If its time to re-charge your batteries before the high season mayhem begins, then look no further than the all year round chilled out seaside resort town of Cha-am.
A favourite weekend destination for many Thai families, water sport enthusiasts, and myself, Cha-am, the No.1 beach resort of Pecthaburi province, is located 163km south of Bangkok. Getting there is as simple as a 113 Baht, 2hr bus ride from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal which will drop you beside the 6 km beach at Soi 1, Ruamchit Road, the heart of the town or if you’ve 4 hrs to spare and prefer the railway, then 40 Baht will find you a seat on the direct train to Cha-am which leaves from Bangkok’s Hua Lampong Railway Station daily at 09:25am; however, if you take the train, once arrived at Cha-am Railway Station, you’ll have to hop on a 20 Baht motorcycle taxi to ferry you down to the beach area located 2km away.
Dotted along the 6km Ruamchit Road running parallel to Cha-am Beach, visitors can find a variety of new and old accommodation to meet any budget ranging from guest houses and villas (Approx. 400-600Baht /per night depending upon facilities) to hotels and resorts (Approx. 1,500-upwards Baht per night). Nevertheless, as Cha-am is one of the most popular weekend destinations for Thai’s, take note that availability becomes scarce and that prices are variable and do increase to quite high levels over the weekends and during Thai holidays, so to avoid disappointment, book or call in advance if visiting on a non-week day/Thai Holiday.
For the adventurous among you, besides the beach area Cha-am has several sights to see such as Muruk Khatayawan Palace (King Vajiravudh’s golden teak summer residence), Kaeng Krachan National Park & Dam (Thailand’s largest national park at 2,915sq.km), Khao Luang Cave (home to many Buddha images very strangely showered in sunlight from 2pm-3pm), Phra Nakhon Khiri Palace & Park ( King Mongkut’s summer palace), Phraram Rachanivet Palace (King Chulalongkorn’s rainy season palace) and Springfield Village Golf Spa.
At the beach, the usual array of water sports are available, with all vendors offering the same hire prices; Jet skiing 700 Bht/30mins, Banana Boat 200 Bht/per person and so on., but note that rates can change whether the beach is crowded or not, depending upon the day of the week. If you’re tired of lazing by the sea and prefer something a little less energetic than water sports, then hire a bicycle (seating 1, 2,3 even 4 people!) or a motorcycle and tour along the beach road and beyond or even take an idyllic pony trip along the beach as the sun sets. But before you leave the beach area, don’t miss out on tasting some of Cha-am’s fabulous seafood snacks served by wandering vendors.
Back along the main road, Cha-am is now home to a mix of Thai and European (particularly Scandinavian) restaurateurs and guesthouse owners.
However, unlike in other nearby popular areas such as Hua Hin, prices of food and drink are still great value. Delicious seafood, classic Thai and familiar western dishes are available to suit all tastes and large ice cold Heineken, Singha, and Chang.
My guests and diners usually tell me that Cha-am becomes like a home away from home for them, told me Jarle who together with his Thai wife Tukta and family run the perfectly located, sea facing Baan Thai Restaurant & Guesthouse. With 6 clean, well priced & furnished, self contained a/c rooms, a great Euro-Asian menu and never ending stock of ice cold beer, I was not surprised when Jarle told me that Baan Thai (www.ban-Thai.net) has been mentioned in LP.
So for those looking for a break from city life or beach loving brethren, this chilled out and peaceful home away from home is a great nearby seaside destination at which you can re-charge your batteries, hit the seafood and down a few cold ones without blowing a hole in you wallet. Enjoy.