Had enough day-glo paint? Done with traveller chat? Time to explore…
If you’re feeling like you’re following the hoardes, getting off the tourist trail in Thailand is pretty easy. My girlfriend and I had been trawling the standard trails around the south of Thailand when, with about two weeks spare, we realised we didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing… We’d done Koh Phangan, Koh Tao, Krabi and Bangkok. The thought of heading to another tourist haunt was a bit depressing.
So… We looked at the map and found a town that wasn’t on the tourist trail. A cursory glance at the Lonely Planet indicated that the town in question had a paragraph saying it was a nice beach town and that was about it. Cool. Off we went.
Prachuap Kiri Khan
Getting off the bus in Prachaup Kiri Khan was much like any other experience in Thailand. You’re dropped by the side of the road and before you know it some random guy pulls up on a motorbike, smiles and tells you to jump on.
Despite my girlfriends reservations, we did just that and were whisked into the town.
The high street, Kong Kiat, was lined with a few small hotels. We wandered into the first one, had a look at the room, which was pretty much the standard for a 250 Baht room in Thailand and signed on the line. Easy.
It’s only when wandering the town that we began to realise, oh hey, we’re really off the beaten track here. Tourists spotted on the first day… Zero. English spoken by the locals, pretty minimal. Amount of surprised looking Thai people, loads.
This was just what we were looking for.
In all honesty, Prachaup Kiri Khan isn’t even that off the beaten track. It’s between Chumphon (where you get the boat to Koh Tao) and Bangkok and could easily be a jumping off point for travellers who can’t be bothered to do an overnight train journey.
What To See
As nice as it is, the town isn’t going to be stealing visitors from Koh Phangan or even Hua Hin, which is not that far down the road. But there are things worth seeing in Prachuap Kiri Khan.
We hired a bike from our hotel (it was pretty cheap – I think it was 50 Baht a day) and cycled beyond the limits of the main town. These are some of the best sights in and around town (that we found).
There was an excellent night market just down the road from our hotel on the main drag with all your standard Thai atmosphere. Weird meats being fried up or grilled, amazing smelling curries and fresh stir fries. A talent show or karaoke singer on a shoddy stage… And I don’t think there was a pad thai stand in sight. This was when we started to spot a few non Thai visitors, albeit very few…
The main drag along the seafront is a pleasant walk, especially at sunset. The road running along it isn’t that busy and it was pretty straightforward to grab a Chang from 7 Eleven and sit and watch the sun go down. There is a (sort of) beach although it’s not really the type you hang out on, mostly due to the fact that there seemed to be men at work on their boats. The best beach is a little way out…
Ao Manao Beach
As the beach in town wasn’t quite sunbather territory we decided to explore. A short cycle ride across the local military base brings you to the sweeping Ao Manao. A long sandy beach set in a bay, fringed with resort hotels and food courts. On the day we came the weather wasn’t the best so there was no sun worshipping to be done. But the majority of holidaymakers seemed to be Thai, although there were a couple of farang faces in there.
On a good day this would be a great spot to chill and soak up some rays, and in fairness we did get a paddle before the rain came in.
Khao Chong Krachok
Sitting to the north of the main drag is a hill with a temple on top which is just asking to be hiked up. The walk technically isn’t that far but the steps get quite steep, plus you get harrassed by monkeys all the way up. But the view was worth it…
I mean look at that…
With Prachuap Kiri Khan done, we jumped on a train to the next random town…
Further along the track towards Bangkok is Phetchaburi, another town that barely warranted much of a mention in our guide book. Using that as a good excuse to drop in, we rocked up and found a hotel near the centre of town (a guest house next to the river, I’m pretty sure it was Sabaidee Resort), which was once again a fairly bargain price considering.
Like Prachaup, Phetchaburi was pretty devoid of non Thai tourists and was pretty easy to wander around on foot.
The thing we found with Phetchaburi is, it’s temple city. There are literally temples everywhere and are also several hills in town with great views and sprawling temple complexes. So off we went to explore.
We were literally here overnight be we saw probably about three cool temples.
Phra Nakhon Khiri – aka Khao Wang
Khao Wang is one of the main temples and includes a funicular ride up to the top. The train was about 200 baht for a return ticket and (as I recall) this included access to most of the temple site.
The temple complex is quite sprawling and is spread around a lovely forested area on top of the hill. Every so often you pop out onto little pagodas where the view across town allowed you to collect your breath (and dodge monkeys).
Every small town worth it’s salt has a night market and Phetchaburi has a couple of options including a very good covered market. The smell of barbecued meats and fragrant spices wafts down the road and draws you in – especially as our hotel was right down the road from the night market!
There is one, right on the riverside by Rachatiwee road (one of the main drags in town) and another just down the road from there. Both are much of a muchness serving curries, meats and salads and are open from mid afternoon.
Off The Tourist Trail
It is a couple of years since we rocked up in these two towns, but if you’re looking to escape the main tourist trail, I can highly recommend either Prachaup or Phetchaburi as stops for a few days respite.
Have you been to either of these towns in the past year or so? I’d love to know what’s changed so please comment below…
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