Recommendations by the Hua Hin & Cha-Am Today Staff Weekend Activities

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We thought would use our combined brain power to offer some day-away activities for those of you who live in the Hua Hin & Cha-Am areas. Each of the staff recommended a particular place or activity they had enjoyed and thought someone might also enjoy. We realised that for some reason most of the activities centred around the sea and the beach, but then most of us live here because we love the close proximity of sea, sand and cold beers. Please note most of these trips require a sturdy bike and preferably a car.

  • Prachuap Khirikhan City & Ao Manao beach (Joy’s recommendation)

Prachuap Khirikhan City, located in the province called Prachuap Khirikhan, is a lovely picturesque and surprising small city. Nestled between hills, the main part of the city is very quaint and a really great place to go to relax for a day. There is not much activity in the City itself however having a coffee by the seaside boardwalk overlooking two mountains gets you into the Sabai Sabai atmosphere and out of the hustle and bustle. The whole point of going to this City is just enjoying the beautiful views and doing nothing but relax.

About 3 kilometres outside the City centre is Ao Manao beach.  This was once a battlefield in World War II between Japanese and Thai forces. Ao Manao beach is inside a Thai air-force base so you might have to show your passport as you go inside. The beach is very clean and dotted with souvenir stalls, sun chairs Thai style and a small hawker centre with delicious seafood. Apparently the beach closes at 8pm so do watch your time.

Recommendations: Go and see or should we say correctly, climb Khao Lom Muak mountain at Ao Manao but only if you are well equipped (water, proper climbing shoes and some snacks) and you are fit. The entrance goes from a langur monkey area at the beginning of Ao Manao beach. The trek up starts as steps but half way up you has to use a rope to pull yourself up. It takes about 2 hours to reach the summit and then another 2 hours to return.  At the summit there is a small pagoda and you will see the most stunning views of beautiful landscape and turquoise water, very well worth the climb. You can take a break at the temple but note nobody lives there. It is a shame because it was such an unexpected treasure to find the small and quite beautiful temple there. We left gift offerings and so can you. Do not climb in in a cocktail dress as we did!

What makes this different: Beach plus heavy exercise if you choose, the exercise is well worth it.

How to get to Prachuap Khirikhan City: Take Phetchakasem Rd (Highway 4) south, passing Paknapran, Pranburi, Kuiburi, Phetchaburi into Prachuap Khiri Khan. The total distance is approximately 320 km or 4 hours. Road is not safest at parts so leave early and return early.

  • Bang Sapahan area ( Nico’s recommendation)

The Bang Saphan area consists of two cities Bang Saphan Noi (small) and Bang Saphan Yai (bigl). The area is not very developed so you come here to spend time almost alone on the beautiful beaches.  The District has beautiful beaches at Ban Krut, Bang Saphan Noi, and Ban Burd.  They offer white sand and clear clean water.  Koh Talu Island, just off the coast, is an increasingly popular diving and snorkeling spot because of its beautiful coral reefs. For a visit to Koh Talu it is advisable to have more than one day to time to travel by car or other transport and then transfer by boat.

Recommendations: The best beach in this area is Ban Krut which has a nice clean beach and water and waves which make it safe to swim. The beach is very empty but has a few restaurant and guesthouses.  Additionally there is a small waterfall that is accessible from Petchkasem road about 24km away. There is a pleasant picnic area and you can even stand under the waterfall.

Besides just chilling by the beach you can head to Wat Tum Marong which is an impressive deep cave system with hundreds of Buddha images and a resident bat colony. There are  some beautiful waterfalls in the area.

If you are an animal lover you can visit Head Rock Dogs and give a donation or see dogs that are ready for adoption. Head Rock Dogs was formerly based in Hua Hin but now operates from Bangsaphan.  Please contact them before visting at www.headrockdogs.org.uk/

What makes this different: A countryside feel with plenty of some of the best beaches around.

How to get there: Travel two hours south from Hua Hin until you see the town of Bangsaphan Yai on the left.  It is well signposted from both directions.

  • Pranburi district- Pak Nam Pran & Sam Roi Yat ( Nueng’s recommendation)

The Pranburi district stretches all the way from the Pak Nam Pran area to Sam Roi Yat.  It is starting to take off as a tourist destination. In Pak Nam Pran you can explore the beautiful Pran River in kayaks or silent electric boats with www.huahincruises.com. Or you may just want to cruise around the neighbourhood exploring cute local villages with bougainvillea’s, chickens or just stop for a coffee to get into this rural feel. In the city of Pak Nam Pran the main road runs by the sea.  Although there isn’t much of a beach this area has some of the most beautiful scenery in our area. With palm trees and small coffee shops lining the beach, intermingled with big hotels such Villa Maroc and Evason, you feel like you’re on a holiday. Drive down south and you reach where the world comes to a standstill in a good way-‘Sam Roi Yat. Long clean beach with Monkey Island looming ahead with not much movement anywhere.

Recommendations: It is hard to say what to do when in Pranburi except eat, drink and relax. If is there ever was a time when you say ‘sod it I deserve a break’ this is the place to visit. Don’t make a plan just drive around exploring and stop when you are ready.

What makes this different: How Hua Hin might have been some years back.

How to get there: Drive south and turn at pranburi and turn left and just explore…

  • Springfield beach ( Brigitte & David’s recommendation)

We have covered this beach recently but it should be listed again as the most relaxed spots to sunbathe, have a beach massage, eat great seafood and see beautiful scenery between Cha-Am and Hua Hin.

Two staff can’t be wrong, right?

How to get there:  Turn off the main road at the Veranda Hua Hin or Springfield Resort signs.  Find spot you like and don’t move all day.

What makes different: Great beach, close to Hua Hin and Cha Am

Cha Am Section

  • Fishing Village ( Nok’s Recommendation)

Many people who visit Cha-Am take the time to go to the breakwater on the Southern side of the fishing boat harbour.  This is because at the end of the one kilometre breakwater pathway, the giant squid statue that is visible from much of the Cha-Am beach can be seen ‘up close and personal’.

However visitors often quickly pass through the entry to the breakwater and miss out on seeing what the squid statue celebrates and what the fishing harbour is all about; a fishing industry that provides local restaurants and vendors as well as the rest of Thailand with THE BEST sea food! 

At daybreak every morning fishing boats return to the sanctity of the harbour with their catch of squid, fish and a variety of shellfish.  This is one reason why Cha-Am is so popular with visitors whether they are Thai people or foreigners; really fresh seafood.

This is a working fishing village, not built as a tourist attraction or contrived in any way, but well worth a visit if you want to see how the ‘catch of the day’ arrives.  Boats of various sizes and shapes ply the inlet before offloading their catch.  The catch is sorted on the spot and may be quickly sent on its way to Bangkok markets but is also purchased for local consumption.  Anyone who is looking for seafood fresh from the ocean can bargain for their preference straight from the boat.

At the entry to the fishing village, on the nearby beach front and within the village there are many restaurants where ocean delicacies can be enjoyed from morning ‘til night.  You can be assured that this is about as fresh as seafood can get!  Many of the families who are operating these seafood restaurants have been involved in the fishing industry over generations; they really know their seafood!

What Makes It Different: The Cha-Am Fishing Harbour is a very significant local resource and is the main reason why visitors to our town are able to enjoy the best seafood available anywhere!

Every year in September Kin Hoy Doo Nok Tok Meuk, Cha Am’s annual seafood festival, celebrates this local industry with live music and concerts every night, as well as a large number of food stalls offering a great range of seafood cuisine.

The question is how can the fishing harbour and village be included in the tourist experience without challenging the simple and untainted lifestyle of the Thai people whose way of life is an important part of the Cha-Am community.

We hope that careful and well considered management results in the retention of this traditional lifestyle but also allows visitors to enjoy this important part of the Real Thailand!

 

How To Get There:

The fishing harbour is at the Northern end of the Cha-Am Beach.  Just follow the beach road North then cross a small bridge and you will see the entry.  It’s an easy bicycle or motor bike ride or you can just walk along the beach, you won’t miss it!

There is currently some redevelopment at the entry to the Fishing Village.  Unfortunately this road is not at all inviting with an unsealed road in some disrepair.  We hope rumours of a significant improvement to this entry will soon be realised! However it’s only a few hundred metres to the harbour ahead.

To visit the Squid Statue turn right and the path to the breakwater may be followed out to sea.  Another option is to turn left then cross a narrow bridge across the inlet to the Northern breakwater.  This part of the fishing village is not often considered by visitors but may give you an even more authentic taste of the fishing village.

  • 7.  Junk Yard (Brigitte’s recommendation)

From antiques to toilet seats and everything in between.  It seems that most Thai people in Cha-Am know about this place although the workers don’t have a name for it. Calling it the Junk Yard may even be a little disrespectful.

Some people love the opportunity to fossick amongst the second (or third or fourth) hand goods that can be found either undercover in a variety of storage ‘sheds’,  small ’bungalows’ or outside and exposed to the elements. It’s not likely to find favour unless you are a ‘scavenger’ but if but if that’s your inclination or you are looking for an unusual or illusive item this may be the place.   Where else would you find a 5 metre high cut out of Elvis alongside a statue of a mythical Thai giant next to a tree inhabited by wild monkeys?  There are metallic ‘robots’, drum kits, 80 THB ‘Rayban’ sunglasses, traditional Thai ornaments/statues and metal thermos flasks decorating a tree.  Most of the roofs also display some of the goods.  A real smorgasbord of discarded urban treasures!

We would suggest that it’s a great place for a photographic essay.   The plan is to provide readers with a visual sample in a future edition.

Recommendations:

  • Don’t go with someone who doesn’t enjoy fossicking and wants to drag you away too soon.
  • Every Friday morning two semi-trailers arrive from Bangkok overflowing with another collection of ‘new’ goods – a busy time, but worth considering.
  • Bring your camera!

How to get there:                                                                                                         ‘

The yard is about 5 kilometres from the centre of Cha-Am on right hand side of the highway to Bangkok.  You need to then make a U turn immediately after Santorini.  It’s hard to see the narrow entrance which has no signs however a dummy policeman dressed in an iridescent orange uniform guards the entrance.  This is nearly 1 kilometre after the U turn.

What Makes It Different:

This is a unique opportunity to experience real Thai urban culture, in the most unlikely setting you could imagine!

  • Phuktien beach ( David’s recommendation)

It is thought that Thailand’s most famous poet, Sunthorn Phu (1789-1855), began writing Phra Aphai Mani whilst in prison in 1821. Written entirely in verse, the epic poem is 30,000 lines long and considered to be a masterpiece of Thai literature.  In the story, a prince exiled to an undersea kingdom ruled by a female giant named Nang Phisuea Samut (‘Butterfly of the Sea’). The giant transforms herself into a beautiful woman to trick the prince into falling in love with her. When the prince finally discovers the deception he manages to escape from the kingdom with the aid of a mermaid.

The partially submerged statue of a giant woman standing offshore at Phuktien Beach with an outstretched hand and a forlorn expression depicts this character from the poem.

Phuktien Beach is typically a very quiet and peaceful stretch of beach although occasionally disturbed by groups of school children who are still taught about the poet Sunthorn Phu.  For them the 15 metre statue is very real indication of the power and longevity of his work.  Or perhaps they also make up their own stories about the meaning of these imposing figures!

For the tourist Phuktien is a glimpse of traditional Thailand in a setting which has all that is needed for a relaxing day trip or to stay longer and savour a mix of rest with fine cuisine and comfortable accommodation.

Recommendation:  Check out the tides and try to arrange a visit at low tide.  This was you can get up ‘close and personal to the statues.

What Makes This Different:  This is a unique glimpse of Thai culture because of the exotic pieces of art on display.  There is the opportunity to consider this from the comfort of the nearby restaurants serving wonderful seafood anytime of the day.

How to get there:  Phuktien Beach is several kilometres North of Cha – Am and an easy drive past the Cha – Am Hospital then along the coast.

Today’s Picks:

Food:

Name: The Falafel on the Tracks

Description:  I don’t why it has taken us so long to discover this place; after all it’s been open for a few months. Fantastic low cost Middle Eastern vegetarian falafel cuisine is served by super friendly, English speaking staff. The menu includes: Falafel, Shakshuka, Omelettes, Eggplant sandwich and more…Either in a pita bread, baguette or on a plate.  Thanks Patty and James for the tip!

Price: Aprox: 100 THB for a Falafel Sandwich

Where: Thanon Liap Thang Rotfi (road next to Railway tracks), Hua Hin/ Hp: 08-8542-25675

Affordable gift ideas:

Description: At the night market a lovely young man sells ingenious bracelets made of brass, they are unisex in design and can be worn in various ways. The design is very simple.  From a thin rectangular bar (looks like a muted gold bar) he can hammer in a name, date, a line etc. in a minute. The necklace can be worn two ways, either  around the neck and also around your arm. Please note that text can be included on both sides of rectangle. The design is very ‘edgy’.  After a staff Member bought one she has received comments such “that is so cool where did you get it?”’. The design suites those that are more ‘hip’, it looks as just as good on a man as a woman.

They make a great anniversary or birthday gift (name and birthdate carved in) or just your own name.  Perhaps something Thai to remind you of your trip if you are here on holiday.

Price: 200 THB for the bar and chain plus text on one or both sides of rectangle.

Where: At the main Night market.  The young man can be found most of the time close to the Petchkasem end.  Please note his stall is only a box so he can be missed. Alternatively he may be inside the new section of the night market called Chatsila.  You can enter Chatisila from the main night market closer to the Petchakasim end or by entering from Petchakasim Road opposite Starbucks and the clock tower.

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