Best beach in SE Asia?

Old Sep 24th, 2009, 01:37 PM
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Best beach in SE Asia?

Hi,
I've been reading a lot of posts about beaches in Thailand....and frankly, I'm disappointed because there doesn't seem to be any concensus. As many negatives as positives listed.

If you could go to any beach in Thailand, Cambodia, Viet Nam or, possibly, Bali, where would you go at the end of April?

We're looking for the most beautiful beach setting, clear and clean turquoise water, an atmospheric hotel (preferably not huge) and some other pursuits, like kayaking or boating to islands or elephant riding....don't need a good bar scene...but eating well is important. I'm in my mid 50's and my husband is in his mid-60's.

Would really appreciate your help as the guidebooks and magazine articles aren't helping. For instance, an article entitled "Best Asian Beaches" listed Ko Phi Phi as one of the best overall beaches. Yet, several of you have said...avoid Ko Phi Phi.
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Old Sep 24th, 2009, 01:53 PM
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Expecting consensus on something like this is unrealistic. Diferent people like differnt things. Beacuse one person doesn't like a particular beach or hotel doesn't mean you won't like it.

I'm not sure who said to avoid Ko PhiPhi. More than one poster here would rate it as one of the best in the world. But at the end of April, this area is starting to move into the monsoon season. Even earlier in April is better.

Bali is a wonderful destination, but its beaches are only so-so. Lombok's beaches are better, but the rest of the infrastructure isn't up to Thailand's. Cambodia's beaches are mostly so-so. I've heard that VN has a beach or two that are close to Thai beaches in quality, but the infrastructure there will not measure up to Thailand.

Malaysia has some really beautiful beaches. Cicerone often has recommendtaions for Malaysian beaches. Weather may be an issue in some areas.
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Old Sep 24th, 2009, 03:13 PM
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Kathie said it right. None of us agree on beach destinations! lol I've been to Phuket, Ko Phi Phi, Ko Samui, Krabi, and Pattaya, all in Thailand. My most recent experience was in Krabi. It is more laid back than Phuket or Samui; it is much much less sleazy than Pattaya!! Phi Phi is beautiful, really, but a bit too far away from things for my taste.

I found Krabi to be a nice mix of beaches and activity. I rented a speedboat for an afternoon, and visited islands off shore. A lovely way to be on the water! Longtail boats are very plentiful (but not quite the comfort as the speedboat) for about half the price, or less. The islands off shore have some really nice remote beaches. Some have no facilities, others may have small inns and eating places/bars.

I would go back to Krabi, Phuket or Samui in a heartbeat, if someone said "let's go!"

Carol
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Old Sep 24th, 2009, 07:20 PM
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Carol,
Where in Krabi or Phuket would you go?
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Old Sep 24th, 2009, 10:29 PM
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When people talk about Krabi, they're usually focused one two areas: Railay and Ao Nang. Railay is a small peninsula that is so isolated by cliffs that it can only be reached by boat. There's one high-end resort here, the Rayavadee, with frontage on all three of Railay's beaches. The Sunrise Tropical is my favorite place, but it is on the 'bad' beach. You have to walk a short way to get to the 'good' beach.

Ao Nang is 15 minutes from Railay by boat, and is where most of the hotel are (Phi Phi and Lanta islands are also part of Krabi province, but they're usually considered separately). There are several other very nice resorts, such as the Amari Vogue and the Sheraton, another 15 minutes are so along the coast from Ao Nang.

In Phuket, Kata/Kata Noi and Bangtao beaches are probably the best places for good food as well as nice hotels. Mom Tri's Boat House and Mom Tri's Villa Royale get a lot of mentions here. They're both in the Kata area. Bangtao is dominated by the Laguna integrated resort, which has a Banyan Tree, Sheraton, Dusit and Alamanda resorts.
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Old Sep 25th, 2009, 12:23 AM
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Its very relative.The 'ideal' beach of my choice have been Havelock in the Andamans & of course the islands in the Maldives.Thats south asia.Resonably isolated,with all comforts.One is spoilt for choice in Thailand(Ko Phangan & Ko Tao in the gulf of Siam to Phi Phi & Lanta,Trang to the south) & Malaysia(Perhentian Islands & the Tioman Islands in the east coast of peninsular Malaysia).These are well documented.
If you are prepared to tread the less worn path,try Raja Ampat islands,West Papua.The Wayag lagoon & the surrounding rock islands are breathtakingly beautiful.Its one long haul from Jakarta.
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Old Sep 25th, 2009, 03:46 AM
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I would think that if you asked this same question about Hawaiian beaches, Caribbean beaches, etc you would get the same answer; as everyone has a different criteria for what constitutes “best” and the opinions are as varied as the beaches.

Some thoughts I would add are:

You don't mention how much time you have and where else you are gong on this trip. If you only have 4-5 days I am not sure that the Maldives are worth the trip if you are committed to flying into and out of a city in SE Asia like Bangkok. If you will already be in Thailand, then perhaps flying to Vietnam is a bit unnecessary.

Look at weather issues. April is pretty good for the places you have mentioned, but see weatherbase.com and other sites to confirm you are happy with the potential for rainfall. Nothing would ruin a beach vacation worse than rain or days of overcast skies.

I would suggest you remove “elephant riding” from your criteria. In places where you can find elephants (like Thailand), the rides at beach locations are quite canned and touristy, IMO. You really need to go inland to forest areas where elephants were and are used for transport and work to have a more authentic (sort of) elephant riding experience. Elephants were not really used extensively in beach areas for transport or work (boats were and are), so the rides are strictly for the tourists. Bali does not have elephants as a native species, and to the best of my knowledge never used the few they imported for work or transport (I think mostly royalty used them or the kings' armies did), so again, the rides (of which there are maybe one or two in the interior portions) are quite canned.

If you have a good budget, consider hiring a crewed boat to live on during the trip if you want to see Thailand beaches in the Phuket/Krabi area. You can have the comfort, the privacy, good food and also get to the more remote beaches which day trippers don't get to (or get there in the morning or evening before they arrive or after they have left). I can give you some suggestions if you are interested. The cost is about similar to a 5 star hotel, perhaps a bit more, but does include all meals (or you could hotel hop for dinners and lunches to some degree).

For my money, the most beautiful beach in SE Asia is on the island of Rawa, on the east coast of Malaysia, about a 2-3 hour drive and then a short boat ride from Singapore. See http://www.rawasfr.com/ Caveat: hotel is not at all luxurious and I would say the food is on the average side. It does offer sublime beaches, water views and it does have kayaking and can arrange dive trips. See rawasfr.com April is a good month there.

You could also consider beaches and islands along other parts of the east coast of Malaya like the Redang islands (see http://www.berjayahotels-resorts.com/redangresort.htm,) a perfectly fine but not overly luxurious hotel, dining options here and in the nearby town would be a bit limited IMO. But a really lovely beach, good water sport options. Or go to the really lovely hotel south of Kuala Terranganu, the Tanjong Jara, see http://www.slh.com/malaysia/dungun/duntan.html. (I would suggest avoiding Tioman as it is too developed for my taste.)

I would agree that the Maldives really are the most beautiful beaches I have yet to see in my life. However, if you are already in SE Asia, it may not be that convenient get there, as they are significantly east (past India,but only a 4 hour flight from Singapore) . But certainly worth the trip. Again, no elephants, but lots of really good hotel choices and the water sport options you mentioned.

I love Bali and think it would make a great trip, but wold not meet your white sand and turquoise water criteria. However, there are many excellent hotels there, probably the best selection of good restaurants of any non-city location in SE Asia, and so many other things to do and see (including diving and snorkeling) that the lack of pristine beaches does not bother me at all. However, if this is what you are really looking for, then I would go elsewhere.

I have done a little bit of travel in Vietnam (I am writing this from Hue), and actually think that the beaches could certainly rival Thailand. You might look at Hoi An, and in particular the Nam Hai hotel, see http://www.ghmhotels.com/. (I don't know about the kayaking possibility, check their website.) If I were limited to only the counties you mentioned above, I would go to this hotel and beach over those in Thailand. Hoi An is a charming small town and the beaches are really lovely. It has not yet had the tourist explosion which Thailand, and in particular Phuket/Krabi, has had. (It will soon, but currently still has a sleepy quality). I don't agree with the comment on the infrastructure being undeveloped, as you can fly to place s like Hoi An (or Hue) qutie easily on various arlines, including the inexpensive JetStar. I agree that the road system is not as developed, but if you stay in one locale, you don 't need long distance transport and can even use a bicycle to sightsee – a very pleasant alternative.
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Old Sep 25th, 2009, 04:27 AM
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barefoot
I stayed at Ao Nang in Krabi. On Phuket, I prefer Kata and Kata Noi beaches.
Carol
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Old Sep 25th, 2009, 08:39 AM
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Thanks to everyone for your insightful comments. I should have been clearer in my question about our other travel plans. We've got 4-5 weeks to tour Bangkok, maybe Chiang Mai, Luang Prabang, Angkor Wat, North and South Viet Nam....and either 5 nights in a beach setting or Bali. We are planning to go to Hoi An, but not for the beach. So, I was looking for a great beach experience that wouldn't be too far out of the way of the above trip.

I would love to see the Maldives sometime, but not on this trip.

Also, we do live In Florida a block from a gulf beach, so I wanted to experience a lovely beach that still offers a cultural experience. And, you're right, Cicerone, an elephant ride could better done somewhere else.
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Old Sep 25th, 2009, 09:40 AM
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Barefoot, beach destinations are not typically long on culture. Bali would be the best cultural beach destination (more culture than beach), but you really need more than 5 days, IMO. Weather will be an important factor in choosing a beach. SInce you are going to both Thailand and VN, I'd suggest you choose a beach in one of those countries. Otherwise, you'll be adding significant travel time to your itinerary.
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Old Sep 25th, 2009, 12:04 PM
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Cicerone,or anyone else, I would be interested in finding out more about the crewed boats out of Phuket, Krabi, and Samui. Are there some reputable companies with website that I could look at. English speaking would be good.
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Old Sep 25th, 2009, 07:16 PM
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Samui is still a bit short on these things - it doesn't yet have a proper harbor. There are a few choices out of Phuket.

Queen of the Andaman seems to be the cream of the crop:
http://www.queenofandaman.com/

Meroja:
http://www.meroja.com/

SEAL has more options:
http://www.seal-asia.com/

And also Sail in Asia:
http://sailinasia.com/
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Old Sep 27th, 2009, 09:32 PM
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I have chartered boats for dive trips with Asia-Marine, they operate out of two harbours in Phuket, I know the location at Phuket Boat Lagoon, but either is probably fine. They also have a sales office in Bangkok, see their website:

Asia-Marine (formerly known as Thai Marine Leisure)
Yacht charters & Yacht Brokerage
c/o Phuket Boat Lagoon
20/8 Moo 2 Thepkasattri Road
Koh Kaew, Muang, Phuket 83000, Thailand
Tel: 66 (0)76 239 111
Fax: +66 (0)76 238 974
e-mail: [email protected]
http://www.asia-marine.net/

Also try the company below. I have used them for day charters, and would recco them, and I believe others on this site have used them as well. Not cheap, but reliable and nice boats and service. (They offer a charter of the Queen of the Andamans, mentioned above, which is a sail boat. I had assumed you wanted a power boat, but a sailboat would certainly be a nice experience as well.)

Limestone Adventures
Phuket Boat Lagoon
Thepkrasattri Road Koh Kaew
Muang, Phuket
Tel:66-76-273-328
Fax:66-76-239-559
e-mail: [email protected]
website: http://www.limestoneadventures.com

You might also look at the websites for the various harbours in Phuket as they should include a list of charter companies:
http://www.yacht-haven-phuket.com/
http://www.phuketboatlagoon.com/
http://www.royalphuketmarina.com/

If you are just interested in kayaking in Phuket, I know that John Gray’s sea canoes in Phuket seems to get good reccos here. I have not used them, but run a search and see http://www.johngray-seacanoe.com/. He may be able to offer some charter reccos as well.

If you are going to be in Cambodia, you might consider the islands of Koh Chang or Koh Samet. The islands are Thai, but are basically off the coast of Cambodia. I have not been, others on this site have posted about them, run a search. I know James has posted on Koh Chang before.

I would also say that for Hoi An, you might want to consider staying on the beach and going into Hoi an on day trips.
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