Prachuap Khiri Khan packages idyllic nature, exotic temples and a royal touch all in accessible fashion
Prachuap Khiri Khan is nestled at the top of Thailand’s Southern peninsula between Phetchaburi to the north and Chumphon to the south, to the east by the Gulf of Thailand and to the west by Myanmar. At its narrowest point, the province is a mere 11-kilometre wide, in the area of the provincial seat – Prachuap Khiri Khan town – that lies on the coast just under 300 kilometres from Bangkok.
Around 100 kilometres north of Prachuap Khiri Khan town is Hua Hin, the province’s biggest tourism drawcard. Once a quiet fishing village, it became a favourite holiday destination of the Thai royalty in the 1920s and subsequently grew into a fashionable getaway spot for Bangkokians. It remains as such today, yet its royal ‘endorsement’ has given Hua Hin a certain character that sets it apart from other Thai beach resorts.
The four-kilometre-long Hua Hin Beach offers a more tranquil setting than the likes of Phuket or Pattaya and with plenty of family and couple-friendly activities to enjoy like horse riding, water sports, water theme parks, top-end spa retreats, and world-class golf courses. Other great beach spots in the province include Pran Buri, Ao Manao and Khao Takiap.
Leveraging Hua Hin’s position as Thailand’s first beach resort, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Prachuap Khiri Khan Office and Hua Hin’s public and private sectors in 2019 launched the ‘Hua Hin: Thai Authentic Beach’ brand. The joint effort focusses on promoting new street art installations in the villages of Samo Riang, Pun Suk and Khao Tao.
A local landmark and symbol of Hua Hin’s royal links is the seaside Klai Kang Won Palace, built in 1928 by King Rama VII, which is today still an official royal residence.
Hua Hin Railway Station is one of Thailand’s oldest and prettiest railway stations, making it a favourite attraction and a nostalgic way to arrive if travelling by train. Built during the reign of King Rama VI, its architecture is intricate and colourful, and there’s also an antique steam locomotive on show.
Other sights to see include the Hua Hin Night Market, which comes to life from early evening with stalls selling clothing, crafts, delicious local cuisine and more, and the 270-metre-high Khao Takiap (or literally translated as Chopsticks Hill) at the southern end of Hua Hin Beach offering striking views and a temple at the top.
A half-hour drive from town is Pak Nam Pran or the Pran Buri Estuary, a picturesque coastal setting with white sandy beaches and a small fishing community. Boats can be hired to explore along the Pran Buri River, and there’s a market selling fresh seafood. At Pran Buri Forest Park, a stroll can be enjoyed along a wooden boardwalk through a mangrove forest.
Among the attractions of Prachuap Khiri Khan town are Khao Chong Krachok, a hilltop temple swarming with monkeys and where a Buddha footprint is housed; Khao Lommuak limestone peak which is the highest point in the immediate area, and the City Pillar Shrine located opposite the city hall. About 15 kilometres from town is the King Mongkut Memorial Park of Science and Technology at Wa Ko established in 1989 to commemorate King Rama IV, who is regarded as the father of scientific study in Thailand and where there’s a science museum, aquarium and butterfly garden.
Nature All Around
There are several national parks in Prachuap Khiri Khan province, which are home to an array of exotic wildlife and picturesque landscapes that range from dramatic limestone hills to idyllic coastal spots. These include the country’s largest national park and first coastal national park – Kaeng Krachan National Park and Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, respectively. Both are about an hour’s drive from Hua Hin.
Covering an area of 2,914 sq. km in Prachuap Khiri Khan and neighbouring Phetchaburi, Kaeng Krachan National Park features a landscape of rainforest, mountain peaks, rivers and waterfalls and is one of the country’s top spots for both birdwatching and butterfly watching.
Around 20 percent of Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, which covers an area of 98.08 sq. km, is a marine area including beaches and small islands, while the land area offers limestone peaks, caves and freshwater marshes. Famous among the caves is Phraya Nakhon Cave inside of which stands the Khuha Kharuehat Pavilion, built for King Rama V the Great’s visit in 1890 and which is now the provincial symbol. In May 2020, archaeologists announced the discovery of 3,000-year-old cave paintings in one of the Park’s caves.
An hour’s drive from Prachuap Khiri Khan town is Kui Buri National Park, the only place in Thailand where sandalwood can be harvested for royal cremations. Trees were selected from here for the 2017 cremation of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great.
Temples and Top Jazz
Those looking for a touch of culture and religion have a choice of places to include in their sightseeing plans. A good place to start is Wat Huai Mongkhon located 15 kilometres from Hua Hin and which is home to the world’s largest statue of Luangpho Thuat, a legendary Southern Thai monk of the late Ayutthaya period revered for his enlightenment and ability to perform miracles. At some 12 metres tall, the statue can be seen from afar, and the complex is popular with Thais who come to pay respect and to ask for good luck, health, fortune and happiness.
A 45-minute drive from Hua Hin is Wat Tan Chet Yot and the biggest Luangpho Tho. At 11 metres long and 18 metres high, this image cast in brass of Somdet Phra Phutthachan Tho Phromrangsi is the world’s biggest. There are also other cast virtual images and images of Buddha.
Also, in Hua Hin is the Phra Phrom Shrine, a sacred place where the faithful go to worship or take an oath. Inside is the statue of a four-faced Phra Phrom turning to four different directions and there are four pools signifying the four elements of Earth, Water, Air and Fire.
Another temple to visit is the seaside Wat Ao Noi a few kilometres from Prachuap Khiri Khan town. Built in 2003 totally of teakwood, this exquisitely crafted chapel houses hand-painted murals telling Buddhist stories surrounding a Buddha image, while a nearby stairway leads to Tham Phra Non, a cave temple with two reclining Buddhas.
Among Prachuap Khiri Khan’s annual events and festivals is the popular Hua Hin International Jazz Festival, where local and international jazz and blues artists perform on stages set up on Hua Hin Beach to adore audiences.
Getting to Prachuap Khiri Khan is best done by train with various daily departures available from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Railway Station. Buses operate daily to both points from Bangkok’s Sai Tai (Southern) Bus Terminal and mini-vans set off from the Mo Chit New Van Terminal next to the Mo Chit Bus Terminal. For those keen on the self-drive option, there are numerous car hire companies to choose from.