Cha-Am: Weekend Retreat
It’s February and though Thailand isn’t besieged by the snow and cold currently ravaging the States, we needed a break. So, last Friday, we ducked office hours, got out of school at 3:30 and headed to the beach. Cha-Am is a beach town just south of Bangkok; typically, about a two hour mini-bus trip from Victory Monurment or the Southern Bus Terminal in Bangkok.
Cha-Am is not the idyllic, Robert Lewis Stevenson worthy islands of the south and has no white beaches- you will not be seeing it on the travel channel anytime soon (though sun rise is special). But, it is cheap, it is a beach, and it is near enough Bangkok for a quick hiatus from the rigours of urban life. The landscape is loaded with rentable beach chairs, umbrellas, and tables. They cover nearly 2/3rds of the already narrow beach, making your beach side experience pretty tight and claustrophobic. But, the shade is nice, the tables provide space for all the snacks purchased off passing vendors, and the beach is the beach; there is no trouble getting some room to float in the water, or drifting off into the land of dreams.
Since Cha-Am is not Phuket, most of your neighbors will be Thai; in fact, it is for the most part, a Thai destination. However, the city is falang friendly: full of girlfriend bars, English menus, and guest houses. There are plenty of retirees and no place can stay untouched by Dutch and German tourists, there are plenty, but they have their own section on the beach. The segregation is actually a little startling given the affection Thais have for western visitors and the Thai obsession many travellers contract here in the Land of Smiles.
The guest houses vary from upper class condos and sky rises, to small, Spartan hostels. Beds can be found cheap, but finding something comfortable is another story. For 350 baht a night, you get a 2 inch pad on metal futon frame. There are plenty of bikes for rent, both manual and motor, and taxis are prevalent in the small town, making transportation easy.
We met up with Tom and Gina, who frequent Cha-Am and have been roughly 12 times by now. They had everything set up for us, from guest houses to stay to restaurants to eat at: the best chicken and rice lady, where to sit on the beach, buying candles for night time beach drinking, etc. They made the trip fairly effortless and extremely enjoyable.
Though it’s awfully tempting to just lay around on the beach all day, Cha-Am is worth some wandering. There is a natural forest and several wats around the town that can be checked out; and, a walk east to the fishing pier is worth it if for nothing other than the image of women mending nets by hand in front of the eerily tilted, sunken ship, left to rot in the harbor.