Renting a Bicycle and taking some Rides around Hua Hin
View over part of Hua Hin town from Khao Hin Lek Fai.
If you are a long-term resident and take a break from Bangkok to go upcountry, you may face the following small problem : you have seen what there is to see at your destination, or the place does not offer a lot of attractions to start with (like ancient ruins or temples).
One of the places close to Bangkok we go to is Hua Hin. Admittedly there are nice hotels, good seafood restaurants, and the beach. Otherwise Hua Hin does not seem to have been the home of an ancient civilization or architectural splendour.
So what to do besides enjoying the fresh air and the quieter atmosphere. Well, one thing to consider is bringing your bicycle, hire a bike and cycling around by yourself, or join one of the cycling tours available. It has two obvious advantages : you get to see live outside the urban environment, and you get some useful exercise.
We rented a good quality bike from a local cycling tour organizer, and took some small trips outside town. There are two testing roads close to Hua Hin.
One takes you to a hill just to the west of the main city : Khao Hin Lek Fai (flintstone hill). Just look at a little map of the town to find it, you can find directions from the railway station. The first kilometer westwards has just a slight inclination, but after a bend in the road, you are suddenly faced by a steeply climbing road, and it goes on for about one and a half kilometer. When the road turns acutely left, you are about halfway. To be honest, we did not make it on the two occasions we tried. Overall we are in very good shape, with regular gym visits and weekly jogging, but we just came to a standstill on possibly the steepest part just before the last bend in the road before the top. We used what is called a hybrid bike, which has quite small gears. However, we were told by someone who can know, that a mountain bike might actually be better for this climb, because it has even smaller gears. And stay in the saddle if you can when using the smaller gears, otherwise you are more likely to skid on the road. Stirrups on the bike may also help. On Khao Hin Lek Fai there is a small park, and you can get a good view over Hua Hin town below.
If you climb this hill every morning by bike or while jogging (?), you really will not need any more exercise to stay in very good shape.
View over the beaches north of Hua Hin from Khao Takiab.
Another hill about 6, 7 kilometer north of Hua Hin, is maybe better known Khao Takiab. You can see the hill, which is adjacent to the sea clearly from Hua Hin. The climb is probably as steep as Khao Hin Lek Fai, but is much shorter and we managed to get to the top without too much difficulties. When reaching Khao Takiab, you can supplement your effort by climbing up the stairs to the small temple on top of the hill, with an excellent view over the beaches north of Hua Hin. There is a small cafe on the square in front of the stairs leading up to the temple, where you can enjoy some refreshments or coffee, and observe the many monkeys that roam around freely at Khao Takiab.
On the next day we took and longer bike trip south of Hua Hin, and did not encounter any more 'mountains', though the road is just a bit undulating at times. Unless you are familiar with the local roads (which we are not), it is easy to stick with Phetchakasem Road, the main highway that connects Bangkok with the South. There is a wide area for bicycles and motorcycles on both sides of the road. Theoretically it should be safe, but we were told it isn't, due to the poor driving habits of the Thai people in general. So beware, and if at all possible wear a helmet.
We cycled to Paak Nam Pran, a supposed fishing village about 25 kilometers south of Hua Hin. We followed Phetchakasem Road for about 15 kilometers and then followed the road signs towards Paak Nam Pran. Any big road can be a bit boring, but we were well rewarded once we turned left onto the smaller countryroad towards the sea : a pleasant enough road, with all greenery around, and no industrial activity.
Fishing boats at the mouth of the Pran river (Paak Nam Pran).
At Paak Nam Pran (which means the 'mouth of the Pran river') we did not notice the river at first. The town is actually build to the right of the river, and we had to cycle a few hundred meters left of the city to find it. Interestingly there was no obvious development along the river, maybe the inhabitants of the town do not fancy the smell of all the fish being transported and sold in the area. There were some boats at sea, but lots of boat were just anchored. Most fishing by the small local boats is done at night, and the boats return to harbor at around 4 A.M.
If you are in Paak Nam Pran, you surely want to try out one of the seaside restaurants. Fish and seafood can not get fresher than it is here.
Coming back from Paak Nam Pran, the signage on the road is not as good. We asked the directed towards Phetchakasem Road. Unfortunately there are two different roads leading towards the main highway and we took the wrong one, leading to Pranburi. So we made a bit of a detour, and we did not enjoy the ride to Pranburi and the town itself that much.
Sea Hill Mountain Biking offers Hua Hin biking tours. A great advantage of going on a tour is that the organizers limit the trajectory on the main roads, and can bring you to a starting point (by car or minivan) closer to sites of interest. That way you are not 'loosing time' cycling up and down little bit boring (and more dangerous) Phetchakasem Road. The disadvantage is that some of their tours are just a little bit pricey. Anyway, if you join them, you get an opportunity to learn about the environment outside Hua Hin town, and maybe you can use the knowledge to plan your tours yourself thereafter.
Boat at Pak Nam Pran.