entire day (as against our plans of limiting it till noontime) enjoying ourselves, observing others and getting into scrambled chats with the locals.


Baby’s day out

Constant stream of vendors selling foodstuff and other wares criss-cross the area. Soon Sharmi links up with a lady offering Thai massage. Though it was on her agenda before coming to Thailand, she did not probably expect to get it so soon, so easy.

Thais love their food – Is it that the Thais love their food so much because the food is exotic? Or is it that the Thai food is so exotic that the Thais love it intensely? Irrespective of the answer, these are two distinct facts-

           Fact 1.      Thai food is awesome.

           Fact 2.      Thais love their food.

Fact 1 is understandable. Fact 2 is what we observe in Thailand, here on this beach and elsewhere. Thais enjoy eating and they do it constantly through the day – on a beach day the family arrives and orders something from one of the stalls. After a while, family members take out their own eatables from the picnic basket. Not much later the scene is repeated, punctuated by irritants like children running off to the sea, husbands flashing out bottles of beer, ladies getting into intense discussion about something apparently not very unfamiliar and so on. Many families carry their own barbeque sets (chulha like arrangements) complete with semi-cooked or raw food which is to be had in between savouring the locally available stuff.

We force ourselves out of this place by late afternoon, not having had enough of it.

Our next destination is Pattaya, some 40 minutes drive from here. Once there, we do a perfunctory ‘Pattaya darshan’. The place looks ‘plasticky’; as if coated in a shiny wrap where wrapper matters more than the wrapped. We drive across the malls, get a peek into the floating market et al, but my companions are not much interested in spending time here. They are clearly focussed on a more critical issue – Bang Saen walking street. Soon enough, we are driving away from Pattaya so as not to miss the night market.

It may be worthwhile to mention here that Pattaya’s notorious hedonist streaks are attributable to the American soldiers. Some five decades back this was a sleepy fishing outpost which was discovered by American GIs posted in nearby Army base. Later on during Vietnam War, Pattaya became a hot destination for fun and frolic (and sleaze) for the American soldiers on leave. Inflow of dollars followed by other international visitors and currencies helped in bringing about the transformation, as also disrepute to Pattaya. Things are apparently improving since authorities here have taken cognisance of the matter. Concerted efforts are now being made to place Pattaya as family destination.

On our way back I try this transaction at local ATM using my bank’s debit card (about which I mentioned in Part 2 of this series). A withdrawal of 5000B, I am informed by sms, entails INR 9980 (when the going conversion rate is 1B = 1.63 INR).

The owner of the seafood stall whom we befriended yesterday does a prolonged handshake with me. I am getting addicted to Singha beer (popular brand here; another being Chang beer) while my better parts are away shopping. I work on the beer cans and engage with this friendly owner through partially comprehensible exchanges. I would put the figure at 10 percent – no, not the alcohol content in Singha beer but my understanding of what the guys is saying. It does not bother me though; or him, by the looks of it.

Spoken words are not the only way to create bridges between humans.

Traditional Thai greeting is called Wai. it is similar to ‘Namaste’ where both the palms are folded together. However, vertical position  of the palms vary with occasion, viz. palms held high at the level of forehead is meant for divinity, etc. As we depart, we exchange a wai with the stall owner turned friend of ours.

We are already deep in love with this country.

Next part covers our drive to Kampaeng Phet/ Chiang Mai.

Thanks,

Auro.

33 Comments

  • ??? ???? ?? ????? ???? ????? ?? ??? ?? ……..???? ???? ?? ????? ??? ???………..???? ??? ???? ???? ?? ???? ?? ?? ?? ????? ???? ?????? ?? ??? ………???? ????? ????? ??? ???? ????? ?? ????? ???? ?? ?? ?????? ??? ????? ???? ?? ?? ????? ??? ?? ?? ?? ?? ??? ????? ????? ??? …………?????? ??? ???? ??????? ?? ???? ?? ???? ??? ?? ????? ???? ?? ?? ????? ???? ?? ?????? ???? ???? ? ?? ??? ?? ??????? ?? ???? ????????? ????? ?? ???? ???????? ???? ??

    • AUROJIT says:

      ??? ??,

      ????????? ?? ????? ???? ?? ??? ?????????? ?? ???, ?? ??????? ???? ?? ??? ????? ! ??? ????? ??? ? (???? ?? ??? ???, ???? ? ?????).
      ????? ??????? ???? ?? ???? ?? ?? ????? ??? ??, ?????? ?? ??? ???? ?? ???. ?? ?????? ?? ?? ?? ??????? ?? ???? ?? family friendly ??? ??. ???? ???? ??????? ???, ?????? ?? ????? ?? ??.

      ???? ???? ????? ?? ???? ??? ??? ???? ?????? ?? ?????? ???? ?? ????? ??? ?? ????? ???.

      ???? ?? veg options ?? ????? ?? . ?????? ????? ?? ?? ???? ?????? restaurants ??? ??????? – ???? ?????, ???? ?? ???? ????? ??. ?? ????????? ?? ????? ??? ???? ?? ????? ?? ?? ??? ???? ?? ?? ???? ??.

      ???? , ???????? ???? ??????? ?? ???.

      Auro.

      • ?? ?? ???? ??? ???? ??? , ???? ?? ?????? ?? ???? ???? ?? ?? ?????? ?????? ??? ?? ??????? ????? ????? ?? , ???? ????? ?? ????? ??? ?? ?? ?? ?? ??? 8 ??? ?? ??? ?? ??????? ????? ?? ????????? ?? ??? ???? ????? ??? ????? ??? ??? ??? ????? ????? ?? ???? ?? ?????? ??? ?? ???? ?? ?? ??

        ?? ??? ??? ?? ????? ??? ?? ?? ?? ????? ???? ?? ?? ?????? ????? ???? ??? ??? ??? ???????? ?? ???? ???? ??? ???? ?? ?? ????????? ???? ?? ?? ???? ????? ?? ??? ?? ???? ????? ??? ???? ?? ?? ??? ?? ?? ?? ??? ??? ???? ??????

  • Surinder.Sharma says:

    Aurojit,
    Very informative post and good phots. Manu is ready to go to Thailand, hope he will invite some ghummkar from this site to visit with him. Lot of people shopping there and bring bags with them. Any idea what is cheaper there.
    Thanks

    • AUROJIT says:

      Hi Surinderji,

      Thanks for your comments.

      Yes, I also hope that Manu takes other Ghumakkars along with him.
      Shopping scene is amazing there. In fact I saw a large number of people, on my return flight carrying LCD TVs (apart from the excess bags like we did).
      I think it is one of the rare countries where things are cheaper (or equal, at the most) than Bharat. Thanks,
      Auro.

  • venkatt says:

    Spoken words are not the only way to create bridges between humans. How true. Aurojit, You really made me fall in love with Thailand’s beauty and its people through your travelogue. Hope to be there one day.

    • AUROJIT says:

      Hi Venky,

      Thanks for your kind words.

      It is a lovable place indeed !

      Sure that your Ghumakkar instincts will take you there and beyond.

      Thankful,

      Auro.

  • SilentSoul says:

    this series is going great Auro. the ??????? done on fotos and putting colored borders around them, is great.

    Hope veg food is also available there.

    waiting next part

    • AUROJIT says:

      Hi SilentSoulji,

      Thanks for nice words. ??????? is thanks to ‘photofiltre’, it allows you to add those fancy borders etc.

      Veg food – fruits are in abundance, rice is the staple diet . There will be no problem in tourist places and out of tourist area, I think it will be more difficult to convey e that you want veg food rather than finding it!

      Thanks,
      Auro.

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Wai, Aurojit…great going. I am thoroughly enjoying myself.

    Rather surprised that in spite of the heavy tourist influx, English is not wodely spoken there, at least in the tourist destinations. In such places in India,we can see people with a basic level of education conversing with western tourists in French, German and Spanish too, in addition to English. Not impeccable but definitely sufficient to communicate with them.

    Sign language can be confusing at times. In the pic above the one captioned “Kid’s day out”, the young lady is giving a thumbs down while smiling in a very friendly manner. Do Thais smile even when they are upset or does a thumbs down mean something else in their culture?

    BTW, at the moment, the Baht is worth nearly Rs.1.80…..a far cry from the late 60’s when it was just worth 25 paise! India, in spite of all its natural and human resources, is languishing far behind due to decades of misgovernment and a kleptocracy masquerading as democracy.

    • AUROJIT says:

      Hi DL,

      English is certainly an issue, though not so much in areas frequented by tourists. One point is that till we reached Bangkok (or the shopping areas of Chaing Mai), our interaction was mostly with people who do not usually deal with western tourists.

      And the fact that Thailand was not colonised could perhaps be one more reason.

      That lady (btw she has a daughter in class 11, not in the pic here) doing thumbs down, I thought she is indicating towards the chicken. Actually Sharmi had a long discussion with ma-beti duo in tuti-futi English and she readily agreed to our request for the pic.

      Thais smiling even when they are upset :-) nice tribute to Thai friendliness . Frankly, I do not remember coming across an upset, glowering Thai.

      Baht for 25 paisa !! Certainly an issue worth pondering.

      Appreciate your comments,

      Thanks,

      Auro.

  • Neeraj Jat says:

    ?? ??????? ???? ??? ???? ???? ???? ?????? ?????? ?? ?????, ??? ?????? ?? ????? ??? ????? ???? ???, ?? ??? ?? ?? ????? ???????? ?? ??? ???? ???? ???? ???? ?? ??? ?? ??? ??? ?? ?? ?????

    • SilentSoul says:

      ???? ??? ??? ?? ???????? ??… ?? ????? ???? ?? ??? ???? ?? ? ??? ???

      • Neeraj Jat says:

        ???, ??? ?? ???????? ????? ???????? ???? ???? ???????? ?? ????????
        ?? ???, ???? ????? ?? ???? ??? ??? ??? ???? ??? ????? ???-??? ?? ???? ?? ??? ??, ?? ?? ?? ????? ??? ????????? ??? ???? ??? ???? ?? ???? ?? ??? ?? ???????? ??? ??? ??????? ???? ??? ????? ????????? ???? ?? ?? ???? ??? ?? ???? ??? ???? ?? ?????? ???? ???? ???
        ???? ??????? ??? ?? ????-???? ?? ????? ???? ????? ????? ???? ????? ???? ??? ?? ???? ???

        • SilentSoul says:

          LOL… ???? ????????? ???????? ?? ?????????? ?? ???? ?????? ??. ??? ??? ?? ???????? ??? ?? 30 ????? ?? ???? ???? ?? ??? ?? ??? ?? ???? ???.. ???? ?? ??? ????. ???? ???? ????? ??? ?? ??? ?????? ????????? ??? ???? ??.. ??? ?? ????? ??? ?? 3 ??? ?? ???? ?? ?? ?? ?? ???? ??? ?? ??? 2 ??? ?? ?? ???? ??? ??? ?? ?????? ???????? ??? ???

          ???? ?? ?????? ?? ???????? ???? ?? ??? ??… ?? ??? ?? ??????? ?? ????? ??? ?? ????? ???????? ??. ???????? ??? ????? ?? ????? ?? ????? ???????? ???????? ?? ?? 90 ??????? ???? ?????? ??????? ???..

          ???? ????????? ???? ??? ???? ??? ??? ????-2 ????? ?? ??? ?? ??? ??? ?? ??? ? ??? ?? ? ???.

          ????? ?????????? ?? ??? ???? ???? ?????? ??? ?? ?? … ??? ???? ??? ?????

          • Mukesh Bhalse says:

            ??.??. ??,
            ?? ??? ?? ??? ??? ?? ?? ??????? ???????? ?? ??? ?????? ??, ????? ?? ???? ??? ??? ??? ?? ??????? ?????????? ?? ??? ????? ?????? ???

          • AUROJIT says:

            Silent Soulji , Neeraj Bhai,

            ????? ??? ???? ?? ?????? ????? ???????? ???? – ???? ??????? ??? ??.
            ?? ?? ??? ?? ???? ??? ?? ?? ???? ??????? ?? ??? ?? – ??? ??? ?? ??? ? ??? ?? ? ???.

            ????????

            Auro.

    • AUROJIT says:

      ???? ???,

      ?? ?? ?????? ?? ??? ??? ?? ?? ???? ???? ??? ???? ???? ?? ! ??? ?? ???? ???? ???? ??? ?? ???????? ?? ???? ????? ?? ??? ??????? :-)

      ??????? ???? ?? ??? ?????? ???? ???????? ?? ???? ?? – ?? ????? ???? ???? ?????? ?? ?? ??? ?? ?????? ???? ?? ???? ??.

      ??? ?? ???? ?? ?? ??????????????? ???? ??? ??? ???? ??? – ?????, ??????? ???? ?? ?? ???? ???? ??.

      ???? ???? ???????? ???? ??? ???? ?? ?? ?? ?? ??????? ???? ??.

      Auro.

    • AUROJIT says:

      ???? ???,

      ???? comments ???? ??? ?? ??. ????? ?? ?? ???? ?? ????? ??.

      Sorry for the inconvenience, I am unable to bring it here now.

      Auro.

    • AUROJIT says:

      ??????,
      ????????.
      ????? ???? scroll ??? ???? ???? ?? ???.
      Auro.

  • Mukesh Bhalse says:

    Auro,
    Superb post with intelligent narration and nice pictures. The concept of soup bowl with burning coal in the center is great.
    ????? ???? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ???????? ?? ??? ?? ??? ?????? ?? ???? ?????? ?????? ???? ??? ????? ?? ???? / ???? ?? ???? ???? ???? ??, ??? ??? ??? ?? ?????? ???? ??.

    Thanks.

    • AUROJIT says:

      Hi Mukesh,

      Thanks for your valuable comments. Yes, the container is something similar – though is has a bowl shaped body around the central portion which holds the soup.

      Thanks,

      Auro.

  • Bidisha says:

    Did you go for that glass-bottom boat watch of the colored corals off the Pattaya coasts?

    Even being a non-veg, I could not stand any of the sea-food and other non-veg items while in Thailand. But the variety of exotic fruits, I found, was overwhelming. I still fondly remember the taste of the veg-corn sandwiches sold in glass boxed van at the road side, the jack-fruit like yellow fruits, the red spiky kiwi-like fruits and off-course the bright yellow bananas. Surprisingly, all street foods looked very clean and hygienic. That was really a blessing for hygiene-freaked me. Lemon-grass flavored chicken rice was the only non-veg dish that I savored and survived on.

    Loved the photos. It brought back so many wonderful memories.

    • AUROJIT says:

      Hi Bidisha,

      Thanks for your nice response.
      Pattaya was a drive through for us, so missed out on the glass bottom boats.
      Fruit scene is amazing there. Sorry to hear that you had to miss out on sea-food part.
      Yes, hygiene scene is quite good there – in fact, one becomes acutely aware of the fact that despite there being so many non-veg stalls (and associated trappings), there was no unattended leftovers/offal in the surrounding, no foul smelling scene with flies and bigger creatures milling around.

      Thanks,

      Auro.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Sorry Auro for the late-show here.

    The first set of photos of night market looks retro. Like a great film maker, you have hidden the details so as to further arouse the curiosity. :-). The ‘Beach Scene’ and the ‘Night market ‘ shots are right out of a 007 movie where James is off for a break.

    Eating ripe jack-fruit is probably only common in East. When I tell folks here that one can have it ripe and it tastes (and smells) brilliant, no one believes me (Actually out of this frustration, I also tell them that you can eat the rind too so you know..).

    I was reading the comments and to add to what you already said that everyone always praises for the food, the fruits and the fact that vegetarian is not difficult to get.

    It is heartening to read that someone is working on the branding aspect of Pattaya. My wife has been to Thai and recently my Sister (with family) was there and indeed a lot of what you see in media is not true. Hopefully logs like these would further destroy the myth.

  • AUROJIT says:

    Hi Nandan,

    Actually ‘retro’ is all that came out of my sincere efforts to make a ‘pro’. Hiding details is as much unintentional as revealing those which I thought would be invisible in the pics:-)

    James on a break – I must say ‘the world is not enough’ – how else would I justify the ‘quantum of solace’ drawn from your words here :-)

    Jackfruit, yes it is a typical eastern phenomenon. And you will have an ally in Sharmi in describing it ‘brilliant’ (taste and smell). My description of a ripe jackfruit flesh would be somewhat (rather drastically) different. But you see, I am not allowed to describe that.

    Thai Branding – I would never mind that, after all the good memories that we carry about Thailand with us.

    Thanks for valuable comments

    Auro.

  • Colorful post Aurojit,

    This post shows true colors of Thailand. Markets, Sea food, Music and Sea. Ultimate combination , but for me I am a veggie . Give me some motivation to go at this place.

  • AUROJIT says:

    Hi Vishal,

    If you seek motivation through the way of stomach :-), there are reasonable veg options. Fruits are in abundance, rice is their staple diet and the taste of food is something which would appeal to Indian palate.

    For the rest, does a Ghumakkar need motivation to indulge in Ghumakkari? :-)

    Sincere thanks again,

    Auro.

  • Supratik Bose says:

    Hello Auro,

    Planning a trip to Thailand early June with the missus and our two year old daughter and chanced upon your blog which is serving as a compass to our itinerary! We plan to drive down to Kwai to kickstart our trip followed by Pattaya and we like what we see of Bang Saen in your TL. Much like you, we also give the touristy places a short shrift and seek out the local flavour. Can you be so kind as to let me know the guesthouse you stayed at Bang Saen?

    We also came across names like Ko Si Chang (island off Si Racha) and Chanthaburi further to the east. Any thoughts on these places?

    Thanks in advance!
    Supratik

  • AUROJIT says:

    Hi Supratik,

    Great idea about driving through that nice country. GH in Bang Saen is called Nuan’s Corner
    (nuanscorner@yahoo.com). A google search on that name followed Bang Saen will take you there. It is a nondescript site but the host is quite communicative. Ask for the room facing the beach.

    You may decide between staying in Pattaya and BangSaen (since they are just about 40 min drive apart).

    Ko Si Chang is something that we also explored so I can tell you pros n cons (our views) –

    P – Exclusive, not much tourist crowd.
    C – You go there by a boat, so the car gets redundant. The place appeared to be so exclusive that we feared missing out on local tourist crowd (and khaabaar) scene.

    Chanthaburi – we were concentrating on west/south west part since we were to pick up the car from south west area (where Subarnabhumi is located).

    However, on hindsight, almost any destination would be OK till you have your time and space factors correct.

    Do ask more if you need,

    Thanks,

    Auro.

  • Supratik Bose says:

    Thanks Auro so much for the information. We can almost feel our pulses race as we plan for the trip.

    Will come back to you with more questions!

    regards
    Supratik

  • Supratik Bose says:

    Hi Auro,

    The owner has disposed off the GH at Bang Saen, would you be able to recommend any other hotel/GH in this area?

    Please also share your email id for me to write to you directly should I have more questions.

    regards
    Supratik

  • AUROJIT says:

    Hi Supratik,

    Didn’t know about this development on GH. Other options that come to mind in the area are below –

    1. Bird hotel (it is next door to Nuan’s , across a lane running between them)
    2. Sez Hotel ( before the above two)
    2. SS Bang Saen (before the above three).

    Well, all of them are on the beach road (Soi 1) facing the beach.

    When you drive into Bang Saen, it will be a right turn from Bkk to Pattya highway (nh3). This right turn takes you on road 3137 (refer google map max resolution :-); past the university which you leave on left, then to the main entrance of beach road as you hit ‘Welcome to Bang Saen’ junction ( last pic of previous part of this series). From here on, you turn right to move along Soi 1 , with the sea/beach on your left.

    Driving down from here, after about half a km, you have these hotels on your right. Sequence would be SS, Sez, Bird, Nuan and so on till you end up at the point which hosts the night market/ promenade.

    Will give you a ping on e-mail.

    Enjoy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.