An excellent selection
The small town of Amphawa some 75 kilometres southwest of Bangkok is best known for its weekend market, which attracts urban Thais in droves. The market is well worth a trip, but a mid-week visit offers the chance to be swept up in Amphawa’s ultra-relaxed atmosphere while saving a decent chunk of change on accommodation, which fills up on weekends. While poking around the town’s historic canal-side houses, we found a handful of homestays and low-key hotels that make an overnight in Amphawa worthwhile.
By Thailand standards, Amphawa is an expensive place when it comes to accommodation, especially on weekends. Yet good homestays make it possible for guests to be fully immersed in the town’s enchanting culture. They charge a premium for this unique opportunity — most are in the 1,000 baht neighbourhood on weekends for a simple room with shared bath — but most also offer air-con and at least one meal. Keep in mind you’re not paying only for the room, but for the whole experience.
With that said, many Amphawa homestays do offer some very attractive rooms. Our favourite was Ruen Khun Yai Chuea, which has a great location just west of the market and just east of where the Amphawa canal merges with the vast Mae Khlong river. Second-floor rooms have rich dark wood walls with loads of windows that afford wrap around views of both the canal and the river, and polished teak floors that are a joy to walk on with bare feet.
Beds are in the form of a simple mattress on the floor draped in mosquito net, but all rooms do have air-con, TVs, WiFi and old Thai antiques on little corner shelves. It’s a bit pricey at 900 baht per night on weekdays or 1,200 on weekends, but this is one place where Amphawa is sure to work its magic on you.
If looking to save some cash, nondescript Baan Song Thai Basee right next door to Ruen Khun Yai Chuea is also set in a historic teak wood house but has smaller rooms which lack the views. Still, the homestay is run by a sweet old woman and her cat, and we reckon they’ll offer some memorable Amphawa hospitality. Fan rooms cost 600 baht while air-con goes for 800 on weekends. Prices are negotiable on weekdays, making this a solid budget choice.
At the other side of the canal about five minute’s walk from the market, long-running Baan Mae Arom Homestay is set in yet another historic teak house that makes up for its less charming rooms with a helpful and welcoming English-speaking staff. They have a great reputation for arranging quality tours of the area, but the electric massage chair in the charming, if a tad quirky lobby might be all the activity you need. Rooms have few windows, but they are comfortable and equipped with air-con, TVs and WiFi, and the staff gave us a firm confirmation that the 1,200 weekend price tag is chopped in half during the week.
Several options in town walk the line between “homestay” and “hotel”, and our favourite of these is Thanicha Healthy Resort. This place nails classic Thai ambience with its fully open-air lobby in a historic teak building that faces the canal and is decked out with antiques, faded photographs of Amphawa residents of yesteryear and traditional Thai music to set the mood. Even if not staying here, it’s worth a stop to enjoy a coffee or tea at one of the tables-on-the-floor with traditional Thai style axe pillow seating.
Rooms are set in a three-storey building with an inviting open-air courtyard filled with tropical plants and mini fish ponds at its centre. The actual rooms are a bit sparse with blank white walls and firm beds on raised platforms, but they come with fridges, TVs, air-con and WiFi, making this a good bet for those who want the canal-side atmosphere without giving up an en suite bathroom. Standard rooms come in at just under 1,000 baht on weekdays but jump to 1,500 on weekends, and family rooms are also available. The friendly English-speaking staff rise everyday around 03:30 to prepare homemade meals for monks on their morning alms round, a custom guests are encouraged to participate in.
Further towards the hotel/resort side of the spectrum, an honourable mention goes to ChabaabaanCham Resort for its romantic VIP rooms in the 1,700 to 2,400 baht range that are set back from the canal and come with roof-top hammocks large enough for two. A short walk further east brings you to Baan Kupu‘s airy cottages set around a garden for 1,000 baht mid-week and 1,500 on weekends. While lovely, Amphawa’s old wooden houses have paper thin walls, so if you don’t want to be up in time to see monks carrying alms bowls, Baan Kupu is a good bet.
It’s true that Amphawa can be easily visited as a daytrip from Bangkok, but we recommend sticking around for a few nights to fully soak up the tranquility. Don’t be surprised if a firefly or two buzz through the window as you fall into sweet dreams of a relaxing late afternoon paddle.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 31st January, 2015.