INTRODUCTION TO CHA-AM
For too long the resorts of Cha-Am and Hua Hin have been linked with a "&" for no valid reason. There is no reason why they should be linked, they are both in different provinces, Cha-Am in Petchaburi and Hua Hin in Prachuab Kirikhan and each has their own sector of the travel market. "Cha-Am is a retreat, it's an escape from Bangkok," explained Danny Chan, General Manager of The Regent Cha-Am, "The guest who likes to come here will not enjoy Hua Hin and most definitely not Pattaya. The appeal of Cha Am is that it has no night life!"
The charm of Cha-Am is what it can offer families with young children or those in the golden years of their life that are either close to retirement or are already enjoying it, a quiet well ordered lifestyle free from the hassle of beach vendors.
WHAT TO SEE IN CHA-AM
In addition to having a great beach, there are many places of interest in the area that are no more than 45 mins away by car. Phra Nakom Khiri or Khao Wang is a hilltop palace, built by King Rama IV in 1859. The style is mainly European with some Thai and Chinese influences. Sitting on three peaks, the temple of Wat Phra Khew is to the east; the main stupa of Phra That Chom Phet in the middle and the residential Grand Palace to the west.
Both Kings Rama IV & V used the palace at their leisure and to entertain their visitors. After the death of King Rama V, it was used less and less and sadly slipped into a state of decay. In 1935 it was registered as a national momument by the Fine Arts Department and was restored to be a National Museum and National Park. Open daily 9am-4pm. It can be conveniently reached by funicular railway roundtrip B40. Once at the top entrance to the Museum is B30 for foreigners and B10 for Thais. It is an excellent half-day excursion and takes a couple of hours to walk the path linking the three peaks. The views are spectacular.
Phra That Chom Pet was renovated by Rama IV by covering the existing one and is 40 meters tall and 20 wide. He was also responsible for constructing Wat Phra Kaew in the same style as the building of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha at the Grand Palace in Bangkok. Being a keen and knowledgeable astronomer, the King also built Chatchawan Wiangchai Observatory to study the stars and constellations. A statue of the King is housed in Wechayan Wichien Prasat; a temple built in Prang style that was typical of the period. The King's bedroom was in an interesting two storey Chinese building Pramot Mahaisawan Hall.
To complete the full walk linking the three peaks can be tiring and visitors are advised to take enough fresh drinking water.
Have gone back down the hill, Phra Ram Ratchaniwert Palace is close by in the Army compound. King Rama V was frequently sick during the rainy season, especially in the month of September, at this site was chosen as it was the best place for him to stay when the rains came. Building of the south facing palace started on 19th August 1910, designed by a German architect Karl Dohring, with Dr Bayer responsible for the projects engineering. The two-storey building, with two domes and a brown tiled roof from China, was styled on Kaiser Wilhelm's Palace in Germany. Sadly, King Rama V died before the building was completed. Rama VI finally completed the construction in 1916.
The simple looking exterior hides its elaborate interior. On the east side, there is a perfect geometrically symmetric circular staircase with tiled pillars decorated with cherub statues. The upstairs circular hall is art nouveau.
The Royal Dinning Room is a blend of modern German and French art nouveau with a statue of Poseidon, the Greek God of the Sea.
Thailand's first ever known Badminton Court was laid in what is now a small courtyard with a fountain. The Queen's Bedroom above had an uninterrupted view of the former court. From the Kings Bedroom, there is an unobscured view of Khao Wang.
Another must see is Mrigadayavan Palace the "royal home of love and hope" of King Rama VI. This site was chosen when the fresh water supply at the existing royal residence at Khai Luang became scarce. Not only did Huay Sai Nua have an abundance but it was also close to a railway station. The King decided to dismantle the former palace and reassemble it on the more desirable site. The palace is built of Thong (Golden) Teak with empty space under the building in the style of a traditional Thai house. The building is supported by 1,080 concrete columns, all of which have their base immersed in water at ground level to prevent ants and insects entering the building. All the buildings are by airy walkways. There is a Gatsbyesque quality to wonder with bare feet on polished teak and feel the cool sea breeze in your hair.
While staying, the King on their first visit in 1924 Phranangchao Intharasak Sachi, the royal consort fell pregnant and the King was delighted with the thought that he might soon have a son. But his hopes faded fast when it was discovered that the royal consort could not give birth. The King nursed his wife with concern and sadness at the Palace.
Rama VI returned to Mrigadayavan Palace with Phranangchao Suwattha, another royal consort and were in residence from 12 April until 20 June 1925. It was as if the King had come back to say farewell to the royal residence that he loved as he died shortly after returning to Bangkok.
Mrigadayavan Palace, Rama VI Camp, Cha-Am Petchburi 76120
Phra Ram Ratchaniwet Palace, Royal Thai Army Camp, Petchaburi
Entrance to both Palaces is free of charge.
Tours and transport to the many sights around Cha-am can be arranged by the major resort hotels. Alternatively, there are regular and inexpensive bus services between the main centres. In the resorts, the most common means of transportation is the trishaw which can accommodating two passengers.
DINING & ENTERTAINMENT
Resort hotels offer an excellent choice of restaurants serving a variety of cuisines. In addition Cha-am has several simple but good restaurants where the local specialty is deliciously fresh seafood.
ATTRACTIONS IN CHA-AM
It is a very beautiful beach. The access road to the beach is two kilometers long.
Kaeng Krachan Dam
This dam is located in Amphoe Tha Yang, 51 kilometers from Cha-Am. One can go two ways: First is to travel to Amphoe Tha Yang; then 30 kilometers beyond Tha Yang is the dam site. Another way is to travel by Highway No. 4 where a right turn in made between Km. 186-187; travel 30 kilometers more.
Chao Samran Beach
This beach, 51 kilometers from Cha-Am, used to be a famous seaside resort in the old days. Legend says that King Naresuan the Great and King Eka Thotsarot used to make royal visits there. They enjoyed the beauty of this beach so much that they spent many nights there causing the villagers to call it the "Beach of Royal Leisure"
Four kilometers from Chao Samran Beach is Laem Luang Beach - a white sandy beach some two kilometers in length. Seven kilometers from Chao Samran Beach is Pukitian Beach which is the latest popular beach in Phetchaburi.
This hill is located in the vicinity of Amoghoe Muang Phetchaburi, 36 kilometers from Cha-Am is 92 meters high. King Mongkut was very fond of Khao Wang so he commanded a palace built on top of it in the year 1860 to be used for vacationing; he named it Phra Nakhon Khiri. However, Phetchaburi inhabitants have called it "Khao Wang" until now. At present, Khao Wang is established as Phra Nakhon Khiri National Museum, open to the public from 09.00-16.00 hours every day. The entrance fee is 10 baht per person.
Khao Luang Cave
The cave is located in Khao Luang hill which is only 92 meters high, and five kilometers from Khao Wang. Khao Luang Cave is regarded as the most important cave of the province because it houses a Buddha image cast by the royal command of King Chulalongkorn as a dedication to King Nang Klao and King Mongkut.
On the right hand of Khao Luang access road at the foot of the hill there is a large monastery called "Wat Tham Klaep" or Wat Bun-thawi which has a very large multipurpose hall. The Sala Kanparian and wooden door panels of the Ubosot are beautifully carved.
Khao Bandai It
This is a rather small hill, 121 meters high, located two kilometers from Khao Wang. An ancient monastery built in the Ayutthaya period is named Wat Khao Bandai It. There are several caves on this hill such as Tham Prathum, Tham Phra Chao Sua, and Tham Phra Puttha Saiyat.
Khao Yoi Cave
This cave is located on Khao Yoi hill,67 kilometers from Cha-Am. Various Buddha images are housed in the cave. Khao Yoi Cave was the place where King Mongkut practised meditation while he was in the monkhood.
Sam Roi Yot National Park
This park is 58 kilometers from Hua Hin town ship. It occupies an area of 61,300 rais (some 24,520 acres) and was designated as a national park on June 28, 1966. The geographical characteristics of the park consist of high limestone mountains, wide Marshland near the sea shore, and islands. In addition, it is also the center of various species and families of plants and trees as well as the home of wild animals. There are three caves worth visiting within the park: Keaw Cave, Sai Cave and Phrayanakhon Cave.
There are bungalows and a camping area for those who require an overnight stay in the park. Reservations can be made at the National Park Division, Forestry Department Tel. (02) 5790529
This bay is situated in the vicinity of Prachuap Khiri Khan township,90 kilometers from Hua Hin. Its beach is long and pleasant. There are bungalow accommodation operated by both the Provincial Administration Organizations and the Municipality for public service. Details can be obtained by telephoning (032) 611204
This bay is located five kilometers from Prachuap Khiri Khan township area and is administered by the Royal Thai Airforce. A permit should be obtained from the commander of the 53rd Squadron, Prachuap Khiri Khan, prior to a visit.
Klai Kangwon Palace Or Khao Chong Kra Chok stands near by Prachuap King Phra Plokklao commanded. It is built in the year Khiri Khan provincial office (Chang Wat Hall), is a small 1926. The palace is located 3 kilometers from Amphoe hill. At the top you may enjoy the view of Prachuap Hua Hin Office. A permit must be obtained from the Khiri Khan Bay and town.
This beach is 22 kilometers from Prachuap Khiri Khan township. Travel to Km. 345, make a right turn and go 3.5 kilometers to the sign board saying "Huai Yang Arboretum". The seven kilometers long beach is lined with sea pines. Accommodation facilities can be reserved at the Faculty of Forest Affairs, Kasetsart University, Tel. (02) 5790520 Huai Yang Waterfall Forest Park A few kilometers from Wanakon Beach, this is an ideal place for picnics and natural sight-seeing
Air-conditioned buses leave Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal (Tel. (02) 435-5032, 435-5097, 4357455) 36 times daily between 4.20 a.m.. and 4.20 p.m. (40 minute intervals). Non-air-conditioned coaches leave from Bangkok's Southern Bus terminal on Petkasem Road 19 times daily.
- Trains depart daily from Bangkok for Cha-Am.
- Express Diesel Railcar leaves Bangkok daily at 9.15 p.m.
- Express trains leave Bangkok 5 times daily at 2.00 p.m., 3.15 p.m., 5.05 p.m.,7.20p.m.and 10.35 p.m.
- Rapid trains leave Bangkok 4 times daily at 12.35 p.m., 4 p.m., 5.45 p.m., and 6.30 p.m.
- Diesel Railcars leave Bangkok twice daily at 9.00 a.m. and 1.40 p.m.
LIST OF GOLF COURSES
Cha-Am Villa And Golf Club Tel. (032) 471 -973
Palm Hills Resort And Country Club
Tel. (032) 520-800.
Royal Hua Hin Golf Course Tel. (032) 511-585
Sawang Resort Golf Club Tel. (032) 499-555
Springfield Royal Country Club Of Cha-Am
Lake View Golf Course and Yatch Club
Majestic Creek Country Club Tel. (032)520- 162 Kang Krachan Country Club