Travel Tips Thailand: Seashell Treasures

by honeybee

Thailand has some of the most beautiful seashells in the world.

Millions flock to Thailand every year for an exotic getaway. The reasons why so many visitors come to Thailand are as varied as the home countries in which they originate.

One universal truth is, however, that most everyone that comes here will likely spend some time on Thailand’s incredible beaches. Another universal truth, most everyone loves seashells.

The incredible colors, shapes, unique qualities, and the way they feel. Each shell is one of a kind, a treasure, like finding a gold nugget. Well kind of like that.

Stumbling across some perfect seashells to take home as keepsakes of your vacation does happen and is possible, but in all likelihood you will have to put in a little elbow grease to find the real treasures.

Reasons to Love Thailand

Everything is beautiful here!

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Seashell Nirvana

Seashell Treasures
Seashell Treasures
Chitchanok Naknin

Seashells by the Seashore

A Little Look and Luck

We are maybe a bit different because we live here and we are addicted to searching for seashells.

Everyone has seen a movie where a couple is frolicking in the waves on some powder white beach.  This perfect setting has waters of turquoise, crystal clear, with gentle waves breaking on the sand. They walk along, hand in hand, alone with the entire beach to themselves. A wave washes in, and suddenly there it is, a big perfect specimen. She scoops it up with a squeal of glee. Finding a seashell or two like this is a perfect memory of their fantasy vacation to South East Asia.

Does it happen? Can you just walk along and incredible seashells wash in with each wave, gently deposited at your feet? Well, yes, it does happen.

The reality is that Thailand has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The reality is that Thailand has some of the most beautiful turquoise clear waters. The reality is that Thailand has some of the most beautiful reefs, snorkeling, and diving locales in the world. And yes, the reality is that Thailand has billions of seashells for the taking.

Millions of visitors each year means that the drop dead gorgeous tropical beach destinations are well, visited. It means that there will be other people there.

Treasures Found

Some of our Shells
Some of our Shells
Chitchanok Naknin
That is a lot of Shells!
That is a lot of Sh...
Chitchanok Naknin
Some of our Shells
Some of our Shells
Chitchanok Naknin

Too Much Partying

No Early Wake Up Tomorrow
No Early Wake Up Tomorrow
Chitchanok Naknin

First Tip

Do Not Party All Night and Sleep All Day

The first big tip for the ones who really want to find nice seashells is this: most people who come here stay up late and don’t get up early to walk on the beach. Okay, so at least try, I know it’s hard, but try to get up early once or twice during your trip and walk the beaches and look.

Hot destinations such as Phuket, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui, Koh Tao, Koh Lipe, Hat Yai, or even Pattaya, have seashells, but you likely will struggle to find many amongst the throng.

Here is where we get on our ethical soapbox and preach a little. While snorkeling, diving, or swimming just about anywhere in this country, if the water is clear enough to see and you look around, you will see seashells.

But, someone is at home. We never intentionally take shells that are occupied and do not pluck them from the oceans floor. By the way, feet off the coral while you are out there, please.

Museums and shops have some incredible and perfect specimens of Thailand’s seashells. But, who found these? Thai fisherman that do not care about damaging the ocean ecosystem or harvesting shells just for the pretty home some crab or giant sea snail carries on its back.

It’s up to you, but we have found hundreds of pounds of incredible shells without having to kill the occupant just to get it. Tell the truth, yes we must confess, we certainly have arrived home, began cleaning our booty and realized from the smell that a few here and there had someone inside. But, all were taken from the beach or water’s edge and collateral damage was unintentional.

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Beach Debris

Flotsam and Jetsam
Flotsam and Jetsam

Flotsam, Jetsam, George Jetson

Debris, Debris, Childhood Cartoon

A little lesson on flotsam and jetsam, or maybe even a bit about George Jetson, you remember, the cartoon from your childhood about the futuristic family where everything was automated and taken care of by robots. Okay, flotsam and jetsam.

NOAA: "Flotsam and jetsam are terms that describe two types of marine debris associated with vessels. Flotsam is defined as debris in the water that was not deliberately thrown overboard, often as a result from a shipwreck or accident. Jetsam describes debris that was deliberately thrown overboard by a crew of a ship in distress, most often to lighten the ship's load."

Most of the very popular beaches in Thailand are cleaned. Or at least the sitting areas where the lounge chairs, beach umbrellas, tables and chairs, impromptu dance floors, or night time restaurants are.

The second big tip is this: if you truly want to find quality shells, you need to go where the people aren’t, and the beaches are untouched.

Having spent time on beaches, even lived near some, from Central Asia, South East Asia, Central and South Pacific, and North America from the Panama Canal to the Bering Straits, there is one sad universal reality that every coastline in the world is impacted by our waste.

In south Thailand some of the best beaches for finding seashells are littered with flotsam, jetsam, and maybe even a few plastic George Jetsons. But don’t dismay, we have spent many days alone, or in the company of maybe a few local fisherman, an occasional goat or cow on some decent beaches with nice water for swimming. But they were littered with the aforementioned debris.


The Days Haul

Billion Shell Beach
From Billion Shell Beach
From Billion Shell Beach
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Search Everywhere

Tip Number Three

Ever hear of Billion Shell Beach? Not likely, because we named it and it’s really not a beach. If your plan to visit Thailand and come south, can you find places like Nakhonsrithammarat on the map, or Tha Sala, Sichon, Khanom, or Surrithani?

Actually Surrithani is the jumping off point for ferries and tour boats to Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao. But the secret is that the seashells are on the beaches where tourists do not go starting just north of Nakhon and winding your way up to Khanom.

We have hiked, swam, foraged, flailed, and about died of heat stroke in exploration of much of this section of coastline.

The third big tip is this: prepare to look, even where there is no beach. Billion Shell Beach is near Sichon, that’s all we will reveal. It’s a rocky headland and we hauled around 100 pounds out of there in one day, a mile or two walk, barely surviving the motorbike taxi, folded the 6 foot 4 inch frame into a mini bus, a few songteaws (the little truck taxis with bench seats in the back), and we made it home.

Look, No People

Tha Sala
Tha Sala
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Tha Sala
Tha Sala
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One Secret Spot Revealed

Mangrove Shell Nirvana

We will reveal one place, however, that is a must if you are a serious seashell nut like us.

Nakhonsrithammarat. Going a few blocks east of the train station, or a few blocks west of the Big C mall, there is a pedestrian bridge over the street with an obvious Chinese motif. Turn up that street, roughly north, and shortly past the 7-11 on the left side, you will see songteaws parked waiting for passengers.

You want Tha Sala. Thirty or forty minutes, around a dollar, and you will pull into the small town of Tha Sala. At the 7-11, yes they are everywhere, hit the buzzer and get off. The old guys sitting on their motorbikes with colored vests, these are motorbike taxi drivers. Tell them “talay” which is Thai for beach. Be creative; use your best pantomime skills to let them know you want to find seashells. Thai word for seashells is “hoy.”

You should wind around some inner waterways with some beautiful fishing boats tied up, across a few very small bridges, around some slippery sand covered 90 degree curves, and arrive at the beach.

If you smell the local fisherman’s daily catch of tiny shrimp spread on the ground drying, and see a large stone jetty off to your right, you are in the right place. Here is the clinker. Get the guys phone number, or give him a set time to return as no motorbike taxis frequent this area. There is an ad hoc park near the jetty and river with several small Muslim run food stalls and cold drinks.

Its likely blazing hot and you think, seashells, here? Walk to the beach and start walking to your left. The actual beach goes for miles, we have trudged most of it. Start looking. Use a stick to forage around the flotsam and jetsam up high on the beach from high tides or big storms. You won’t be disappointed.

Make sure you have a least a liter or two of water, small picnic lunch, and bags to carry your treasures home. They are there, thousands of beautiful shells of many varieties and colors. Your friends for the day will be an occasional goat, cow, or friendly dog. Take time to set up a small shelter with shade or head off to get under one of the many coconut trees set back from the beach. Be careful as the sun is daunting here. And yes, the water is nice for swimming.

If you make it down to the jetty, there are some trees here and there that offer nice resting points. A dip in the river for a little swim is pleasant as well.

 Closer to home, for us, in Nakhon, is the coastline that you can catch glimpses of from the jetty, looking south. Our secret spots such as Lotus Beach and Mangrove Shell Nirvana are here. Little or no traditional sandy beach actually lies here, but by exploring and hiking we have found incredible spots with tens of thousands of nice shells.

Actually Mangrove Shell Nirvana is a small mangrove forest set back from the ocean that we stumbled upon when seeking shade. Stepped in, sat down to relax in the shade, let the eyes adjust, and there in the soil and leaves, loads and loads of shells. Isn’t this natural world amazing, we think so?

Our goal is to find beautiful shells for us, and to use in our jewelry and shell shop.

If you have ever found a flake or small nugget of gold, you know that thrill and feeling of wanting to search for more. This is the same thrill we feel when on a hot spot, a mother lode, of seashells.

Shell Gift Box

Shell Gift Box
Shell Gift Box
Updated: 05/26/2015, honeybee
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blackspanielgallery on 07/21/2015

Collecting is fun, and ou have found a collectible that is free.

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