The name of a Thai province and also the main provincial town, Prachuap Khiri Khan (often referred to as simply Prachup) is located along the thin strip of Thailand that connects the central and southern areas.
Although the beach town of Hua Hin, with its abundant restaurants, bars, and shops, numerous tour operators, beautiful historic train station, and lively atmosphere, is often one of the first places that people associate with the province, the town of Prachuap Khiri Khan offers a quieter seaside experience, greater opportunities to observe the local way of life, and some great chances to interact with nature.
Easy to reach by train, bus, and minivan, getting to the town of Prachuap Khiri Khan is easy. There are several hotels and guest houses in the heart of town and by the main beach, as well as local eateries to ensure you’ll never go hungry. Here’s what you can enjoy in Prachuap Khiri Khan:
Relax on the lovely beach of Ao Manao
The main beach of Prachuap Khiri Khan town, Ao Manao is just a short drive, of around five to ten minutes, away from the centre of town. You can rent a scooter from several guest houses for just a few dollars per day, or else use one of the many motorbike taxis or tuk tuks to reach the beach. Do be sure to arrange a pick-up time too, or get a contact phone number, as return transport from the beach can be difficult to find.
Whilst it is possible to get close to the beach on foot, with the walk taking around 30 to 45 minutes, you do need to pass through a military base to get to the beach. I have managed to walk through the base a couple of times, but have also been prevented from doing so on several occasions. You are, however, allowed to drive through the base using your own vehicle; you just need to register at the gatehouse as you enter, and then sign out once you leave. This registration is also needed if you go to Ao Manao by tuk tuk or motorbike taxi.
Ao Manao is a quiet beach, attracting Thai tourists and seeing relatively few international visitors. It’s a top place to escape the crowds of the busier Thai beaches and the vendors that can be really quite persistent, whilst still enjoying soft pale-coloured sands, clean waters, and gorgeous views of greenery-clad karsts rising up from the sea.
Small fishing boats bob on the waters, and the beach is covered with small orbs of compacted sand, created by burrowing crabs. Watch and you may see the almost-translucent crabs darting hither and thither.
A top tip for having almost exclusive use of the beach is to visit during the sunniest time of the day. Many Thai holidaymakers prefer to hit the beach after the midday sun has dipped and the rays aren’t so bright. Don’t worry – there are plenty of trees that offer some cooling shade.
Hungry? Head to the small food court next to the beach. Serving mainly seafood and fish, you’ll also find typical Thai favourites like som tam (spicy papaya salad) and various fried-rice dishes.
Meet the local monkey residents
Two types of monkey call Prachuap Khiri Khan home: long-tailed macaques and dusky leaf monkeys.
The mischievous macaques can be found close to the centre of town, at the foot of Khao Chong Krachok, as well as up the hill itself. There is a designated feeding area where the creatures will be happy to relieve you of any food and drinks … whether you want them to or not! Be careful with your bags, cameras, and other possessions; the monkeys are adept at snatching and running.
The dusky leaf monkeys live close to the craggy rocks within the military base on the way to Ao Manao. Much less aggressive and a whole lot friendlier than their macaque cousins, take along some fruit or nuts and the gentle monkeys will softly take food from you to nibble on. They seem to almost wait in turn for your outstretched hand; there’s definitely no grabbing and squabbling amongst this happy little troop.
As well as being mild-mannered and ever so cute, the dusky leaf monkeys are also really pretty to look at. With grey fur and bright white rings around their eyes, they almost look like they are wearing makeup. If there are any baby monkeys around you’re in for a treat; the babies are bright yellow!
Climb the hill to Wat Thammikaram
Wat Thammikaram (also known as the Monkey Temple) sits atop Khao Chong Krachok, overlooking the town and the bay. The views from the top are one of the main reasons that people visit the temple. The walk is steep, leading you up around 400 steps, but it takes less than an hour. Do be careful of macaques lurking in the dense trees though, waiting to pounce for bottles of water, snacks, and other items.
The temple complex features statues of the Lord Buddha in various poses, shrines, ornate buildings, a sacred Bodhi tree from India, a golden chedi, and other spiritual features. It has some particularly interesting murals that show scenes from the Lord Buddha’s life. Admission is free, although donations are appreciated.
Experience the local Thai life
The ambience is sleepy in Prachuap, with lots of opportunities to interact with locals and absorb the atmosphere of a traditional fishing community. Head to the seafront in the afternoon and you can see fishing boats returning with the day’s catch. Whilst some fish are taken to the market and restaurants, others are set out to dry in the next day’s sunshine.
The night market is a good place to enjoy some cheap local fare. Grilled fish and fish soups are common, and you’ll find crisp salads, perfectly smoked corn on the cob, curries, rice dishes, tempura, and more. Some places have a few plastic seats where you can sit to enjoy your meal, or alternatively, head to the wall next to the sea and mark your spot. Other stalls sell clothing, music, household goods, and other day-to-day items.
The market operates every evening close to the pier, although there are a greater variety of stalls at the weekends.
Getting around Prachuap Khiri Khan
The small town is easy to explore by foot, with the train station, mini-van stands, night market, waterfront, pier, and Khao Chong Krachok all located close to each other. As already mentioned, the only place that you may need transportation for is if visiting Ao Manao.
If you do have your own transportation, it is worth also taking a trip to Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, located around 48 kilometres (30 miles) from the town. No public transport serves the park, though trips can be arranged from Hua Hin (94 km / 58 miles away), which is connected by frequent trains, buses, and mini vans.
Enjoy laid-back beach life and get up close and personal with monkeys in Thailand’s charming Prachuap Khiri Khan.