The heat, the blast of motorbikes and the peppery pace of this Asian capital sometimes overwhelm its exotic charm. Even its most acclimated denizens need to break away, to head for the provinces, to the languid life of the other Thailand.
If you have only 48 hours, the best bet is Cha-am, a winding stretch of white-sand beach on the Gulf of Thailand. A three-hour drive past paddies and limestone crags south of Bangkok delivers you to the perfect weekend tonic: first-class isolation.
Cha-am is a fishing village dwarfed by the Regent Cha-am Beach Hotel, a modern, multistoried, seaside layout with all the resort conveniences. Leave the main building to the earnest tourists; what you want is a bungalow.
Secluded at one end of the complex, the bungalows are thatched-roof duplexes situated across a patch of grass from the sand. The brick-walled rooms are tiled and clean and are equipped with telephones and air conditioning; room service is available.
My favorite pace-breaker is a stroll along the beach, past the colorful fishing dories of the locals and past nets piled on the sand. Farther on stand racks of drying fish, and you may pass a farmer herding his cattle beside the waves. At the high-waterline, seashells and jetsam cover the sand.
At sunset, with a cool tropical drink in hand, take a seat on the seawall and view a panorama of the gulf, night fishermen pushing out toward the hor- izon. Sleep comes to the sound of waves. Busy Bangkok is long forgotten.
The Regent Cha-am, 849/21, Cha-am Beach, Phetchburi, Thailand. Telephone 011-66-2-032-471483. Reservations also available through the Regent's office in Bangkok, 183 Rajadamri Road. Telephone 252-1497. The Bangkok office provides round-trip van service to the resort for about $7. Cost: $45 per night, including tax and service, for bungalow.