I arrive in a strange, small city at 6 o’clock at night and it’s pouring rain. I have no idea where I’m going. I have no accommodation. The bus stop is a small shop with a glass door and virtually empty. There is no public Wi-Fi in range so I can’t look up a place to stay. The last woman gets off the bus and speaks with the shop owner. She understands I have no idea where I’m going and offers me her umbrella. She doesn’t even know me, and that’s the first thing she does. Then she bends her head over clasped hands in a sleeping gesture and points around the corner. I understand I can find a place to sleep there. I am so touched by her random kindness.
At night the sunset is spectacular and the water in the bay is sparkling with the reflection of the green lights of the squid fishing boats out for a night’s work. On my first full day here, the first thing I notice is the lack of tourists. I know they’re out there somewhere because I hear them in my hotel, but when I see the scant few other people there at breakfast they are all Asian. There are not a lot of Western tourists, though. In fact in the 2 1/2 days that I spend here I see fewer than 20 people that look non Asian. This place is a real gem and undiscovered. People are kind. I got a bottle of water for eight baht. I thought the guy was mistaken and that it was really 80 baht. Nope it really was that price and that’s about 10 cents!
Monkeys rule portions of the city. I avoid going to one of the temples because I read that the primates are aggressive and will throw tiles at you and steal your glasses and camera. However when I go to the park to take their picture they just seem hungry. As long as you’re not carrying anything that looks like food you can just wonder among them and take their picture and they’re pretty cool. Well, they’re really curious and surprisingly strong. I see one rolling and throwing a cement block. Another one climbs on a car and rips off the front mirror.
I try riding a bike but am so nervous that a Swedish couple witnessing my embarrassing attempts suggest I join them for a beer. An hour or so later, I decide to return the bike. That’s when I realize I left my camera and blanket in its basket and they are both still there. Wow. I ask the bike rental people if they know of a taxi (there aren’t any that drive through the streets) and they introduce me to a fabulous tour guide. We spend a magical day together. He shows me beautiful sites, amazing beaches, an incredible sunrise and sunset. I get to watch fishermen going out to sea for squid and even taste the dried squid that is a local delicacy. I see monks and the tour guide is even willing to stop every time there’s a cow so I can get a photo. At one location we play with the most wonderfully silly and playful monkeys I ever saw. They have beautiful faces and are gentle and love to sit on your shoulder.
At first I think Prachuap Khiri Khan is just a small town with a couple of streets. After a couple of days I see that you can choose your experience. You can stay in the center and love the bay and seaside and restaurants. Or, you can travel through its naval base and play with another tribe of monkeys, see buddhas, and places most tourists don’t bother going.
I end up getting a bad sunburn. Really bad. Like lobster red and I go into every drugstore and 7-Eleven I can to get something to put on it. Nobody seems to understand the word sunburn. When I show them the red on my legs they point me to Vaseline, calamine lotion and even some pills. But no aloe. This is one of the most authentic and lovely places I experience on my trip and I hope to get back there one day!