Bordered to the north by Phetchaburi and to the south by Chumphon, the province of Prachuap Khiri Khan is where Thailand slims down to its narrowest -- at one point only 11 kilometres separates Burma to the west and the Gulf of Thailand to the east. The province, whose name translates to 'land of many mountains' thanks to the range lying near Burma, boasts a number of beaches and national parks along with a couple of interesting Thai towns.
The provincial capital, Prachuap Khiri Khan, is often sidelined by foreign visitors stopping off in the province's more well known city of Hua Hin further north, or making a beeline for the Gulf islands further south, but if you have the time, it's well worth a couple of nights.
Ninety-three kilometres south of Hua Hin and 176 kilometres north of Chumphon, the city was more or less abandoned after the fall of Ayutthaya towards the end of the 18th century, to be rebuilt at the mouth of a canal during the 19th century, when its modern name of Prachuap Khiri Khan was adopted.
Prachuap Kiri Khan has a spectacular appearance, with a long sweeping bay bordered by enormous limestone outcrops to the north and south. There's a municipal beach along this main bay and slightly better beaches within bicycle distance to both the north and south. In particular, Ao Manao, the sheltered beach set within the Wing 5 air force base to the south, is noteworthy; Ao Noi, about a 45 minute bicycle ride to the north, is less so but still pleasant. In town, the monkey-infested hilltop temple of Chong Khra Chok offers a magnificent view and back at ground level, restaurants serve up excellent locally caught and very affordable seafood.
Make time to visit and you will be amply rewarded with a low-key, local atmosphere that has just enough of a developed tourist infrastructure and plenty of largely tasteful accommodation to make your stay comfortable. A pleasant, friendly city, it is at once relaxing and bristling with energy -- full of enterprising ethnic Chinese and other Thais who go about their business without centring their lives on the tourist industry. It's a bright spot as you head south, worth a visit just to soak up the vibe.
Outside the town are two national parks that can be visited by motorbike along with a border market (useful for those looking to stock up on cheap Burmese cigarettes - but no go for a visa run), and more isolated beaches.
In some people's minds, this place could well be Thailand's next big thing -- get there while it's still at least a bit of a secret.
By Stuart McDonald.
Last updated on 30th October, 2016.