What it does have in spades is a lovely, almost old-fashioned charm.
Okay admittedly it’s not exactly right in the middle of the city but a few visitors to Bangkok realise that there is a beach just 40 minutes away from the busy metropolis. Bangsaen is down the east coast on the way to Pattaya, famous for its beachfront hedonism, as well as the more sedate Jomtien and ever peaceful Jomtien Na with its white-golden sands. Bangsaen is totally off the tourist track and is much more of a locals’ resort which gives it a classically Thai feel. If you have been exploring the rich colour of the city and need a break from it all, then Bangsaen is a nearby antidote to busy Bangkok.
Behind the sand is a pedestrianised walkway where tandems and bicycles for four people can be cheaply rented and there are always a few wobbling along. At the side of this path are small barbeques selling grilled squid and huge prawns, and stalls bashing mango, chilli and lime for spicy somtam salad, alongside big racks of hot-off-the-grill chicken. Small steamed crabs with a green chilli dip are a Bangsaen must too. Forget over the top prices for seafood aimed at the tourist market, Bangsaen is reasonably priced and the food is fresher than fresh, and you can even order at your deckchair too.
There are cheap but clean places to stay at one end of the beach near to the night market and along the beach road is probably the most upmarket hotel, Tides, which has a swimming pool and lots of green grounds. At the other end of the beach road the road continues down the beachfront and there are a couple of restaurants with live music. If you follow the beach road round and away from the beach there are a few bars and some clubs. However, unless you are under 25 you might feel a little out of place in this small stretch of nightlife. Bangsaen is a university town and the student vibe adds some nice energy to the area but the crowd is young and of the same ilk.
In the market near to the seawall, you can sit on mats on the floor with low tables and eat grilled salted fish, order good Thai food from the menu, or bring your own food from the many food stalls selling snacks. This is the type of place where you can bring a bottle of whisky from the shop, or order a bucket of ice and some beers, fill the table with sharing snacks, and relax into a cheap and cheerful night out Thai-style. Of course, whilst everyone else seems to be able to sit perfectly comfortably on a mat on the hard floor, unless you are used to it you might have to do lots of shifting around or even bring a cushion so you can sit for longer. There are some restaurants around including somewhere to eat just opposite in the Sez Hotel, but you might enjoy just snacking as you walk around the retro stalls.