We just spent an excellent five days in Pran Buri, Thailand – a relaxed, picturesque, and largely undeveloped beach area just south of Hua Hin. I have heard about the charm of Pran Buri from friends that have lived in Thailand much longer than we have, but it took us two and a half years to make it there on our own. And now I’m glad we did it with one year in Thailand to spare.
Perhaps the best thing about Pran Buri is what it is not: Hua Hin We’ve all been to a fancy resort in Hua Hin and enjoyed it (we sure have), but what it lacks is the ability to feel like you are far removed from Bangkok; meaning, you still get traffic, you still deal with relentless vendors (on the beach, mainly), you still get the crowds, and your view is still tall buildings (with a bit of ocean). Pran Buri offers you something much less urban, much less fussy, and even more beautiful. So go. At least once. I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it.
Here is how we did it:
STAY: We are fortunate enough to have several families that tolerate travelling with us every now and then, so we rented an eight-bedroom villa with its own pool and outdoor cabana for grilling, eating, playing, napping, drinking, and playing board games (both with and without the kids) with three other families. In total, there were eight adults and eight children. We swam from morning to night. Families brought inflatable boat rafts and water guns, so there was always a lot of action in the pool. So much fun! In case your interested, the link to the house we rented is here.
If you’re not travelling in a group, I would recommend staying at the Dolphin Bay Resort. With a big grassy lawn, a children’s pool, a water slide for the older ones, a playground that boasts real toddler swings , and a wide, uncongested beach just across the street, this is the place to go with kids. Dolphin Bay has always been rather kid-friendly, but new ownership – the same wonderful people who own Cafe Tartine (see my post on how awesome a place Cafe Tartine is here) – has made it even more worth the visit. Agathe Verge, the new owner, has relocated to Pran Buri with her family and is fervently working on upgrading many aspects of Dolphin Bay. You can now find Cafe Tartine favorites offered on the menu (Ham and Brie Sandwich, Salad Nicoise, and Creme Brulee to name a few) and a brand new wooden outdoor playground (designed and built by the same brilliant folks responsible for the renown playground at Bangkok Patana school). The next thing in the works is a glassed-in indoor play area by the pool and restaurant so that parents can enjoy a meal or glass of rose while the kids beat the heat inside. And that is one thing I should note about Dolphin Bay. There is not a whole lot of shade, so bring lots of high-SPF sunscreen, sun hats, and sun shirts so that your lovely vacation does not go awry.
EAT: If you like BBQ, you must (double underline, bold, all caps) go to The Roadhouse BBQ (phone: 032-630523) Owned by a gregarious and personable San Franciscan named Greg and his amazingly talented wife Sue (who does all of the cooking), this place offers pork ribs like you have never tasted in Thailand. In fact, they take their ribs so seriously, you have to stop by the restaurant and order a rack (or two, or three) a day before you plan to dine. The pulled pork sandwich is supposedly divine and I can personally vouch for the ribs (of course!), grilled pork chop, and chicken quesadilla. And the owners are super-kid friendly. Our group of eight children sat at the bar drinking milk, eating quesadillas, and watching How To Tame Your Dragon while the parents ate mounds of ribs and drank many cold beers. This was all thanks to the owner for making it a kid-friendly environment for us that evening.
DO: Aside from the fact that Pran Buri is adjacent to the beautiful Sam Roi Yot National Park and the fact that you can go to the beach all you want, there are a few other activities we did that really added to our trip:
1. Black Mountain Water Park (off of the Hua Hin bypass; between Hua Hin and Pran Buri): Worth a visit. Brand-new, well-run, not crowded, all seated areas are shaded, great small water playground for younger kids, wave pool (beware: the waves are big), lots of slides, lazy river. I was a bit worried that Katelyn and Logan would be too young for this, but they actually really enjoyed the lazy river, kids water playground, and the wave pool sans waves (and the soft serve ice cream)! Water park entry for adults is 600 baht; kids under a certain age enter for free. Also, the water park is adjacent to a cable-led wakeboarding lake (awesome if you’re into that kind of thing).
2. Hua Hin Hills Vineyard (also off of the Hua Hin bypass; between Hua Hin and Pran Buri): While the kids dozed for two hours post-water park, we took the opportunity to drive to Hua Hin Vineyard. Located about 25km off of the bypass, the vineyard is in a beautiful setting and offers a restaurant, biking, elephants, and more for visitors. We’ve heard that the restaurant is good and that cycling through the vineyards can be a lot of fun (not in the hot season for obvious reasons), but with two sleeping kids in the car, we decided not to tempt fate by stopping. Se la vie.
3. Swiss Sheep Farm (in Cha-Am; just north of Hua Hin): Okay, this place is super-kitschy. In fact it is so over the top that you will want to puke . . . but, your kids will love it (especially young boys who are into cars and trucks). I’m pretty sure the whole reason this place exists is to create a place for young Thais in love to take photos together. After all, the slogan on their home page is, “Feel like a farm, smell like the heaven . . . on earth.” WTF? Anyway, the point is, this place not only has lots of sheep and calves to feed, which is a lot of fun for toddlers, they also have a huge tractor, a Ford pick-up truck, Volkswagon van, Mini-Cooper, and other cool cars to sit in and pretend to drive. And entry is only 60 baht per adult. The perfect activity to break up the trip on the way home.
So there you have it. Visit Pran Buri. You’ll feel like you are worlds away from Bangkok. It’s well worth the drive for a long weekend out of town.
Have I piqued your interest? If so, you can see more photos below (there were just too many)!