Finding a slice of Japan in Thailand
Si Racha, unspoilt by tourists, is the perfect coastal town to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life
If you are thinking of getting your Japanese fix while in Thailand, Si Racha is the perfect place to go.
A quaint coastal town situated between Bangkok (named the city with the most international visitors for the fourth straight year) and Pattaya, it has earned the nickname of "Little Osaka" because of a large and growing influx of Japanese expats.
Also home to the renowned Sriracha hot sauce, the district - which is part of the Chonburi province - is just a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Bangkok.
Immerse yourself in Japanese culture at J-Park Sriracha Nihon Mura, a shopping mall filled with numerous dining establishments to keep your hunger pangs at bay.
Built to emulate the Meiji and Edo eras, it also has several Insta-worthy spots for you to fool your friends into thinking you are in Japan.
Or if you prefer a sightseeing adventure, the island of Ko Sichang will not disappoint.
Just a 45-minute ferry ride from Koh Loi Pier, with boats leaving hourly, it boasts picturesque views of historical sites such as the Chudhadhuj Rajthan Palace Museum and Chong Kao Kard, a public park with pavilions and an elevated concrete promenade offering splendid views of the cliffs and rugged headlands.
The good news is that you can get that perfect shot without crowds of tourists, and couples can do their wedding photoshoot undisturbed.
To get around the island, visitors can rent a motorcycle, take a larger version of the tuk-tuk, or get a mini-bus for bigger groups for just 250 baht (S$11).
After a day of travelling, I took a shuttle bus provided by the newly-opened Centara Sonrisa Residences and Suites Sriracha at the pier to wind down at the beachfront hotel before continuing my journey the next day.
Other than the pier, shuttle bus services are also provided to the Robinson department store and Tukcom Sriracha, an IT, electronics and gadgets shopping mall.
Centara, from Thailand's leading hotel operator, comprises 145 units ranging from Superior rooms to Family Residences.
I opted for the Deluxe Seaview accommodation which comes with a balcony so that I could chill out and enjoy the ocean breeze in the evening. Rates start from 2,400 baht (S$109) a night, inclusive of breakfast.
Before you leave, make sure you drop by the award-winning spa brand Cenvaree.
Services on offer range from the traditional Royal Thai massage to pre-natal pregnancy massages, and I got to try the former for the first time.
While I was initially nervous about the session, my worries proved to be unfounded after the massage therapist skilfully relieved the tension in my body.
To cater to the Japanese community in the area, unique to this outlet is the steamy Japanese-style onsen baths, a first for the Centara brand.
With facilities such as a ball pit, water playground and a VR game room, it is also a family destination for those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Food options are not a problem when there is so much to choose from, even within the hotel.
Commanding a brilliant view from its sky deck, the modern and laid-back restaurant Umi offers traditional Japanese cuisine including ramen and teppanyaki dishes, along with creative interpretations of Thai and European favourites.
You will not go wrong ordering the Wagyu Teppan Steak, Hokkaido Milk Pudding, Green Curry with Seabass and Mango Sticky Rice.
If you decide to venture out for more local food, the hotel staff highly recommended Som Tum Amara restaurant for an authentic Thai experience, where I feasted on an assortment of salads such as corn, papaya, mango and tom yum soup.
I proceeded to burn off those calories at the nearby Bang Phra Reservoir.
But for those who prefer a more hipster setting, you could head out to nearby town Bang Saen 40 minutes from the hotel to Denim Dining X 90s Bar.