Sleepy beach town offers a “same same but different” experience
For some, even the lackadaisical pace of Hua Hin seems too chaotic. If you fall into that camp, then join the geriatric set who seek solace in the tranquil beachfront town of Cha-Am, located just 26 km north up the coast from Hua Hin in the neighbouring province of Petchaburi. To be fair, you will see a lot of grey wolves and silver foxes amongst this town’s expat set, but there’s still lots of interest here for curious travelers of any age bracket.
Cha-Am is blessed with a very long—mostly uninterrupted—stretch of sand, along which a bustling beach road runs parallel. This main thoroughfare (Ruam Chit Rd) is where you’ll find plenty of accommodation options, roadside restaurants, coffee shops, and souvenir stalls, as well as loads of scooters and bicycles for rent. Oddly, the majority of bicycles for rent are of the 2- or 3-seat variety, which seem to be popular with the many Thai families that flock here on weekends.
The unofficial north-south divide of the town is Narathip Road, which begins at the Cha-Am Railway Station, passes through Phet Kasem Rd (the main highway), and culminates at an expansive beach lookout point. This paved platform is decorated with statues of blue crabs, shrimp, fish, squid, and lobster, all in celebration of the area’s main commercial commodity—seafood!
Meandering north from this local landmark you’ll find beautiful expanses of sandy beach, lots of hotels and eateries, and at the top end—where the casuarina trees become thicker and the road forks—a bridge leads to a quaint fishing village which is, not surprisingly, home to dozens of seafood restaurants. The road leading further into the heart of the fisherman’s village zig zags a bit, and you have to cross a very narrow footbridge at one point, but it’s an interesting and atmospheric excursion. Along the way, don’t miss the famous six-armed Buddha statue at Wat Nae Ranchararam, in which the seated figure has its eyes, ears, and mouth covered.
Travelling south from the lookout point the beach becomes a bit rockier in parts, but that doesn’t stop people from wanting to relax by the seaside on shaded beach chairs while ordering cold drinks and seafood snacks. In fact, the sheer number of beach chairs available—from one end of the beach to the other—is staggering. Thankfully they are fairly reasonably priced (mine was just B50 for the whole day).
At night there are quite a few watering holes along a wide avenue known as “Soi Bus Station”, which runs perpendicular to the main beach road (just a bit south of the lookout point). Most of these joints cater to single men looking for love, but as the nightlife options are few and far between in Cha-Am you’ll find plenty of groups—men and women—just relaxing over a beer, a game of pool, and some footie on the telly.
And if you’re visiting Cha-Am for an extended length of time and want to keep in shape—eating all that delicious deep-fried seafood does take its toll—make a visit to Best Friend Yoga, located just off Narathip Rd. They offer early morning, and early evening classes, on weekdays only. Call 082 690 9620 for more info.
Where to Eat
- Bella: This highly recommended Italian restaurant is in the south end of town (on the same road as the entrance to the Cha-Am Forest Park). It offers indoor and outdoor seating, as well as the best pizza and lasagna in town. Open daily from 5pm till 11pm. Tel: 03 247 0980.
- The Garden: As the name suggests, this friendly and casual outdoor eatery is set within a lush expanse of garden. The entrance is on Ruam Chit Rd, however the eating area is set back a bit from the main drag. Open Thursday to Tuesday, from 10am to 10pm. Tel: 086 900 2244.
- Aroy: This fun and funky restaurant (on Chao Lai Rd) offers indoor and outdoor seating, reasonable prices, and a laid back friendly vibe. It also is home to—inexplicably—a huge collection of clocks, ranging from tiny cuckoo clocks to ornate, meter-high grandfather clocks. So make “time” to visit this one. Open daily from 8am till 11pm. Tel: 03 2470 479
- Love Bread: This cool bakery café—close to the beach on Narathip Rd—serves up excellent bread and pastries, as well as proper coffees, juices, and an array of breakfast and lunch snacks. Indoor and outdoor seating available. Open daily from 7am till 6pm. Tel: 03 247 0205.
Where to Stay
There are loads of hostel and small hotel-style accommodations available in Cha-Am—most ranging between B400 and B800 per night—but if you want something a little more grandiose, try one of these beachfront resorts (all facing the beach, and located along Ruam Chit Rd).
- Baan Panthai: This unique boutique resort is set within a beautiful tropical garden, with seven villas and 24 luxury rooms. Other amenities include swimming pool, restaurant, Jacuzzi, and fitness centre. www.bannpantai.com
- FuramaXclusive: This sleek and chic beachfront resort offers 122 guest rooms of various sizes, including 16 units with pool access. Other amenities include rooftop swimming pool, Jacuzzi, fitness center, sauna, and one on-site restaurant. www.furamaxclusive.com/huahin
- The Cha-Am Methavalai Hotel: This multi-storey property offers a huge selection of different sized rooms and villas, as well as a free-form swimming pool, fitness center, and two restaurants. The balconies are all decorated with colourful flowers in bloom, making it easily recognizable from the road. www.methavalai.com
- Raya Resort: Located at the south end of the beachfront strip, this tranquil boutique resort has 16 beautiful rooms and villas to choose from, each blending traditional Thai architecture with luxurious modern interiors and amenities (including a pool and restaurant). www.rayaresortchaam.com