Friday, January 9, 2015

I Love Prachuap

I love Prachuap Khiri Khan.  Yes, it’s true.  I’m in love with this little coastal town on the Gulf of Thailand.  In fact, I don’t understand why more foreigners haven’t fallen for its charms.  Most guidebooks describe it as a stopover on the way from Bangkok to the way to Samui or Phuket, but dismiss it as worth perhaps a one day stop.

So why do I love Prachuap?  The most obvious is the sea front location.  It faces the Gulf of Thailand and is known as the City of Three Bays.  Ao Prachuap (Prachuap Bay) is central, Ao Noi is to the north, and Ao Manao, the most beautiful, is to the south.  High headlands separate the bays.  This time I booked late so I couldn’t get a sea view from my hotel room, but last time I could watch the sunrise over Prachuap Bay from my balcony.  It’s a great way to start the day.

Prachuap is also a small town.  The tambon (sub-district) has 30,000 people but it feels smaller than that.  The “downtown” area, facing the bay is low rise, with few buildings more than three stories.  The streets are wide and the traffic is light.  It makes getting around very easy and it’s a great change from fighting the traffic and fumes of Chiang Mai.  

One of the best things to do in Prachuap is to go swimming at Ao Manao.  This curved protected bay is under the jurisdiction of the Royal Thai Air Force, inside the Wing 5 base.  There is free access to most parts of the base, including the swimming beach, the headland that is the home of the spectacled languor monkeys, and the historical park, with vintage aircraft on display.  The swimming area is shaded by casuarina trees, and there are lounge chairs for rent, as well as food stalls and toilet areas with showers.  It’s a place you can spend all day.  Take a good book, plop yourself down, go for the occasional dip, and your day is made.   That’s definitely my favorite way to spend time in Prachuap.
Spectacled Languors at Ao Manao

More cute monkeys

Historical aircraft at Wing 5

If you love seafood, this is the place for you.  There are several fishing fleets working out of the towns and villages along the bays, so the catch of the day really is the catch of the day.  The seafood is really fresh and much cheaper than in Bangkok or Chiang Mai.  If you can go to one of the restaurants that caters to locals rather than tourists, you will save money.  Of course, you also need to speak Thai to do that.  

 The people of Prachup claim to have the most beautiful city pillar in Thailand.  I haven't seen every city pillar in Thailand, but I am not about to disagree with their assessment.  It is lovely.

City Pillar
There are a lot of other activities in town, such as the weekend walking street market along the seawall.  It is a great place to watch people, and to chow down on local Thai snacks.  
Walking Street on Friday Evening

 Waghor Aquarium is about 12 kilometers south of town.  It’s not great, but it’s a good way to spend an hour or two on a hot afternoon (it is quite cool and dark inside.)  It is also cheap, only 30 baht for foreigners.  If you go be sure to take the beach road, not the Phetkasem highway.  The beach road winds through the picturesque village of Khlong Wan and along miles of unspoiled beach.  It’s a great ride.

Waghor Aquarium
You can also climb Mirror Mountain (Khao Chong Krajok), at the south end of town.  It has 396 steps leading to the summit, with spectacular views of the three bays, and the town.  I still haven’t climbed it.  Both times I’ve been there the weather has taken a turn for the worse at the times I had set aside to climb it.  Try to avoid the monkeys here.  These are macaques, not the cute languor monkeys of Ao Manao.  They are quite aggressive, and will beg or steal any food you have.  They will also steal your camera, or keys or purse, if you give them a chance.  They also bite, so keep the kids away from them.
Khao Chong Krajok

Nasty Macaque

Now the disclaimer.  If you are looking for fine dining, boutique shopping, and discotheques or beer bars, Prachuap isn’t the place for you.  Let me recommend Hua Hin, 90 kilometers to the north.  It has all of those things, along with cinemas, shopping malls and golf courses.  The downside is that it is filled ancient vacationing Scandinavians and Germans, and the beach is really ugly.  It's lacking in character.  But if you go to Hua Hin, and get tired of it, drop on down to Prachuap for a day or two. 

So, I love Prachuap for its laid back character, the beautiful beach, and the relaxing ambiance, with a lot of activities to do and places to see.  Now that I’ve told you about it, I’m trusting to your discretion.  Let’s keep this little secret, and hope that Prachuap stays largely untouched by the development that is happening to the north.  We’ll just keep this one for ourselves. 


  1. What's the market like there for people teaching English?


    1. Quite a few government schools there. I don't imagine it would be to difficult to find a job. None of the big English centers have branches there.

  2. Very interesting and informative . I can see that you had an enjoyable visit. Glad you did. Love, Mom

  3. Sounds like a great place to visit. I will have to add it to my list for when I get to visit! :)