“The seafood is amazing!” people say when you tell them you’re going to Prachuap Khiri Khan. And so it should be, the bay bustles with bobbing, brightly painted wooden fishing boats. All along the sea front are racks of drying beady-eyed squid and cotton fish, glinting like mirrors in the hot sun, while fishermen mend their nets under shady awnings. At night, you can see the gostly green glow of flourescent lights, far out to sea, as the fishermen lure squid to the surface, the poor creatures thinking they’re on a promise as they mate at full moon.
It’s a quiet place where no one’s in a hurry and Hawaiian shirts and bermuda shorts are the outfit of choice. The highlight of our day is going for a strong, sweet, iced coffee and a chat about Thai musicals and papaya salad, at the cafe run by a couple of friendly refugees from Bangkok, in search of a better life. We’ve found the best beach, it’s on the air force base incase you were wondering, just past the shooting range. And we know where to get takeaway chicken, hand printed t-shirts, enormous sweet juicy lychees, and boys pants. All the essentials of life.
The twice weekly night market is as close to a social whirl as it gets, with it’s chatty massage ladies, Portobelloesque second hand clothes stalls, and outrageous shave ice, all the refined sugar you can eat for the princely sum of 30 pence. Sarong-clad old ladies sit on the sea wall and share gossip to the soundtrack of gently lapping waves and prawns sizzling in boiling oil.
And those people weren’t wrong, the seafood really IS good. We’ve had the freshest, crunchiest, spicy raw crab and sour papaya salad; we’ve had crispy fried cotton fish, dried for a day in the sun, which tastes a lot better than it sounds; we’ve had simple stir fried noodles with squid and tiny crunchy garlic cloves. All delicious.
It’s not what you imagine when you think Thai beach. The sand isn’t white, the palm trees are few and far between, the sea is muddy not turquoise. But it’s gentle charm and friendly locals with golden retriever puppies have won us over. I’m glad we came.