Discover Thailand’s Phetchaburi
A Beautiful Coastal Province with Royal Connections
Phetchaburi (also known sometimes as Petburi) is one of Thailand’s oldest inhabited areas. The province has a long stretch of coastline along the Gulf of Thailand, as well as a land border with the neighboring country of Myanmar. Home to Thailand’s biggest national park, it also boasts a wealth of historical, religious, and cultural spots.
I’ve visited Phetchaburi several times – it was one of the first places I took a solo off-the-beaten adventure to when I first moved to Thailand in 2010 – but it would be easy to combine all of the following highlights into a trip of a few days.
One of my favorite attractions in Phetchaburi town is Phra Nakhon Khiri Historical Park (also known locally as Khao Wang—Palace Hill). A former royal summer complex, a number of interesting buildings and monument sit on three nearby hills. Pathways lead between the various points of interest, and the views from each hill are beautiful.
With a mixture of architectural styles – including European and Chinese as well as traditional Thai – the area has Buddhist temples and shrines, old palace buildings, royal halls, pagodas, pavilions, statues, and more.
Flowers and trees grow across the hills, and you’re sure to spot diverse wildlife. In particular, macaque monkeys maraud through the complex. If you choose to walk up the hill, you’re almost certain to come across groups of monkeys lounging on the walkway and in the trees. I’m terrified of macaques, so would recommend riding the funicular up the hill; it’s inexpensive, and while there are still monkeys around many of the buildings, there are fewer chances of being accosted by a troupe of hungry macaques.
Phra Ram Ratchaniwet is another former royal site in Phetchaburi. It was constructed in the early 1900s as a royal retreat for the wetter months of the monsoon season. It has a distinctly European appearance, having been modeled on a German palace. Today, it is open to the public; you can peek inside the ornate former royal bedroom as well as other rooms and halls.
The hills around Phetchaburi town contain a number of caves, with Khao Luang among the most impressive. Pass macaques sitting along the railings and descend the uneven stone steps leading to the cave’s entrance. There are interesting rock formations and an elephant carved into the dense rock, and Buddha statues sit among the rocks, glinting when rays of light catch them. The entrance area also has a large bell and a replica of the Lord Buddha’s footprint.
Make your way into the main cavern to see the diverse Buddha statues contained within. The jagged ceiling has a large hole that sunlight streams through, and there are large stalactites hanging down from the top of the cave. The giant golden seated Buddha statue is the first thing that catches the eye, but look closer, and you’ll see many other figures nestled in the rocky surrounds. There’s a long reclining Buddha statue further into the cave too.
Pass through into the second chamber, and you’ll find more statues and a more rugged appearance to the cave. Continuing through the dimly lit passageways takes you past yet more figures, including those that represent old Thai animist beliefs.
The nearby Khao Bandai-It Cave contains further religious statues and natural rock formations.
There are numerous temples around Phetchaburi. While not one of the town’s major temples, I especially liked visiting Wat Bun Tawee. The temple sees few visitors, and the quiet atmosphere is relaxing. The main building is fairly typical of a Thai Buddhist temple, with gold and red details and ornate touches. The cave sections, however, are eye-catching, with statues tucked into little niches, pagodas perched on top of boulders, and narrow walkways to explore.
Another beautiful temple in Phetchaburi town is the revered Wat Mahathat Worawihan. Surrounded by old shop houses and wooden buildings, the royal temple has many striking features. The gigantic white towering spire, which is surrounded by four smaller prangs, can be seen from far and wide. Buddha statues line the walls of the inner courtyard. The halls are beautifully decorated with colorful tiles, stucco, and spiritual paintings.
I spent time at three of Phetchaburi’s beaches – Cha Am, Had Chao Samran, and Had Puek Tian. Each had a different vibe and was enjoyable in its own way. Cha Am was the busiest, with a mixture of Thai tourists, expats, and a sprinkling of international visitors. Had Chao Samran – one of the closest beaches to Phetchaburi town – was much quieter. Just a short walk brought me to a deserted patch of sand where I could sunbathe in total peace.
Although not a swimming beach, Had Puek Tian was perhaps my favorite because of the interesting statues from a Thai epic. You’re sure to be impressed by the sight of a giant ogre rising from the waves and a flutist sitting on the rocks.
If you’re into nature and outdoor activities, Phetchaburi’s Kaeng Krachan National Park is the largest national park in Thailand. There’s a large lake where you can enjoy boating and rafting, waterfalls, caves, and lots of wildlife. I didn’t enjoy this national park as much as others around Thailand, but that’s likely because of my bad planning and lack of understanding of the vast distances between points of interest. I would, however, like to return to Kaeng Krachan National Park and explore properly.
With such great diversity and very few tourists, Phetchaburi is a terrific destination for travelers seeking somewhere interesting and offbeat.
SEE – Photos & Videos
GO – Getting There
Phetchaburi is within easy reach of Bangkok, and regular buses and minivans depart from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal (also known as Sai Tai Mai) bound for both Phetchaburi town and Cha Am beach resort. The journey takes around two hours. Less-frequent services also depart from Mochit Bus Station (the Northern Bus Station) in Bangkok. Local buses and minivans also connect Phetchaburi with nearby provincial centers and major towns, including Ratchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan town, and Hua Hin.
Alternatively, you can catch a south-bound train from Bangkok’s Hualamphong Train Station. Trains take around four hours.
If time and comfort are more important than money, you can catch a taxi to Phetchaburi from Bangkok for around 2,000 THB.
Within the province, songtaews (converted pickup trucks with two benches in the rear) operate on set routes. Prices are low, and you can generally catch a ride in the central bus station or flag down a songtaew anywhere on its route. Press the buzzer when you want to alight. Destination signs are usually only written in Thai, however, and drivers often don’t speak English. Many visitors opt to use tuk-tuks and motorbike taxis for shorter distances. Be sure to agree on the price before starting your journey.
There are several places in Phetchaburi town and Cha Am where you can easily rent a scooter for convenient independent explorations. Make sure you have adequate insurance and always wear a helmet.
Many major places of interest in Phetchaburi town are within walking distance of each other. Having private transportation is advantageous for exploring places farther afield, such as Kaeng Krachan National Park, Had Puek Tian, and Had Chao Samran.
Do – Activities & Attractions
Go hiking, camping, nature-spotting, and rafting in Kaeng Krachan National Park.
Sunbathe on the sands of Had Chao Samran and swim in the sea.
Enjoy water sports, like jet skiing and riding on a banana boat, as well as relaxing on the sands at Cha Am Beach.
Make merit at one of Phetchaburi’s beautiful temples.
Stay – Accommodation
If you want a night under the stars surrounded by nature, there are several camping areas within the vast Kaeng Krachan National Park. Park rangers can arrange rentals of tents and sleeping bags for a modest fee, though you are also able to take your own equipment and simply rent a pitch. Most camping areas only have basic facilities, with nowhere to buy food and drink. Ensure you take adequate supplies for your camping adventure in Phetchaburi.
JJ Home – JJ Home is among the cheapest place to stay in Phetchaburi. Located in the heart of the town, within walking distance of several attractions and a number of places to eat and drink, the hostel has basic but clean and comfortable rooms. The cheapest rooms share bathrooms and have a fan to keep you cool, though the en suite, air-conditioned private rooms are still very reasonably priced. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the property, and there are laundry facilities. You can conveniently buy drinks and snacks from the reception too.
Chedi View Hostel and Rooftop Bar – A great mid-range accommodation option in Phetchaburi, Chedi View Hostel and Rooftop Bar has both dorm rooms and private rooms. All rooms share bathrooms. There are basic self-catering facilities, including a microwave and fridge, and you can relax with a drink on the roof as you enjoy the great views. Other plus points include free Wi-Fi and daily housekeeping. The friendly staff members can provide excellent local sightseeing tips.
Swiss Palazzo – One of the fanciest places to stay in Phetchaburi town, the boutique Swiss Palazzo has gorgeous rooms with private bathrooms and balconies. Rooms are decorated in a classy way and have high-quality furnishings. Each room has free Wi-Fi, a TV, a wardrobe, a desk, and a seating area. The onsite restaurant draws non-guests keen to try the delectable European-inspired dishes and a wide choice of wines, beers, and spirits. You can arrange airport pickups for an additional fee, and parking is available close to the hotel.
Eat – Restaurants
You’ll find a decent choice of restaurants within Phetchaburi town center, though be aware that many close fairly early; don’t leave it too late to grab dinner! Next to the river and part of a guesthouse, Rabieng Rimnam is housed in a rustic wooden building and offers a mixture of traditional Thai dishes and international favorites. You’ll also find some unusual fusion dishes on the menu too, such as beef roasted in beer, banana blossom salad, and prawn fruit curry.
As the name suggests, Pad Thai Mae Pad specializes in the famous Pad Thai. The fact that it’s often busy reflects its excellent reputation. Pen Prik Ped is a bustling and basic typical Thai-style restaurant with roadside seating. It has many noodle soups and fried-noodle dishes to enjoy, cooked fresh as you wait. Krua Thai Restaurant has indoor seating and serves typical Thai dishes like fried rice, spicy salads, seafood, chicken with cashew nuts, and pork with holy basil.
There are also night markets in different locations around the town on most evenings. Perfect for a quick, cheap, and convenient meal, take a stroll and see what catches your eye. A local delicacy in Phetchaburi is the sweet khanom Thai, made with coconut, sugar, and egg.
Time – Seasonality & Schedules
Phetchaburi has three seasons – hot, cool, and rainy. While you can have a great time in Phetchaburi at all times of the year, each season has its pros and cons.
The hot season (March to June) sees many people hitting up the province’s beaches. Cha Am is especially busy, with holidaymaking Thai families making the most of the long school holiday. This is an excellent time to visit if you wish to experience the local Songkran festivities (April 13th-15th), but it can be too hot for enjoying extensive sightseeing and outdoor adventures.
The cool season (November to February) is often the best time for making the most of the great outdoors. While still hot, the lower temperatures are perfect for hiking, water sports, and days spent in nature.
Although the rainy season (July to October) is typically when the landscapes are at their lushest and the waterfalls at their fullest, flooding, dangerous road conditions and lots of mud can make exploring national parks a challenge. Most parts of Kaeng Krachan National Park are closed each year for three months (August to October) for safety and to allow the ecosystems to flourish. Rains can also ruin days at the seaside. This can be a good time for cultural sightseeing in the town center, though, thanks to the varied indoor attractions.
Phra Nakhon Khiri Historical Park is open every day from 8.30am until 4 pm.
Khao Luang cave is open daily between 9 am and 4 pm.
Kaeng Krachen National Park is open from 6 am until 6 pm every day during the hot and cool seasons. Do note that the park closes every year for three months during the rainy season.
Safety – Possible risks
Macaque monkeys live around several of Phetchaburi’s hotspots, including Khao Luang and Khao Wang. The monkeys are used to seeing people and have little fear. Accustomed to the treats that humans often have, the cheeky monkeys are not averse to trying to snatch food and drinks, and they can be quite aggressive when doing so. Keep any consumables well hidden. They are also sometimes known for grabbing bags and other loose items, so be sure to secure everything properly.
Avoid letting the monkeys climb on you for photos; although they may seem tame, they are still wild animals with unpredictable characters and a risk of spreading diseases. Seek medical attention if bitten or scratched by a monkey. Another animal annoyance and danger can be the packs of territorial road dogs that prowl the streets at night. Although their bark is usually worse than their bite, avoid walking close to groups of dogs, particularly in quiet, dimly lit areas.
Pay attention to any warnings on the beaches and be sure to apply plenty of sunscreen and stay hydrated on hot, sunny days spent outdoors. Take steps to avoid mosquito bites, such as using insect repellent and wearing long, loose clothing.
Please Note: Travel inherently comes with an element of risk (just like crossing the road does). You are putting yourself in elements that are unfamiliar and foreign to your usual lifestyle and with that, become more susceptible to fall victim those who try to play off those unfamiliar to their local scams. There are also potential dangers in the environments to which you may not be accustomed to.
Please take extra care in travelling, ensure that you have adequate medical insurance (accidents seem to happen when you least expect them), and have let a trusted colleague, family member or friend know your whereabouts and activities.
Where Sidewalks End travel advises you to travel at your own risk, and to be extra aware of your surroundings (without letting it spoiling your time).
Pay – How much does it cost?
Exploring Phetchaburi is generally inexpensive. It’s free to spend the day at the beach, and many temples are also free to admire (though donations are gratefully received.)
At the time of visiting, there was a 300 THB entry fee for Kaeng Krachen National Park and a 200 THB admission cost for Phra Nakhon Khiri Historical Park. The cable car up Khao Wang costs 40 THB, though you can save your money by walking up the hill. While there is no fee to visit Khao Luang, visitors must leave vehicles at the bottle of the hill and pay 15 THB for a return tuk-tuk ride to the cave’s entrance.
Responsible Travel – Best Practices
Don’t litter when exploring Phetchaburi’s natural attractions (or anywhere, for that matter!), and take all rubbish away with you. Don’t light campfires in dry forests. Stick to marked pathways and respect the local wildlife. Be sure to take any trash away from the beaches too.
Dress appropriately to visit temples and royal sites. Essentially, this means that you should cover your shoulders, and lower garments should reach at least to your knees. Avoid wearing see-through and ripped garments.
Reality Check – Be Aware
Phetchaburi offers much of interest for visitors. While it’s now attracting more tourists, it’s still something of an offbeat treasure. You should be prepared for language barriers and communication problems the farther away from the town center you venture. Unless you have your own transportation, you will likely need to make use of local tuk-tuks and motorbike taxis, as public transport can be challenging to figure out or non-existent. That said, those who do visit Phetchaburi are sure to have a fantastic time!
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