Do you have a favourite music to play in the car on a long drive? For me it’s Pink Floyd (‘Momentary Lapse of Reason’) but for others it may be more classical or even Barry Manilow? On our road trip, the ‘navigator’ was in charge of the music. Just to make sure it would be a calm and relaxing day she chose – AC/DC (‘Highway to Hell’? – NOT) !
Our trip was to explore the scenic route which heads North from Cha-Am, following the coastline for most of the way then linking with the main Bangkok Highway about 100 KM North of Cha-Am. This route is a great day trip slowly meandering along the coastal plains and exploring a variety of ‘side trips’. The return can then then be made via the main highway at a quicker pace.
Travel towards the beach from the traffic lights on Phetchakasim Road in the centre of Cha-Am City. Take the first turn left at the T junction after about 500 metres. That’s it, you are now on the on the way; past the hospital then follow the distinctive signs showing the scenic route logo for the rest of the way. After crossing the bridge over the inlet you will near veer right where there are signs steering you towards Puktien Beach as well as the frequent scenic route signs.
Along The Way
Here’s our description about what you expect to find along the way. Of course the distances provided will vary somewhat depending on how many ‘side trips’ you chose to make.
After Twelve to Seventeen Kilometres
Along this road are the ‘Boat Temple’ and Puktien Beach. They are both well worth a visit as a smaller day out, but we didn’t stop this time.
Turning towards the ocean at a sign for the Verano Beach Villa you will arrive at a beautiful beach alongside an inlet with some fishing boats safely moored. There was a suggestion that this inlet was destined to be a marina but there appears to be little happening to provide such a facility.
We noticed a Thai gentleman just sitting on his motorbike gazing out to sea contemplating the state of the world. As a place of peaceful relaxation, you won’t find any better. If you head south along the narrow tree lined road you’ll see some beautiful beach frontage houses for a kilometre or so. Many seemed unoccupied, perhaps only used as a holiday home. There is at least one ocean frontage block for sale if you are looking to build your own ‘slice of heaven’ on a wide, clean sandy beach.
Thirty Five Kilometres On
Out next stop was just before Chao Samran Beach, as we turned towards the ocean before the traffic lights where most will turn to visit this location. There’s a great little coffee shop (Bryde’s Coffee) and restaurant (Khuakhunya Restaurant) behind the Chao Samran Beach Resort. The smell of fresh baked cookies at the coffee shop was hard to resist as an accompaniment to my Minty Pineapple Spritzer.
Alternatively stay on the main road then turn right at the traffic lights (a very unusual sight). At the end the road it’s worth having a wander around another sandy beach though with shady trees and benches to sit. There is a bandstand/pagoda structure and a tree that has been long deceased painted in gold. This tree was alive until struck by lightning several years ago then painted gold when it was apparent that it had died, perhaps to remind the God’s that lightning should never strike the same place more than once.
The stones islands parallel to the coast line where put there about 4/5 years ago to prevent the sand being lost on the beach. This innovation has been a great success and has re-established a previously eroded sandy shoreline.
Heading back towards the main road there are two smaller roads heading south. The road further away from the coast leads you towards a temple with beautifully maintained gardens and many new monks (judging by the bright colours of their robes) sitting in contemplation. This road is solely as access to the temple grounds so remember to be respectful if you slowly take this side trip.
However a road heading south from the beach front takes you past a number of accommodation options if you are considering an overnight (or longer) stay. Amongst those on offer on this stretch are resorts with names such as Fisherman’s, Sea Sky, 91 Hotel and Restaurant, Village and many more. One resort has wooden boat shaped bungalows but our favourite was the Paradise Resort.
Where else in the world would you have the opportunity to stay overnight in a converted aircraft? Perhaps it’s a Douglas DC 3 (produced in the 1930/40’s) and was transported from Bangkok by the enterprising Thai owner (Khun Visit).
It now provides two ‘apartments’ inside as a unique opportunity to almost join the ‘mile high club’, but only at ground level! Of course the resort also offers more conventional accommodation with many bungalows situated alongside shaded garden lanes leading towards the sandy beach.
This resort is less than two years old with Thai management provided by former Bangkok residents. However with experience of over 30 years managing cafeterias on the US Harvard University campus, there is no language problems and their hospitality is undoubted.
Forty Kilometres From Cha-Am
Heading towards Ban Lam you will be travelling across open flat land where there are both prawn farms and salt production fields. The sandy beaches have now almost disappeared in favour of mangroves and marshy fields.
Just before crossing a bridge over an inlet with many fishing boats is an area known as Lumpa Bia, famous for bird watching. You can park outside one of two small stores, either on the main road or on the south side of the inlet. If you walk further towards the ocean alongside the inlet for almost a kilometre, try to meet Mr Daeng a very popular guide when it comes to bird watching. He will take you on a small boat through the mangroves and to a sandy spit for an hour or so as a popular side trip.
Judging from the very complementary comments made by bird watchers from all over the world in the ‘guest book’, including those from bird watching clubs or societies, Mr Daeng’s reputation as guide is well deserved. I’ve often wondered about Cha-Am’s bird watching locations, now we know of one of the best.
The Final Stretch
Keep heading towards the town of Ban Laem and turn right at the traffic lights. After about 90 kilometres from Cha-Am you will finish this stage of the trip 10 or so kilometres later at the intersection with the Bangkok highway. We stopped just short of the intersection at a Thai restaurant for some Khao Pat Kung before returning back to base.
The return journey is about an hour’s drive, veering left as the signs indicate, through Phetchaburi City, Tha Yang then Cha-Am. It is a similar return distance to the more scenic route but at the legal 100 KPH and without side trips, a much quicker way home. This is round trip of close to 200 kilometres and a full day road trip.
SOME FINAL COMMENTS
- If you are in the mood for a different route between Hua Hin/Cha-Am either to or from Bangkok, this is a way to avoid the traffic for this section of the trip (a similar distance) although your speed will be restricted. One of the pleasant aspects of the journey is the condition of the road; an excellent ‘black top’ in better condition than the main highway.
- One of the features of this scenic route is the frequent signed ‘view points’, typically offering a short description of the location at the side of the road. However there are far too many to stop at and they don’t really offer the best views. I would suggest that you consider our recommendations then make up your own mind where to pause during the journey.
- If you choose to shorten the journey there are four signed roads which lead to Phetchaburi City along the route. I wouldn’t really recommend this option as you will miss out on the full ‘road trip’ experience, but if time is short it may be considered.
- Bicycle enthusiasts could also think about a tour, perhaps over several days. It’s flat and maybe not so many traffic hazards.
- If you are without your own vehicle local taxis or minibus drivers are always available. This scenic drive is not well known and a little off the beaten track, but an easy drive on a well signed road offering new Thailand experiences and highly recommended.
- Finally take your time with an early start so that you can get the full sense and feel of this different part of the countryside.
Get your motor runnin’!