Not in Phuket - Prachuap Khiri Khan
The province of Prachuap Khiri Khan is between Phuket and Bangkok, to the North of Chumphon province and south of Phetchaburi province. Officially, it's part of Central Thailand - Chumphon is the first of the southern provinces, and is called the Gateway to the South. My wife's family is from Chumphon, and she has some family in Prachuap Khiri Khan too. Her cousin who lives in Prachuap Khiri Khan town had just had a baby, so on our recent trip to Chumphon we decided to take a couple of days in the next province to explore and visit the family.
Yes, I know this is a Phuket blog, but I've been out of Phuket for the last week, and I think Prachuap Khiri Khan is worth a visit. It's around 570km from Phuket to the provincial capital. We will visit again as we liked the area, and the weather was not that great as we caught the edge of Cyclone Nargis, so we'd like another look sometime. I hope you enjoy reading about something out of Phuket!
Our first stop was Bang Saphan, to visit an auntie, a cousin, and more extended family. They live near the beach, live mostly on fishing, own about 30 rai of land (1 rai is 1600 square meters). The way of life is kind of simple to us, but I can assure you they have money in the bank! Bang Saphan is right in the south of Prachuap Khiri Khan province. From there it was not far to Ban Krut, which has hotels and a beach. We had thought to stay there, but after asking prices at a couple of resorts, we changed our mind. OK, the weather was not great, but bear in mind that we live in Phuket, so we are used to nice beaches and I have a fair amount of savvy when it comes to hotel standards and prices. Enough said. We did have a nice lunch by the beach at Ban Krut (aka Ban Krood).
However, maybe on a sunny day the beach would look nicer and if you want a place to get away from the crowds - this might be it! I can recommend a visit to Ban Krud for another reason. On a hill overlooking the beaches there is an incredible temple, called Wat Tang Sai (I have also seen it called Wat Thongchai). Even my wife's mum was impressed and I can assure you she's seen a few temples! This impressive structure was built in 1996 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the King's ascencion to the throne.
You can drive up the hill and park near a big Buddha image.
The views from the Buddha are impressive, but you have to climb higher to reach the temple. There's a short walk up the road before reaching the staircase to the temple, guarded by fierce Nagas (multi headed serpents who are said to have sheltered the Buddha from heavy rains as he meditated).
Views are great, the temple is hugely impressive with multiple levels, murals, buddha images and even a golden urn containing bones from the cremated body of the lord Buddha.
We continued North to Prachuap Khiri Khan town, where we visited my wife's cousin and checked on accommodation options. The quite nice beach at Ao Manao has accommodation - seaview rooms for about 900 Baht, but they were full - it's a popular spot for Thai tourists at the weekend. I reckon we only saw a few other foreign visitors. No worries, just a few doors from my cousin in law's house was a hotel (Prachuab Place Hotel) with decent enough rooms for 650 Baht, a few minutes walk to the seafront. The hotel had a small restaurant (where we got coffee and breakfast next morning) and did not allow Durian!
After saying "Aaah!" to the baby, we checked in and ate some dinner at a seafront restaurant called Pleun Samut. Like the hotel at Ao Manao, it was packed, so service was slow, which annoyed my dear wife. Food was tasty though. If we go back it will be in midweek! We then found a nice little hotel called Sun Beach Guesthouse with seaview rooms and a pool, price just 900 Baht. That's where we'll stay next time!
Prachuap Khiri Khan town is quite small, just a few streets really. It's right on the ocean and is a fishing town. It took me just a few minutes to decide to like the town. Small and friendly, and not much in the way of foreign tourism, though as I said, it is very popular with Thai tourists at the weekend. On Saturday morning I woke early, as did my little boy, so we both took a walk down to the ocean. Fishermen were bringing in the catch, nobody seemed to be in a hurry, half the town was still sleeping. We enjoyed a walk along the beach road.
Well, we had to head back to Chumphon 180km south, but went back to Ao Manao, as the sun was shining that morning. The Bay is home to the Thai Airforce Wing 5.
We had to cross the runway to reach the beach. Can't say we saw any new airforce planes, but quite a few old ones...
At the far south end of the bay is a mountain called Kao Lom Muak. Here is a chance to see and feed Dusky Langurs, as there is a Dusky Langur conservation center. There's also a shrine here.
A quick word about history. Ao Manao was the site of fierce fighting between the Thai airforce and the invading Japanese on December 8th 1941. The Thai role in World War 2 is rather cloudy. Initially Thai forces resisted the invasion at multiple points along the east coast, but within a day an armistice had been signed. You can read more here: Battle of Prachuap Khiri Khan.
Ao Manao is popular with Thai visitors. The beach looked pretty nice, and there were a bunch of small restaurants to choose from. We had an early lunch here before heading home. It was a sunny morning, but clouds were building so we were keen to start back to Chumphon. Part of the bay has fishing boats and hat shaped rocks, the other end has the nicer beach and the tourists. We liked it. We'll be back!
There was still time for a visit to the impressive aquarium at Waghor, about 10km south of Prachuap Khiri Khan town. Certainly a match for the Phuket Aquarium and only 20 Baht to get in! Prachuap Khiri Khan province has more too - there is the Khao Sam Roy Yod national park, and the beach resort town of Hua Hin. We will explore more! Meanwhile, we're back in Phuket, ready for work (me) and the start of the school year (for the kids). So no more holidays for a while. Hope you enjoyed the trip out of Phuket!
More places not quite in Phuket
Chumphon Town and Province
Exploring Phang Nga Province
Holiday in Khao Lak