To explore this appeal, Hua Hin Today asked local expats two simple questions; not as a definitive survey, but to give an insight to the character of Cha-Am. 1. What are the things that you like the most about living in Cha-Am? 2. What would make Cha-Am a better place to live?
It is very clear that the mix of people who make up the Cha-Am community; both ex-pats and Thai people, is very important. “A good mix of expats and locals”, “friendly local people in a small town environment” and “a great expat community” were typical comments. Being able to mingle with Thai people is valued; for example “weekends with busloads of Thai people make me feel I’m in the heart of Thailand”.
Location was also seen as an important advantage; “centrally located with good transport options”; especially being within easy reach of Bangkok and Hua Hin. Other places may have beaches, but are seen as either too crowded, too expensive or too remote. The location is also blessed with friendly weather and relatively flood and storm free. Golf course access is a bonus but closure of the town driving range has been disappointing.
Weekends in Cha-Am are much busier than weekdays, but that’s part of the appeal. “Quiet weekdays, lively weekends” is a desirable combination for many. They enjoy the “relatively quiet, calm, safe and peaceful pace” but also enjoy entertainment options; including music as long as it is live! There is no desire to have ‘Pattaya-style entertainment’; “get rid of the bus station, a breeding ground for trouble” (a bar soi). However some say the nightlife is too quiet and over-policed. More entertainment options for the younger set and couples was generally the preferred way to go.
When it comes to ways to make Cha-Am a better place to live, three problems were almost always mentioned; stray dogs, rubbish and traffic management. Our respondents suggest that these problems are not unique to Cha-Am, affecting foreigners wherever they live in Thailand. Accidents and injury from roaming stray dogs have long been discussed by the ex-pat population. The good news is that a local organisation ‘Stray Dogs Rescue Cha-Am’ is making inroads on the dog population and there is now an opportunity to support a monthly capture, neuter, vaccinates and release campaign. General cleanliness, but particularly rubbish on the beach was a frequent source of comment. For example “a cleaner beach without all the weekend revelers leaving their rubbish and animals behind; more trash cans on the beach.”
Traffic management comments were not just about motor vehicles but also bicycle and pedestrian traffic. Apart from driving skills, there were two particular improvements sought when it comes to traffic; parking wasn’t one. Cha-Am is divided into two ‘zones’ by the main highway (Bangkok to Hua Hin). The beach ‘zone’ is about tourism with restaurants, hotels and entertainment. The inland ‘zone’ has businesses, commercial areas and the central markets. Crossing this highway is unavoidable to move between the two ‘zones’. That’s OK in quiet periods at the traffic light controlled intersection, but on busy weekends that changes. Our survey was just after a public holiday weekend when this intersection was blocked (again!) and anyone wanting to move between the two ‘zones’ forced to make a lengthy detour. This is a big issue for locals, including Thai people who may need to make multiple transitions. “A bridge for through traffic at the traffic lights” was suggested.
There were also suggestions for better pedestrian and bicycle traffic paths and the inability for these commuters to safely move along the beach road. Although some recent changes have reduced obstructed footpaths, the locals think there’s still a long way to go. In summary the expats of Cha-Am say that they enjoy the best of both worlds. Quiet but lively, cosmopolitan but the real Thailand and with all the conveniences they need; ………………..….. well almost! Some desirable additions would be a mall or shopping centre and an upgraded hospital. “Cha Am is a fantastic place to stay – it`s not a ‘tourist machine’ like the more well-known places in Thailand – cheap, and you feel that you are living among real Thai people”. Whether the Hua Hin ‘encroachment’ will soon make a difference to this idyllic community remains to be seen. But with just a few basic improvements; local ex-pats say that life’s pretty good in Cha-Am! From the Editor: “Thanks to all those who provided comments; we hope that these views have been faithfully portrayed.”