I had some time off work so my friends and I took a trip to a little seaside town-Prachuap Khiri Khan. We had been planning this trip since February and it came and went very quickly. But at least we went. What we normally do is talk about doing things and never actually follow through with our plans. So I was happy about that. I needed time out of Bangkok for a few days. Although I love living there, a few days away is always needed.
We arrived at Bang Sue train station in plenty of time for the 1.33pm train, arriving from Hua Lamphong station. It was on time. The train goes from Bangkok to Su-ngai Kolok which is a border town on the Malaysia-Thailand border. It was second class and the cost of the journey was 696 baht. The train is a great way to see the countryside because the windows are open. It took around 6 hours but the time passed quickly. It is so exciting to see open spaces again. There are quicker ways to go but I totally recommend this mode of transport. Soon after leaving Bangkok, the concrete is replaced with green paddy fields and palm trees. The scenery is just beautiful.
Prachuap Khiri Khan is located around an hour south of Hua Hin. On the east side of Thailand’s narrowest strip of land, it is only 11 km to the Burmese border which lies to the west.
We arrived around 7.30pm and walked to the night market, which is about 10 minutes from the train station. We had dinner of chicken satay and pad thai, which was very nice and very cheap- about 80 baht for the two dishes.
Arriving at night is always strange and my first impressions weren’t great to be honest. It was like a ghost town. There were a few people here and there but it was certainly quiet. Once we had dropped our bags at the hotel we wandered back and found a little shop with a few tables and chairs in the front. We sat and had a few drinks to ease ourselves into our holiday. Like that is ever needed! Just an excuse to drink again.
The next day was a different day. I got up for the sunrise at 5.30am. It was just stunning. You can’t beat a good sunrise. The colours of pinks and blues were just beautiful. The colours make it a perfect time for taking photographs as well. I love that time of morning. I really must see more of them. Only the birds twittering, a few people out and about doing their morning exercise, and the fisherman coming home with their catch. It is so peaceful and quiet. My friend joined me and we followed the sunrise with a few sun salutations on the beach.
After breakfast we hired some bicycles and cycled to Khao Chong Krajok or Mirror Mountain. It gets its name from the natural opening in the side of the hill, which resembles a mirror. After climbing 396 steps we were treated to stunning views of Prachuap Khiri Khan and the surrounding areas-Ao Noi and Ao Manao.
At the top is Khao Chong Krajok temple- a small, picturesque temple which houses a couple of Buddhist artifacts- the buddhapada (Buddha’s footprint) and the saririka dhatu (his relics). It is worth a visit but watch out for the troupe of monkeys who reside on the mountain. They will try and grab anything that looks remotely edible.
We then cycled to Ao Manao which is located within the Wing 5 Prachuap Royal Air Force base. There is a concrete arch, guarded by soldiers who kindly tell you to sign in. There is a building to the right of the arch where you can do so. You are supposed to sign out but we never did. Maybe they are still looking for us!
Wing 5 is a fully operational air force base and so one is not allowed to take photographs. A crucial fact I forgot when I cycled over the runway, stopped in the middle, and proceeded to take two photographs. A guy passed me on his motorbike and said:
“You, NO!!” He then stopped at the security guard to tell him of my misdemeanor.
I cycled towards the security guard, rather sheepishly, and said hello to him with a little smile on my face.
To which he replied: “Yes, but no photographs!”
I forgot, sorry!
Anyway back to Ao Manao. It is a beautiful little bay, lined with trees, and, due to its curved shape, it is quite sheltered, so the Gulf of Thailand is at its calmest. We sat on deckchairs, had some food and a couple of beers. Then we had a leisurely swim in the green sea, the temperature of which was like a bath. You can’t beat the sea in these tropical climes.
The following day we cycled to Ao Noi- about 8km from Prachuap. A pretty little bay which looked like a graveyard for fishing boats. Hundreds of boats lolling around in little pools of water, waiting for the tide to return so they could come alive and go off fishing for the night. We didn’t go there to see the boats; we went there to visit Khan Kradai Cave or Tham Phra Non- the sleeping Buddha cave.
Another climb up another mountain-more of a hill really-and at the top we were welcomed by two resident dogs who seemed happy to see us. There are some lights in the cave and if you put some money in the box you get 20 minutes of light. It wasn’t 20 minutes- more like 10. Anyway, we didn’t put any money in the box, we just had flashlights-like proper adventurers. I felt a bit like Indiana Jones as I took my first tentative steps into the darkness. As you enter the first chamber you can easily see the first reclining golden Buddha, draped in saffron robes. Walk passed the Buddha and you continue further into the cave, and into complete darkness. It was impossible to see anything. The only sound we heard were the cries of the bats overhead. It was very eerie. Then my friends came along with the flashlights and all of a sudden our eyes were drawn to a second golden, saffron draped, Buddha. Not only that, there were three rows of sitting Buddha statues. It kind of took my breath away a little. One moment we were in darkness, unaware there was anything there, next moment we were standing in front of several statues. I didn’t expect to see so many. It was a pleasant surprise.
Prachuap Khiri Khan offers some very scenic views; a couple of mountains; temples; some monkeys; very good, cheap seafood; cheap bicycle hire; a night market; a few cute little cafes and restaurants; an air force base; and a historical park.
It is a beautiful part of Thailand and I enjoyed my few days by the sea exploring caves, mountains and beaches. But, for me, I couldn’t spend any longer than that there. I must be a city girl at heart, Bangkok was beckoning me home.