The province of Phetchaburi borders Pratchuap Khiri Khan to the south, Burma to the west, Ratchaburi to the north and the Gulf of Thailand to the east.
Characterised by thick, jungle-covered mountains towards the western frontier with Burma, which run down to the plains by the Gulf of Thailand, Phetchaburi holds considerable allure for nature-loving travellers. While the provincial capital, Phetchaburi (also known as Phetburi) has a number of wats and a hilltop palace well worth exploring, the massive Kaeng Krachan National Park (Thailand's largest at 3,000 square kilometres) makes a stopover of at least a day or two worthwhile.
There are also a few rather mediocre beaches not far from Phetchaburi that may interest some -- they're very popular with local tourists as a getaway for the weekend, but the beaches further south are considerably better.
Despite Phetchaburi's appeal, tourism is only a small part of the local economy -- the majority of the population are involved in agriculture and fishing -- so don't be surprised if you're the only foreigner backpacking through town.
Phetchaburi started life as a trading post set between the southern Malay/Thai peninsula to the south, the Burmese to the west and the Chinese/Khmer empires to the north. As a result, many ethnic influences are represented in the town, including Malay, Hmong, Burmese and Chinese. This history brings a rich variety and vibrancy to daily life in Phetchaburi and as a result there is much variety in the food, culture and even language.
The town is split in two by the Phetchaburi River and most sights are within walking distance of the river's banks. Khao Wang is to the west, while most of the interesting wats are on the east side of the river. Phetchaburi is reasonably small and travellers will find it easy to walk around town. Traffic is light and the streets and lanes are quite easy to navigate.
Phetchaburi is particularly well known for khanom mo kaeng, a dessert made from eggs that are sickly sweet. Look for the stalls selling little yellow balls -- that's the stuff. Khanom mo kaeng comes in a large variety of flavours, including taro and lotus seed, and some of the best stalls are near the base of Khao Wang. Be careful how many you eat! The first few balls are tasty, but too many can leave you feeling very ill.
The town is easily reached by train or bus as it sits on the thoroughfare of the main north-south highway and the railway. Hua Hin and Prachuap Khiri Khan lie to the south and Ratchaburi and Bangkok to the north. The train station is a bit of a walk into town but buses stop near the night market. Arriving travellers will find plenty of tuk tuks and assorted travel options waiting to whisk them to accommodation dotted around town or straight to the surrounding attractions.
By Stuart McDonald.