by Harriet Bond
(San Francisco, CA, USA)
Hat Sai Ngam
On the mainland east of Ko Chang, is a sliver of land along the shore that connects the provincial town of Trat with the border crossing to Cambodia at Ban Hat Lek. This stretch is home to a string of small fishing villages, as well as some of the loveliest and as yet undeveloped beaches in Thailand. Hat Sai Ngam, or Beautiful Sands Beach, is a small and lovely stretch of pure white sand running parallel to a grove of pine trees. Facilities are fairly simple – although it should always be possible to get something to eat and drink.
This is an ideal place to try out shrimp paste and dried fish which are famous local products. This beach is visited by relatively few people, Thai or foreign travelers, and it is still possible to unwind by the seawithout being assailed by commercial development. To get to the beach visitors need to cross a 144-ft (44-m) long wooden bridge.
Hat Sai Kaew
A quiet beach, Hat Sai Kaew, or Crystal Sands Beach, is yet to be discovered by travelers. Crisp white sands shaded by a narrow fringe of casuarinas and coconut palms along the shore makes this beach attractive to those who are looking for peace and tranquility. The area is best explored on motorcycles or longtail boats. It is possible to reach Hat Sai Kaew by minibus from Trat.
Hat Thap Thim
Located near the village of Ban Mai Rut, Hat Thap Thim, or Ruby Beach, is close to the narrowest strip of Thai territory dividing the Cambodian mountains from the Gulf of Thailand. This 1,500-ft (450-m) narrow sliver of sand is a pretty spot ideal for picnics or a day trip en route to Cambodia.
Basic accommodations are available here and the beach with its seafood shacks is often filled with Thai locals from Trat who come to Hat Thap Thim on weekends. The ambience here is laid-back and decidedly different from the international vibe of nearby Ko Chang.
Located between Trat and the Thai-Cambodian frontier at Hat Lek, Hat Samran, better known as Hat Mai Rut, is an almost deserted beach.
Despite limited facilities, its relative quiet and stunning beauty adds to its charm and appeal. While some of the regular watersports such as windsurfing or diving might not be available due to lack of infrastructure, this beach is an excellent spot for swimming.
Visitors can also enjoy the authentic experience of a fishing village at Ban Mai Rut with plenty of seafood and an insight into the lives of the local fishermen.
Hat Ban Chuen
Located between Ban Mai Rut and Khlong Yai, Hat Ban Chuen is the longest beach in Trat. This stretch of powdery sand crosses the foundation structure of a non-functional Cambodian refugee camp.
Simple bungalow accommodations offer lodging to overnight visitors and a small restaurant sells fresh seafood dishes. This beach attracts a lively local crowd from Trat.