There is no ‘bucket list’ - Lynne and I are both well, thank you – but we have arrived at a point in our lives where we have the time, the money and the good health to indulge in a passion for travel. We know how lucky and privileged we are to be able to do this, and we know it won’t last for ever, but while it does…..

Monday, 23 November 2015

Cha Am and the Thai 'Way of Beach': Part 15 of Thailand and Laos

We reached Cha Am mid-afternoon. Unlike Phuket and other well-known Thai resorts, Cha Am is not aimed at the Western market; it is first and foremost a Thai resort within day-tripping distance of Bangkok – a sort of Thai Brighton.

Cha Am on the map of Thailand

On arrival we found our hotel was still under construction, bringing to mind not Brighton but 1970s Spain. The pleasant swimming pool and two storey accommodation blocks around it were finished, but some areas were still being paved and reception resembled a furniture store.
Still working on the paving, Cha Am

Three teenage girls appeared to be in charge and they offered us a choice of rooms. We selected one on the first floor (or second floor for American readers) with a balcony over the pavers rather than a door opening onto their workplace. Two of them quickly volunteered to carry our suitcases upstairs in return for a few baht.

Once settled in we strolled up to the small, appropriately decorated, seaside square.

Seaside square, Cha Am
From here we looked out over the beach, a thin strand covered with a forest of umbrellas, beach chairs and tables stretching away in both directions. On a busy Saturday the Bangkok day trippers were making the most of their weekend.

Cha Am beach
The design of the blue phone box visible in the picture of the square appears to be based on Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s red phone box (and, no, I will not call it ‘iconic’) but the makers allowed for Thailand’s very different climate by omitting the glass. Public phone boxes are largely obsolete in Thailand as everywhere else, but this one now doubles a Wi-Fi hot spot.
Glassless phone box and Wi-Fi hotspot, Cha Am
 Back at the hotel I had a swim in the pool while Lynne looked on and wondered why people do such things, then we wandered down the main drag to locate a cold beer – not for pleasure, of course, hydration is so important in a hot climate.

The main beach side road, Cha Am
There were a few other Europeans around, some couples, but also a contingent of middle-aged men wandering the streets with a predatory look in their eye. Most were alone, but some were accompanied by much younger Thai women. ‘Sex tourists’, we said to ourselves, which may be a slur on a few, but is undoubtedly true of the majority. Men exuding sleaze are not a great advertisement for western civilization.

For dinner we picked a clean, bright looking establishment mainly on the basis that it offered a preliminary gin and tonic. The clientele turned out to be almost entirely (respectable) Europeans and the chef/patron was a Swede who had been running this restaurant for a dozen or more years in partnership with his Thai wife and latterly with the help of their adult son. As a cook he maintained his Scandinavian bias - Lynne's dinner being the Nordic staple of pork and potatoes - though his menu included many Thai-style dishes, including my fried pork. He was certainly not afraid to throw chillies around, but I felt he had not quite mastered the subtlety of Thai spicing.

After dinner we walked back to the square, starting on the beach but discovering that after dark small biting creatures made this a bad plan. There was a music event so we stopped to listen for a while.


In the morning we asked at reception where breakfast was and they put us on the back of a motorcycle rickshaw and drove us down the road to another hotel.

We did little for the next hour or two, idly exploring the main streets and buying some more plasters for my scraped toes. Thais being small people like the Lao, the plasters were smaller than I wanted, but being considerably wealthier they sold them by the packet rather than individually.

After coffee we ventured on to the beach, which was quieter on the Sunday, and selected some vacant seats. Very soon the woman in charge came over and charged us 50 baht (£1) each for the use of chairs and shade, which seemed reasonable. A few minutes later we realised she was waving at us with a bottle of Chang in her hand. That seemed a good idea and for a small fee she brought over two chilled bottles and a plastic ice-bucket to put them in. Two beers are universally available throughout Thailand. Sangha (lion), a well-made flavoursome brew is slightly more expensive than Chang (elephant) and comes in smaller bottles. Chang is cold and fizzy, lightweight and with little flavour although a fairly hefty 5% abv. It is just the sort of beer I would avoid at home, but in Thailand in the midday heat, a cold Chang does a very particular job and does it better than I would have thought possible.

A bottle of Chang, Cha Am beach
Various food vendors wandered by. At lunchtime we bought deep fried squid, prawns and soft shell crabs with chilli dipping sauce from one vendor and pineapple and water melon from another. Lunch, plus a couple more beers cost us under £5.

Lunch on the beach, Cha Am
Out on the water there were plenty of jet skis, one of them pulling a banana boat which deposited its riders into the water at appropriate intervals. I went for a swim - it is hardly a blue flag beach, but the guide book claimed it is not a serious health hazard. The water was blood temperature with gentle waves, so I floated around pleasantly, while keeping an eye out for the jet skis which charge onto the beach at regular intervals. A head bobbing about in the water is hardly visible to the drivers so I felt a little more vulnerable than I would really like.
Looking out for those jet skis, Cha Am
The Gulf of Thailand, like the Indian Ocean in Sri Lanka, has no tide to speak of and the narrow strip of beach remained the same width all day. We find this disconcerting; early experiences of beach and sea for both of us were beside the Bristol Channel, where the 15m tidal range is the world’s second highest (the highest is 16.3m in the Bay of Fundy between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) and we expect the sea to disappear into the distance every 12 hours or so.

As far into the seas as some will go, even in the warm waters of Cha Am
We filled the afternoon with beach activities and in the evening, having enjoyed our breakfast, we walked down to the same restaurant for dinner. Both Lynne's sweet and sour pork and my shrimps in chilli paste with green beans, peppers and coconut were excellent. As it was our last evening we finished with the un-Thai indulgence of a dessert - and very nice it was too.
Un-Thai indulgences, Cha Am

The following day passed in a similarly restful and relaxing way.

Passing the day in a relaxed and restful manner, Cha Am
'See you tomorrow,' said our friendly beer and shade provider as we left. We told her we were going home. 'Oh, no,' she said throwing her arms round Lynne and giving her a heartfelt hug.

In the early evening a man came to drive us to Bangkok airport. Part of me was hoping he would not turn up, it might have been inconvenient, but we could happily have spent longer in Thailand - which was also how we had felt about Laos.

The journey from Cha Am to Staffordshire was uneventful, which is how such journeys should be, though one minor event was worthy of remark. At midnight, as we rolled down the runway in Bangkok the outside temperature was 30 degrees. Over a dozen hours later we were about to leave Frankfurt for the final leg to Birmingham. Boarded and awaiting departure we were told there would be twenty minutes delay while they called in the de-icing crew. Why do I continue to live in the wrong climate?

1 comment:

  1. I suspect SGS in the cold and damp in slightly less appealing.