View from Mirror Cave Mountain
Just four hours outside Bangkok lays a haven of old Thailand, Prachuap Kiri Khan. Just beyond the development wave that swept up Cha am and Hua Hin, sleepy little Prachuap is just snoozing on unnoticed.
Prachuap was one of the first places I ever visited in Thailand back in 1991 and one of the few that has changed little. It also enjoys the great distinction of officially being my favourite place in Thailand.
The town sits in the middle of Ao Noi bay, a beautiful crescent of sands stretching kilometres without a bather on the whole length and offering a stunning view of several islands spilling off either end. Small and quite untainted by tourism, lacking even one tourist restaurant, the few guesthouses in town are basic and cheap, only one ever seems to regularly have tourists in (rooms starting from 160 baht per night.)
Ao Noi Beach
This lack of tourists in the town has left the locals with an incredibly friendly disposition and price hikes are simply an alien concept.
The town is so small it can easily be walked around, though there are two bicycle hire shops and one motor scooter hire place run by the local policeman. With plenty to see around and outside the town these can prove more fun and economic that Tuks Tuks. The night market in the middle of town from 6pm onwards is so good even by Thai standards offering an eating experience to be savoured each day.
One of the joys of Pracheup is it is not just a beach but is literally packed with interesting things to do.
On the northern outskirts is Mirror Cave Mountain with the obligatory temple on top providing a stunning view. The hill itself a monkey sanctuary and literally hundreds of Macaques live there, covering the steps on the way up and temple ready to rob the unwary tourist of anything even vaguely edible.
On the outskirts of the town is a traditional fishing village with the colourful fleet and just beyond that in a huge new modern temple is Khao Kham Kradi cave, its subterranean network used as a retirement home for old Buddha statues from around the country(bring a torch.) The deserted temple’s lakes are full of giant catfish with bags of food (leave a donation) freely available and a fish feeding platform.
The main reason most people visit Pracheup is because it neighbours Aoi Manao Bay, the place where the Japanese first landed in Thailand in WWII. The Japanese couldn’t have chosen a more sceninc place to invade, in this little bay is some of the best mainland beaches in the country and usually quite deserted.
Ao Manao lays within Wing 53 Airbase freely enterable by the public complete with beach resort and boasting Historic Park, really just a few old aircraft and statues. Part of the airbase is a Dusky Langur conservation area and these friendly monkeys wander around providing world class wildlife photography opportunities.
Neighbouring Prachuap are several beachside villages all worth a visit and trying to boast at least one tourist attraction. Klongwan to the south, barely a hundreds metres long, consisting of a few shops and local houses has opened a Sea World Aquarium.
For nightlife there is a bar in town and another Biker Bar just out of town, complete with live band and pool table, about as wild as it gets. However the real reason to go there as with anywhere in Thailand is meeting the locals. Prachuap allows the traveller to stay in true Thai town getting on with its own business despite the tourist not for them, the antithesis of an artificial backpacker simulation such as Pai or Pang Ngan. Prachuap is one of the few places travellers can still encounter that genuine simple friendliness that made Thailand the major destination it is today.
Ao Manao Beach