Award-winning travel writer John Borthwick finds a new connection between Thailand’s two most popular tourist resort towns: the Pattaya to Hua Hin Ferry.
Two of Thailand’s most popular resort towns, Hua Hin and Pattaya face each other across the Gulf, just 100 kilometres apart. For decades, however, it had taken a 350km, five-hour grind to drive from one to another. But now a direct, fast ferry service connects them across the Gulf.
The Royal ferry, a sleek, high-speed catamaran edges out of Pattaya’s Bali Hai Pier each morning and then scoots across the Gulf. Two hours later it docks just south of Hua Hin and then, a few hours later it returns for Pattaya.
Hua Hin is the most popular tourist destination in Prachuap Khiri Khan province. Being home to a royal holiday palace, the town has retained the sense of decorum that Pattaya never bothered greatly about. Instead of bar-hoppers and jet-skis, you’re more likely to find golfers and long-stay vacationers here, with this region being home to ten world-class courses.
The town’s long, shallow beaches are generally free of deckchair acres and banzai speedboats, and come evening, you can max-out on eating and shopping at several night markets. The most authentic one is still the original, mid-town melee on Soi 72.
Having box-ticked Hua Hin’s options, it’s then time to run yourself out of town on a rail. Head to the historic railway station and hop a train south to the real Prachuap, a land of plenty minus resort sprawl and tour groups.
Like its full name, Prachuap Khiri Khan is a long and lyrical province. Exploring its beaches that loop from headland to headland you’ll find sea pines and fishing boats instead of hawkers and high-rise. Take little Baan Grood town, for instance, 100 km south of Hua Hin or, another hour further south, the idyllic little island of Koh Talu.
This “sunny side of the Gulf” is a favourite of in-the-know Thai families. Meanwhile, the absence of a convenient local airport is a contributing “plus” to the tranquility of life here — a place in the sun that you have to earn.
The air-conditioned Royal ferry, connecting Hua Hin and Pattaya, has 346 reserved seats, including 44 upstairs in business class. Purchase a seat (your passport ID is mandatory) for 1250 baht (economy) or 1500 baht (business) and check-in one hour before departure. www.royalferrygroup.com
Words: John Borthwick. Photos: John Borthwick and stock