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 (except for the train station ?)
So what to do besides enjoying the fresh air and the quieter atmosphere. Well, one thing to consider is bringing your bicycle or hire a bike and cycle around town and beyond by yourself. If preferred, you can join organized cycle tours. 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.
The next day we took a 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. After our latest trip end-2020, we have to state that Phetchakasem road has become even more dangerous than it was like 10 earlier. Theoretically you can cycle on the shoulder of the road, but often cars are parked there, and on occasion there is double parking. So regularly you have to move into the car traffic, which does not and is not safe. If at all possible wear a helmet.
We cycled to Paak Nam Pran, a 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 roads towards the sea : pleasant enough, with lots of greenery 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 on the south side of the river, and we had to cycle a few hundred meters north 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.GPS may be useful, and if asking for direction, always mention 'Hua Hin'. It may get you on the right road.
At the end of 2020, when we last visited, there was nothing much going on (Covid-19 times), but under normal circomstances you should be able to find biking tour operators. 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. Prices of 3,500 Thai baht for a day long trip are often mentioned on related websites. Anyway, if you join them, you get an opportunity to learn about the area outside Hua Hin town, and maybe you can use the knowledge to plan your tours yourself thereafter.
Boat at Pak Nam Pran.
2020 Additional Info
We did not visit Hua Hin for quite a few years, before the end of 2020, when good hotel deals became temporarely available, as a result of promotions while the Covid-19 pandemic was having major effect on tourism in Thailand (that is : no foreign tourist in the country). In Hua Hin town, we found no major changes. The railway station is still the 'cutest' construction in town, but we can promote some additional tours to make in the countryside around Hua Hin. We suggest you become a temporary member of bikemap.net, which can offer GPS navigation on your phone or tablet. The service also offers bike tours as recorded by other members. By using the service, you can check your position, and avoid getting far of the road. Audio guidance did not work when we tried it. You should also not be surprised that the tours on offer, are not possible anymore due to new local road construction. When coming back from Wat Huay Mongkol, we had to cross some new highway to get on the right track again.
Trip to Wat Huay Mongkhon (Mongkol)
Statue of Monk Luang Por Thuad, Wat Huay Mongkhon, close to Hua Hin
We completely missed Wat Huay Mongkok during previous visits to Hua Hin. Actually, on many roads around Hua Hin, you will see signage directing you to this important local temple compound. Supposedly, it can be quite busy there at times, but when we visited, there were few people around. To get there, you can follow road 3218 out of town (the first few kilometers, there is a steep hill to negotiate, afterwards mostly flat roads). You can come back via a slightly longer southern road (2057), that connects with Hua Hin Soi 112, and arrives at Phetchakasem road. You will notice Phetchakasem making a right turn on a viaduct. Try not to follow the road, because you will encounter a very dangerous spot on a bike, when the viaduct goes down again to ground level. Instead, use a local road, adjacent to Phetchakasem road, for a few hundred meters going north. You can then safely join the main road again.
Wat Huay Mongkhon is famous because of a large statue of a revered monk : Monk Luang Por Thuad. There also is impressive statue of King Taksin. Lots of 'chicken' artefacts around. Apparently, you can buy them, and add them to the multitude of poultry images in front of King Taksin's statue, as a gift, possibly to ask for something in return (so I was told, I am not an expert in Thai religious beliefs).
If you need a rest, look for a pictoresque coffee shop on the premises. A good place to sit for awhile, and enjoy the atmosphere.
Statue of King Taksin at Wat Huay Mongkhon
We suggest also another trip to Mrigadayavan Palace, which is located about 15 km north of Hua Hin. The palace is actually closer to Cha-Am. It is a 1920s beachfront summer palace of King Rama VI featuring buildings on stilts connected by verandas. It was only used for a few years, but judging from the images I saw, it offers some splendid architecture. It can be reached by following Phetchakasem road. After about 12 km, you will notice the large area of Naresuan Camp. It still is a few kilometers from there to the entrance to the palace (and the Sirindhorn International Environment Park). The Palace itself is still about 3 or 4 kilometers from the main road. We tried to visit, but it was closed during weekdays during Covid-19 times. Still, we recommend a visit. Getting there by Phetchakasem road is a bit boring and also dangerous. The trip back is easier : because of the many army camps, there are no shops along most of the road, and no parked cars.
During our visit in 2020 we could not find the pictoresque places as pictured above. Likely we did not go upriver far enough, and we went to Hua Hin in a different season. We now noticed a wide stretch on the left of the main road in Paknam Pran. It looked like hundred of boats were moored there, all fishing boats that are active in the Gulf of Thailand. We somehow missed this area a decade ago. Another possibility is that fishing has become more industrial in a decade, and the quays in Paknam have expanded a lot.
Boats at Pakna Pran, moored on the quay.
Bicycle Path between Hua Hin and Pranburi
One interesting development is the presence now of a 10 kilometer stretch of bicycle path between Hua Hin and Pranburi. You have to cycle about 5 km from Hua Hin to get to the beginning of the cycle path, which is about 3 meters wide, and makes for more comfortable cycling. Some motorbikes illegally use the path from time to time, and in the evening you will encounter many soldiers jogging on the track, since there are military camps along the road. Hopefully this cycling track will be further expanded in the near future.
Cycling Path between Hua Hin and Pranburi. It runs for about 10 kilometer and starts about 5 kilometer south of Hua Hin.