So our ultimate beach town deserves an entire post all to itself, and it’s going to be a big one.
So settle in, get comfy, and let us show you around!
Prachuap Khiri Khan (Thai: ประจวบคีรีขันธ์) is a coastal town 300km south of Bangkok and is the capital of Prachuap Khiri Khan province. This stretch of coast is at one of the narrowest stretches in Thailand, only 10km from the Burmese border.
If you’re looking for a party, extreme sports, drinking – this is not the town. There are no pubs or clubs, in fact you would be hard pressed to find even restaurants open late at night, and on Sundays – forget it. But as soon as we rode in we felt at home – so much so we spent all our remaining Thailand time there, our last precious two weeks (And then we had to haul it up to Bangkok to get there on time). Because of the quiet local atmosphere, Prachuap is popular with the Bangkok weekenders, longer-term westerners, and families.
The actual town is small enough to be accessed on foot, but bicycles, scooters and tuk-tuks can be rented from various guesthouses. We would recommend renting some sort of wheels as the beach is very close, but far enough to get hot and sweaty by walking. Bicycles are popular as the area is flat and compact, but a tuk-tuk with an adjoining carriage (like the above photo) is very common, and great for transporting a group; kids, towels, beachy paraphernalia etc. Wooden shophouses line the streets and some have been turned into cute cafes, restaurants or grocery stores.
Every morning, bright and early, a fresh food market is in full swing. It starts on the corner of Sue Suk and Mitri Ngam, and runs down the length of Mitri Ngam (11.803980,99.797434).
You could usually find us at 7am at the congee stand on the corner. Congee, or rice porridge, is a popular Thai breakfast and this particular stall hits the spot with a piping hot bowl topped with pork meatballs, fresh ginger and coriander. We would also order – because we were greedy things – warm soy milk and you tiao, fried dough fritters, made fresh from the stall next-door.
We would wander through; stopping at our favorite coffee stand and buy fresh sliced fruit, whole coconuts, limes, pork scratching, glutinous rice sweets – basically anything that looked good. This would be stored in the fridge in our guesthouse room for the day’s lunch and snacks.
Prachuap has a surprising number of food markets. Not only is there a morning market, but two evening markets – one by the police station (11.8087258,99.7961954) and one by the train station (11.807682,99.793997). We went to the police station one mostly, the train station one didn’t have seats, and was mostly for take away meals.
Every Friday and Saturday a huge all-in market happens down by the ocean promenade. This has four rows of stalls that snake about a kilometre down the ocean front (11.808100,99.799127). It starts with all kinds of food and ends with second-hand clothing and electronics and feels like the entire town is down there, either behind a stall or wandering through.
Prachuap is also known for it’s fresh inexpensive seafood. Seafood restaurants can be seen along the promenade. Our favourite was Intown Seafood (Thai: ครัวอินทาวน์, 11.799870,99.800543). This place used to be a fresh seafood fishery, but became so popular they turned it into a restaurant. We would eat a whole snapper, steamed, bbq-ed in salt or fried with tamarind sauce, for around 300 bhat/$10 AUS depending on the weight.
Our guesthouse was located along Road 3167, which ran along the ocean promenade. There are heaps of guesthouses and hotels to choose from here, and throughout the town as well. Ours was actually a hot-pot restaurant – with one room upstairs available for rent. Everyday our view outside was this.
Well every day except for when we were flooded in. We woke up to sound of crashing waves, and looked outside to see that the entire street had flooded with water. During the night a storm had stirred up howling winds, which smashed waves over the promenade wall for three days straight.
The waves were so high, they were higher than the restaurant gate. All the restaurants on the ocean front closed up and the staff stayed at home, even our guesthouse. For three days we had the whole place to ourselves.
We sloshed our way through to town to stock up on food.
To find that all the street dogs and cats were now sporting shirts, due to the drop in temperature.
There we holed up in our quiet guesthouse, watching movies until the winds died down. At least it made for a great sunset.
But most of the days were perfectly sunny, and you would usually find us at the beach.
This is what makes Prachuap really special.
The main beach is Ao Manao – a couple of km south of the town, so tuk-tuk or bicycles recommended (It’s a 5min bike ride – really close). The beach is actually part of the Wing 5 Air Force base, and the recruits keep the beach spotlessly clean, with daily crews for litter, sweeping, and security. There are no dirty diesel jet boats, touts, pick pocketers or rubbish.
Just white clean sand, stretching out around the bay, calm water, and miniature hermit crabs.
When you’re done with the beach (really!), just pop across the road to say hello to the resident deer, who are part of a little petting zoo.
Having to ride through the Wing 5 Air Force base to get to the beach is fascinating in itself. You get to ride across the runway, past guard pill boxes, wooden numbered bungalows and uniformed regiments exercising in the yard or on work duty (no photos of the military allowed, which is standard of course). At the back of the base are towering cliffs, fishing boats and some more sandy bays. We made friends with some bike tourers (only there for two days – they were so sad) and took them on a quick ride around.
There are a couple of other interesting things to check out behind the base. On display are three vintage planes and a small museum.
The base is also home to a troop of spectacled langur monkeys, who can be seen around dusk. They are incredibly sweet, and will take fruit from your hand very gently, but there are a few cheeky male ones who will grab the lot if you’re not careful.
And there you are. Prachuap Khiri Khan. Our favourite place in Thailand – brimming full of quiet charm, markets and monkeys. Vintage planes, fresh cheap seafood and clean white beaches. We stayed as long as we could, stretching our time out for one more day, and just one more after that. And when we finally left there was quite a bit of dragging of heels.
Yes, absolutely we will return.