Prachuap Khiri Khan is a fishing village roughly four hours south of Bangkok. You can get there by bus or train from Bangkok. The city is small enough that many people don’t speak English. Its temple atop the hill is what it’s best known for, but the fact that it isn’t well known is what’s really special about it.
I arrived by bus on a rainy evening, by myself. I was left in front of a row of stores. There are no taxis. It’s a good idea to get a local SIM card before you go so you can look up your hotel and figure out how to walk there. When I went, city maps weren’t readily available, so I was grateful to have Maps.me to help me get my bearings. A town square is close to the bus stop. At night, it’s full of food and candy vendors. I had no idea what most of it was but loved walking around gazing at the signs and assortment of items I could dine on.
Renting a bike is your best option for exploring the area. You can do that on the main road that passes along the waterfront. However, if you’re like me and don’t feel comfortable on a bike, or have health issues to take into consideration, I recommend you hire Chai. He’s a Prachuap resident who’s helping improve the tourist experience and will give you the most fabulous overview of everything you can see and do in his tuk-tuk. In two days, he took me all over and it was so inexpensive I gave him a tip almost as large as the cost of the service, which he tried not to accept. I’m happy to introduce you to him, or you can visit his Facebook page to see if he’s available. Here’s an idea of what to see and do if you’re lucky enough to explore this town.
Thammikaram Worawihan Temple And Khao Chong Krachok Arch
This is the main site in Prachuap. It’s a beautiful temple at the top of the hill in the center of town. The fact that it’s a tenuous uphill walk isn’t the real challenge, it’s the monkeys that live in the area. There are two species of monkeys in town, and the one by the temple is more aggressive. They may rob you as you go, so hike at your own risk! I watched one of the monkeys pull a side-view mirror off a car and decided not to mess with them.
The other site to see here is the large Buddha which is both beautiful and iconic. Luckily it’s at street level and there’s no monkey threat to get to it.
Wing 5 And Ao Manao Beach
I was surprised to learn about the military base here, and you have to travel through it to get to the beach. It’s gorgeous and well worth the strange detour. Make sure to bring your passport with you as it’s required to gain entry to and pass through the base. If you go with Chai, he’ll drop you off at the beach for a few hours, and you can walk in the sand, take photos of the beautiful scenery, and even rent a chair and relax. There are a couple of food and coffee options nearby. There’s also a small farm where you can feed goats and ostriches. It seems completely out of place but is a fun distraction.
Dusky Langur Colony
I have to admit, this was my favorite part of Prachuap. Inside of Wing 5 and the beach is a colony of monkeys as playful as they are beautiful. Get some food in town and these monkeys will take it delicately from your hand. They are as kind and gentle as they look, and, if you’re lucky, they’ll jump on your shoulder and you can see the tiny babies clinging to their mothers.
Wat Ao Noi
This is a beautiful temple with a huge wooden snake winding around it. You can take photos and admire the simple beauty it offers inside and out. As with most temples, this is a place of worship, so you should be respectful. That means wearing appropriate attire (no bare skin above the knees and no bare shoulders) and removing your shoes. Even if nobody is there to see you, it’s expected that you honor these customs.
I’m not sure of the official name of this place because Chai took me, and it’s not in any tourist guides I could find. There’s a house on a hill with beautiful Buddhist decor. The hike to it offers gorgeous tropical views. If you walk past the house, you’ll get to an underground cave. Take a flashlight at the entrance (make sure it works before you enter) and you can see some statues and seek out the Buddha. I have a feeling most tourists don’t hear about it, and it’s something you need a guide to show you.
Waterfront And Ao Noi Fishing Village
The waterfront in the center of town is a great place to catch sunrise or sunset. At night, there’s a market offering souvenirs and local food. If you get to the fishing village, you might luck out and see the fisherman preparing to sail out or bringing in the day’s catch.
Phraya Nakhon Cave
Though not in Prachuap, a main reason to go there is to see the nearby Phraya Nakhon Cave, which has a temple inside.
For me, however, the beauty of Prachuap is how few tourists roam the streets. You can relax by the waterfront for an afternoon or walk along in the town center and feel like you’re in an authentic part of Thailand. If you hire a guide, you can see the outskirts of town and how people live.
Where To Eat
Though there are several restaurants and cafes in town, I’d suggest going to the night market and trying something unfamiliar. There’s a larger night market by the waterfront with more options than you’ll find in the town square.
The other way to dine is to explore the side streets where you’ll find smaller, lesser-known restaurants. In fact, my favorite was a place that looked like a fast-food joint someone had set up at the last minute. I can’t remember the name because there may not have been one. The menu was tiny and everything was delicious. This is a town to explore off-the-beaten-path food options rather than trying to find fine dining. Make sure you try the dried squid, which is a specialty. If, however, you want to try a restaurant, here are some recommendations.
If you want a nice view and a menu with some variety, eat at Top Deck. One thing to remember, everywhere in Thailand, is how spicy the food is. If you don’t like hot food, make sure to tell your waiter when you order.
I almost didn’t come here because it looks like a bar that wouldn’t have good food. But the beautiful view of the water makes it enticing, and I ended up having one of my favorite meals here: a blend of seafood over rice. Ma-Prow’s service was fairly fast, but the food was excellent and easy on the budget.
Where To Stay
One of the great things about Prachuap is how far your money will go anywhere you decide to stay.
Prachuap Grand Hotel
This hotel offers an excellent breakfast buffet and it’s well located a block off the main street and two blocks from the waterfront.
Prachuap Beach Hotel
You’ll benefit from lovely views and comfortable rooms. Guests can easily walk to lovely areas nearby. It’s right on the waterfront.
If you want a more authentic experience, try this bed and breakfast. I met people who were staying here and raved about the accommodations and the food.
This is a special place in the world that hasn’t, yet, been ruined by over-tourism. I bought a bottle of water for 7 cents. I got sunburned and had to try six pharmacies before I found someone who understood what after-sun lotion is. Amid all the overly popular Thai cities, I’m so happy to have found one that hasn’t yet let tourists rob it of its special culture.
Planning a Thai adventure? Read up on Melissa Klurman’s sleepover with elephants in Thailand’s Golden Triangle, too.