Planning Your Time

Disparate and geographically far apart, the many beaches along the Gulf of Thailand would take nearly a month just to survey. With Bangkok serving as the urban divider, most travelers choose either the gulf's east or west coast to explore, and then concentrate on one or at most a few places. Except for divers and hikers, this region is largely about relaxing and taking your time. Where you end up and how long you stay depend on what you're looking for. It only takes a day, for instance, to figure out what wild Pattaya is all about, but if this is your thing you could spend a fun week or two here. Ditto for genteel Koh Samet or developed, but not too hyper, Koh Chang. As with their east-coast counterparts, the west-coast beaches would take about two weeks to explore even superficially. Both Cha-am and Hua Hin, the closest of the major west-coast beaches to Bangkok, become very crowded on weekends and holidays; if you can arrange to visit at other times, you'll have a mellower experience. The farther south you go from Hua Hin, the less you need to worry about when you visit, except during major holidays or, in the case of Koh Phangan, the Full Moon Party that takes place every four weeks.

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Fodor's Essential Thailand: with Cambodia & Laos

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