We were in Pattaya, land of ladyboys and a ferocious red light district, and we did go through the ‘walking street’. When we were there it was a sunny Tuesday morning and not much scandal was to be seen, and I was ok with that as I held my nine-year-old daughter’s hand and navigated the giant neon bar signs with images of scantily clad women. We were there for the ferry to Koh Larn, an island off the Pattaya coast. We had first spent a night in Bang Saray. We were at the beach there for a few hours in the late afternoon and the kids made an excellent fort. We watched a lovely sunset there.
We took the pleasant 40-minute ride and looked around at the crowds on Tawaen Beach, where the ferry dropped us off. We decided to catch a tuk tuk to a smaller beach, Samae Beach. It was a good decision. We drove up a hill with beautiful views of the ocean and then down to Samae. Below: the pier, kids onboard ferry, view of island, kids onshore, ride to Samae
As I looked at the white sand and turquoise water, I realized I had wanted to experience this kind of beach on this trip. I hadn’t considered it before but it was our first time at a beach with white sand. It was powdery, like flour, and the clear blue water was mesmerizing. There were the usual beach chairs and umbrellas for rent. We had lunch and decided to get goggles and snorkel gear because the water was so clear and there were fish about.
We spent a few hours there, but eventually had to go back to the pier to find a place to stay. Samae had a resort, but it was out of our budget. We took a tuk tuk back to the pier and had a look around. There were many options. Mr. Fantastic found a nice place we could afford and we settled in. He also found a local restaurant where we could get our usual rice/veggies/egg dish for a reasonable price.
Later as the shadows lengthened, the kids and I headed to the pier to find the beach, but it turned out we were at a different pier called Naban. There was no beach, rather buildings on piers in the water. It was lovely, but not so good for swimming.
We took another tuk tuk to the closest beach back at Tawaen Beach. Only now the shops were closed, chairs stacked and umbrellas folded. Though there are many hotels in the island, a large number of tourists leave by 6, the last ferry, so the beaches become much quieter. Locals played volleyball and searched for valuables with metal detectors. We saw an almost full moon rise over the hills.
We stayed until the sun set and walked back over the hill about 1 km back to our hotel. The view of the ocean was nice in the dark, with boat lights visible on the water. We enjoyed seeing the life of the locals as we walked- cozily lit buildings, some with little shops, families having dinner, children playing. Away from the piers, there were fewer hotels and restaurants, more open space, and a different feel to the island. Here are the little streets I liked:
The next day we decided to get motorbikes so that we could get around the island more easily. For the six of us, it was also more cost-effective than paying for tuk tuks. We got two, so just Mr. Fantastic and myself drove. Fiercely declined, though she did try it out.
The motor scooters are easy to operate, though I admit I got stressed out when there were too many other drivers around or on steep curves. I had two kids riding with me also, which could make balancing difficult. I’m just more comfortable on my bicycle, I have to say. But for getting around, it was wonderful!
With our freedom and wider range, we found a cheaper hotel, saw more tranquil roads, went to several beaches, and got up at sunrise the next day to scooter to a beach and snorkel before the ferries arrived with more day trippers. We went to Naul Beach, known for monkeys, and another beach at the tip of the island- not sure of name-we snorkeled at both, and the monkeys did make an appearance at Naul.
That night was Loy Krathong, a lovely Thai holiday in which people float lanterns in bodies of water to honor the water goddess and to get blessings for the coming year. The kids had made floating baskets (krathongs) at a library activity and we had been carrying them around. We saw plenty of similar ones for sale, and a different type made of bread dyed in bright colors. They have incense sticks and candles on them. Here are the bread ones for sale at a supermarket:
Ours were a little worse for wear as the banana tree base began to get mushy. But we were able to launch them that night off the pier, and we were pleased. Though some towns have large events with krathongs taller than me, parades, fireworks and beauty pageants, the scene at the pier was more subdued. Five or six families sent their little offerings afloat with prayers and plenty of giggling since the wind made it hard to light the candles. It was nice thinking about the celebrations all over Thailand that night. Here are my pictures of krathongs on the water that night- hard to see but the upper one shows a pink krathong and the lower one shows five lit ones heading off into the night. The next day, we would see many krathongs in various states of wear, on the water.
We headed back on a morning ferry and then back to Bangkok on a day that turned out to be Thanksgiving! We had a wonderful surprise of a vegetarian Thanksgiving feast at the beautiful home of a homeschool family. The company was excellent as was the food- pumpkin pie and all! What a great end to a great trip!