A dog trots across the sand. A group of Thais has sat around a table for a barbecue. An elderly man swims in the sea. It’s a quiet beach, and the main road that runs along the coast doesn’t make any difference. A little further on, young people are sitting in front of a 7-Eleven listening to music, a sports car stops and a man and a young Thai woman get out. The man’s arms are tattooed and he is wearing sunglasses, even though the sun has already set.

We stroll along Beach Road and stop off at a restaurant. Thai dishes are on the menu. Europeans are sitting at the tables: a group of people from Norway. English people, but mainly Germans, most of them accompanied by a Thai woman.

Rayong is not a tourist destination. Foreigners live here who find Pattaya too noisy and the dream beaches on the islands too expensive. It has hardly anything to offer apart from the vacation island of Koh Samet.

Phra Chedi Klang Nam (Samut Chedi)

It’s a rainy day. We’ve put up in a windowless hotel room and the mood is depressed. At the top of our to-do list today is “laundry”. In search of a laundromat, we get to know the city of Rayong better. While we wait for the wash to finish, we explore Suan Si Mueang Park. A sudden rain shower drives us back. Another attempt while the washing dries. Once across the city for lunch. A busy main road, huge billboards, chaos in the pedestrian zones, an ugly mall, a food court – lunch at last.

We quickly pick up our laundry and drive out of the city to one of the few sights, the Phra Chedi Klang Nam. It is located on the edge of a mangrove forest, through which beautifully laid out paths lead. The information boards about habitats and the mangrove forest ecosystem are poorly translated and lacking in information. Apart from two young couples and a pack of street dogs, we are the only visitors.

It is drizzling. Garbage is stuck in the roots of the mangroves and a rowing team passes us by. Fishing boats bob up and down in the swell.

Mangrove Forest in Rayong
Mangrove Forest in Rayong
Canoe on the River in Rayong

Wat Samut Khongkharam lies opposite a fishing port. A bridge leads us across to a headland with man-made swimming bays. Street vendors sell fruits and cold drinks, there are nice restaurants and bars and a little more life than the places we visited before. It could be a nice beach, a nice place by the sea, if there wasn’t the view of the gigantic industrial plants right by the sea. Pipes, chimneys, tankers – Rayong’s economy is based on heavy industry and petrochemicals.

Fisher Boats in Rayong
Wat Samut Khongkharam
Wat Samut Khongkharam

The real attraction of Rayong is the offshore island of Koh Samet. Formerly a popular destination for Thais, the small island has now also been discovered by international tourists. We cross over on an old fishing boat. The statue of a giantess welcomes us at the pier. It is the story of Prince Aphai Man, who was captured by the giantess and was able to free himself with a lullaby played on his flute and thanks to a beautiful mermaid.

We leave the crowded pier behind us and head for Sai Kaew Beach. The restaurants and bars are so close together that we can’t tell where one place ends and the next begins. Finally, we find a cozy spot by the water.

Koh Samet was once a pearl. A small island, easy to reach from Bangkok. Fantastic sunsets and fresh air. We may have visited the wrong beaches on Koh Samet, but this island is a bit cramped for us. Too much to do in too small a space. A walk through the jungle – once across the island to the west side – is just the thing.

Arriving in Koh Samet
Green Bananas
Ferry to Koh Samet
Beach at Rayong

We take the last boat back to the mainland. Rayong is boring, Rayong is not beautiful. And perhaps apart from Koh Samet, Rayong is certainly not worth a trip. But with its unexcited boredom and mediocrity, it is exactly what expats and long-term vacationers are looking for here: some beach and an affordable life.

Info about our trip