Thailand is synonymous with idyllic islands of sparkling white beaches and cryastal clear waters, tom yum soup, Singha beer, bargain massages and a thousand smiles. Along with Bali, it was our Pavlovian response for a ‘weekend getaway’ when we were living in Singapore, and remains so, despite being halfway around the world from where we are now. Although California has its fair share of sunshine and the exotic beaches of Mexico’s Baja peninsula are just south from where we are, beach getaways still cost a fair bit, making it challenging to justify spending the time and money equivalent to a trip across the US for a weekend jaunt to the beach. Unless its a special occasion of course.
So when we found ourselves back in the humid tropics earlier this month, it was pretty clear that a getaway was in order. Pranburi is a district in Thailand’s Prachuabkhirikhan province, consisting of seven districts in total, including Hua Hin, a popular holiday destination for Thais and the Royal Family. We chanced upon this town serendipitously four years ago when I was in Bangkok for two weeks on a work trip. With a weekend to kill, and a distinct yearning to capitalize on my time in a foreign land, we decided to head to Hua Hin, given the relative ease of access and prices that were much lower than other popular beach destinations like Phuket or Ko Samui. Well, that was the plan at least until a friend volunteered Pranburi as an alternative. Lured by the prospect of the peace and tranquility that a relatively unknown fishing village offered, and upon discovering this decently-priced boutique resort, we changed our plans for what was to become the benchmark of a true beach vacation for us. After all, when your biggest decisions for the day are whether to take a stroll on the beach or jump into the resort’s infinity pool, or if you should read the latest issue of Fast Company or have another massage, it’s kinda hard to beat.
Praseban resort is a cosy 14-room establishment nestled on a strip of land shared with private villas and nine other boutique resorts. Our first visit was so unforgettable, we were excited to go back this time around and it did not disappoint. The laidback atmosphere provided the perfect antidote to the hectic schedule that comes with a trip back home.
For the price, the resort is a steal. We stayed in a beachfront suite which boasted an expansive view of the sea and the occasional fishing boat anchored on the shore. Rooms are well-appointed, featuring dark hardwood floors and tasteful furnishings with ornate Thai details. Every bathroom has a rain shower, and the resort’s stand-alone villa and Praseban suite are each equipped with an open-air bathroom. Service was impeccable and the food, amazing. We had all our meals at the resort, opting for in-house convenience over cycling out to the main village, a mere 10 minutes away. The objective of the trip was, after all, to relax, and to do it with a single-minded purpose befitting a major examination.
The resort doesn’t have full-fledged spa facilities although they offer a variety of reasonably-priced massage treatments such as traditional Thai massage, deep-tissue and foot reflexology, which you can opt to have in the comfort of your room or at a pavilion on the beach. We enjoyed the treatments so immensely the day we arrived – deep-tissue for me, foot reflexology for M – that we sought out another round of massages the next day.
With the hordes of tourists that flock to Southeast Asia’s beaches annually, Pranburi is a real gem. Although we visited during the ‘rainy’ season which lasts from July to October, leaving us with the privacy and tranquility that we were seeking, it wasn’t very different from our first visit in the ‘cool’ season (November to February) four years ago. Beach activity was limited to the occasional couple strolling on the beach, a fisherman returning from a day out at sea or the random neighborhood dog gazing out to shore. Granted, I’d have to visit in the ‘cool’ (and therefore more popular) season again for an accurate comparison, but it was clear that Pranburi remains largely untouched from the shortfalls of mass tourism. There are no large-scale, regular connections to international travel, small boutique resorts rather than major hotel chains are commonplace and the local ‘downtown’ area is hardly urbanized, as compared with Hua Hin. The beach is sparkling clean, local agriculture and fishery continues to thrive and most significantly, we’re spared the painful encounters common to Phuket and Bali where locals ply the beaches and jostle with each other to sell their mass-produced ‘local’ craft items for a living. Whilst it is an idyll that I hope will last longer than other destinations in the region, I know that realistically, it’s only a matter of time before Hua Hin’s real estate market saturates and investors start scouting its surrounding areas for new (hopefully sustainable) opportunities. Until then, we’ll just have to make the most of our trips back to Asia to set aside time for this small village overlooking the Gulf of Thailand.
173 Moo 4 Paknampran, Pranburi,
Prachuab-kiri khan 77220,
Tel: +66 (0) 32 630590-1 | Fax: +66 (0) 32 630589
Getting there can be a little challenging given its remote location, but the resort now offers car transfers directly from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, saving the hassle of a bus and taxi journey from Bangkok. If you have time to spare, the train to Hua Hin is a good option, and you can arrange for the resort to pick you up directly from the train station.