Bangkok is loaded with luxurious pools you can lounge in and around any day of the year, sometimes you just want to escape the hustle-and-bustle of big-city life and relax on the sand with the waves lapping at your toes. Too bad Bangkok doesn't have any beaches. At all. Though my condo is only 20 kilometers from the Gulf of Thailand, there's no beach to be seen. It's all mangrove swamp, working docks, and fishing villages.
Luckily, relief for Bangkokians is a short 2-hour drive away to the south east in a little place called Na Jomtien. Rudy Assakul, Operations Manager for Ocean Marina Yacht Club, invited us and some fellow travel writers down to experience a mid-week getaway. And we had a lovely time as we explored this lesser-known quiet spot just beyond it's larger and infamous neighbor Pattaya.
I was genuinely surprised at the size and quality of the beach just north of the Marina. In Pattaya or Jomtien beach, the "beach" is mere meters from the road, and jam packed with umbrellas and chairs. Oh, and terribly annoying beach vendors. But in Na Jomtien? Very wide beaches. Much fewer people. And the predominance of higher-end hotels kept the flotsam and jetsam at acceptable levels. Beach time -- check!
And because we were guests of the Ocean Marina Yacht Club, we took out one of the large catamarans for a day of sailing, snorkeling, and monkey feeding. Yes, monkey feeding. Just south of Na Jomtien is an island called, oddly enough "Monkey Island". Over the years the population of native macaques has exploded, thanks to the arrival of boatloads of food-bearing tourists every 10 minutes or so. These opportunistic little buggers swarm -- and I'm using that word on purpose -- tourists bearing food. It's rather panic inducing for most, but is actually fun. They battle amongst themselves for the choice bits, but they don't bite, scratch, or fling poo (at least they didn't with us). Everywhere else I've been in Thailand, feeding monkeys is discouraged. But here, the damage has been done as the population has outstripped local resources and become reliant on outside food sources. Eco friendly? I doubt it. But it was an experience we'll not soon forget.
Regular readers will know of our penchant for craft beer, a thirst easily quenched at Drifter's Cafe just a few kilometers north of the resort. Craft beer in Thailand is expensive thanks to the 400% import tax. But at only 220 THB a bottle (roughly six bucks), we didn't feel we were over spending as we drank our fill of quality beer and dined on their tasty wood-fired pizza. I even managed to get in a Periscope or two of the windsurfers and sailboaters who congregate on this area.
But the real food treat was found in the sprawling Thai restaurants Rudy showed us. Both Preecha and Srinuan (ปรีชาซีฟู้ด and ศรีนวลซีฟู้ด respectively) visits became orgies of overconsumption, as Rudy ordered more food than we could have eaten on two visits. But my gods... was it fantastic. Crab, mud bugs, fried fish, lobster curry, clams, mussels... I didn't know half the things I was eating, and I didn't care.
We had a great time in Na Jomtien and now know it as the perfect getaway from Bangkok. See you again soon, Rudy!