Phetchaburi (เพชรบุรี) - pronounced and sometimes spelled Phetburi - is the provincial capital of Phetchaburi Province.
Phetchaburi is the capital city of Phetchaburi Province, about 120 km southwest of Bangkok. The city is one of the oldest settlements in Thailand, mentioned in historical records dating to the 8th century, and having significant standing artifacts dating to the 12th century. There are numerous temples in and around the city centre and market area, in addition to the Royal Palace, known informally as Khao Wang, that dominates the skyline. The city is on the River Phet ("diamond" in Thai), which originates in Kaeng Krachan National Park and flows into the Gulf of Siam at Baan Laem.
Phetchaburi is a predominantly agricultural province, and the city reflects this with a large and thriving traditional market, buzzing with activity from pre-dawn until mid-day, and replete with the aromas of everything. It is very much a working city, with few tourists or the infrastructure to support them.
From Bangkok, the blue-white express buses (Bus 977, Bus 72) from Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal (Sai Tai Mai) (dark blue ticket booth 89, departure Platform 6) will take you directly to Phetchaburi's bus terminal, which is adjacent to a night market. Express buses leave Bangkok every two hours between 11:00 and 17:00, and you should allow two hours for the journey, which will cost 112 baht. There are also minibuses, same ticket booth and departure platform, but they do not provide extra space for bigger pieces of luggage. Take care to avoid the blue, white and orange buses as they will stop many times and will take much longer to reach Phetchaburi.
You can also reach Phetchaburi by train from Hualamphong Station. The journey normally takes around four hours, but can occasionally take longer. This will cost 100-250 baht, depending on the type of train. It's also possible to reach Phetchaburi from the south, e.g. from Hua Hin (ticket price 13-43 baht, travel time 1-1.5 hours).
A taxi from Bangkok should cost no more than 2,000 baht and should take around two hours.
Phetchaburi itself is blissfully free of traffic snarls, except on the main north-south highway that bisects the province, but by-passes the town.
There are no meter taxis. There are tuk-tuks, motorcycle taxis, and for a slow cruise around the market area, plenty of traditional two-seat pedal-power tricycle taxis. Whatever your means of transportation, it would be a good idea to have your destination written down in Thai for the driver.
At the train station tuk-tuks ask for 300 baht for a round trip to the cave, a few metres away prices drop significantly (150-200 baht). If you have time and stamina, the main sights can also be reached by foot.
For longer journeys around the province there are local buses (pick-ups with benches) available from the market area, but you need to ask the drivers for their destinations (you will quickly be directed to the correct bus).
Most of the important temples, except Khao Wang, are within walking distance of the market area.
- Khao Loung Caves (A bit N of the city). Two sets of giant caves. The first cave set has many Buddha statues amid the stalactites. The second set of caves features a giant 300 year old tree in the middle, and a peaceful setting. Both caves are homes to bats. 15 baht.
- Khao Wang. Old royal palace complex on the mountain has a huge, very elegant stupa, some caves with bats, shrines and animal sacrifices, a well-sculpted, vast gold-plated reclining Buddha and a museum. Depending on the entrance you take you may be charged a tourist tax. The main entrance is infested by extremely chubby and impertinent monkeys. You can buy bananas for them from numerous small retailers. But beware, give them attention and they'll try to grab anything you might be pointing at them. 150 baht, includes entry to the museum.
- Wat Khao Takhrao (วัดเขาตะเครา)
- This temple houses a highly revered sitting Buddha image called "Luang Pho Khao Takhrao". The image was found at the mouth of the Mae Klong River in Samut Songkhram by the villagers of Ban Laem, who migrated from Ban Laem to Samut Songkhram at the fall of Ayutthaya.
- Hat Laem Luang (หาดแหลมหลวง)
- Four kilometres north of Hat Chao Samran, this beach stretches for two kilometres.
- Kaeng Krachan Dam (เขื่อนแก่งกระจาน)
- It is 760 metres long and 58 metres high, overlooking beautiful scenery of the reservoir and its islands.
- Kaeng Krachan National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติแก่งกระจาน)
- This is the most extensive national park of Thailand and still largely unexplored. It was declared a national park on 12 June 1981, with clearly defined areas for a reservoir and year round green jungle in the Tanaosri Range, which is the origin of many rivers.
- Tham Khao Yoi (ถ้ำเขาย้อย)
- It houses several Buddha images and was the place where King Mongkut practised meditation while he was in the monkhood.
- Wat Kuti (วัดกุฏิ)
- This temple houses a bot or rite hall made entirely from carved teak wood. The outer surface was carved into scenes depicting Buddha's story.
- Lao Song or Thai Song Dam Tribal Villages (หมู่บ้านลาวโซ่งหรือไทยทรงดำ)
- These are found in many types of vicinity in Khao Yoi, particularly at Ban Nong Prong and Ban Thap Khang. Their ancestors have migrated from Laos. In April, they organise their own social events with entertainment and folk plays.
- Tham Khao Luang (ถ้ำเขาหลวง)
- This cave houses a Buddha image cast by the royal command of King Rama V as a dedication to King Rama III and King Rama IV. At the foot of the Khao Luang Hill, there is a large monastery called "Wat Tham Klaep" or Wat Bun-thawi which has a very large hall and a chapel with beautifully carved door panels.
- Wat Mahathat Worawihan (วัดมหาธาตุวรวิหาร)
- There is a five-topped pagoda constructed in accordance with the Mahayana concept housing Buddha’s relics. The stucco designs decorated on the viharn and the ubosot reflect the skill of local craftsmen.
- Wat Yai Suwannaram (วัดใหญ่สุวรรณาราม)
- The main shrine hall has no windows. It contains 300-year-old mural paintings of mythical angels. The hall also houses a preaching throne with intricate woodcarvings and gold gilt works of Bangkok design.
- Phra Ram Ratchaniwet (พระรามราชนิเวศน์)
- This palace of European architectural style is originally called "Wang Ban Puen". King Rama V commanded it built as a rainy season palace in 1916. It was used to welcome and accommodate state visitors during the reign of King Rama VI.
- Hat Puek Tian (หาดปึกเตียน)
- This wide and long beach is popular among Thai tourists. The most prominent landmark is a huge statue of a female giant standing in the sea.
- Huai Sai Wildlife Breeding Centre (ศูนย์เพาะเลี้ยงและขยายพันธุ์สัตว์ป่าห้วยทราย)
- Fourteen kilometres east of Cha-am at km220, a four kilometre branch road leads to the Huai Sai Wildlife Breeding Centre where wild animals, both mammals and birds, are conserved in its shady area.
- Phra Nakhon Khiri Fair (งานพระนครคีรี)
- Also known as Khao Wang, it is an important historical site. During the reign of King Rama IV, it served as the king's out-of-town palace. To celebrate Phetchaburi's cultural heritage the people of Phetchaburi hold the fair regularly around the end of February at Khao Wang Compound. The five-day fair presents a parade of people enacting the procession of monarchs who ruled Phetchaburi during the Dvaravati and Srivijaya Periods. Apart from that, there are exhibitions on Phetchaburi's history and archaeological objects. Cooking demonstrations of the province's famous dishes and sweetmeats are among the main attractions of the fair. Also featured are various kinds of entertainment and contests.
- Thai Song Dam Festival (ประเพณีไทยทรงดำ)
- The festival is held annually on 18 April at Song Dam Village, Khao Yoi district. Apart from a merit-making ceremony, folk plays and the authentic cuisine of Thai Song Dam villagers are also on offer. Many villagers wear their traditional costumes
- Khao Bandai It (เขาบันไดอิฐ)
- This hill is 121 metres high and just two kilometres south of Khao Wang. It is the site of an ancient temple of the Ayutthaya Period. There are several caves called Tham Prathun, Tham Phra Chao Suea, and Tham Phra Phuttha Saiyat.
In Phetchaburi you can buy all of the staples of daily life, but as regards souvenirs, there are just a few small but adequate shops around the base of the cable car that serves the Khao Wang Palace. For Thai silk and clothing, the Big C hypermarket on the main highway carries a modest selection, as do a handful of shops in the market area. Serious souvenir-hunters might wish to head south about 65 km to Hua Hin, where there are plenty of high-class souvenir shops.
Phetchaburi is known for a variety of sweets. The reputation of these sweets stems from the use of tanot (palm) sugar as an ingredient. Phetchaburi is known throughout Thailand for its Thai dessert, khanom Thai, delicious candy-like finger food made from egg, palm sugar, coconut and a binding agent, usually crushed beans or flour. Other examples are mo-kaeng, a sweet made from flour, sugar and eggs; a-lua and sampanni, a sweet made from flour and sugar; thong yip, thong yot and foi thong, sweets made from baked egg yolk; and chao tan chueam (palm seed in thick syrup). Khao chae (rice served with ice and sweetened meat) is a renowned local dish and is popular during the summer season. Khanom chin thotman (rice noodles with fishcakes) is also a popular dish. Fruits are found in every season. Phetchaburi's fruits are sweet and aromatic rose apples known as chomphu phet, fresh palm seeds, pineapples from Don Khun Huai, cantaloupes, and bananas from Tha Yang. The main north-south highway is dotted with large stores offering a bewildering variety of such sweetmeats.
Like all Thai cities, Phetchaburi has hundreds of restaurants and cafes serving almost every variety of Thai food. Many of them specialise in just a few menu items, so the trick is to decide what you want to eat before you decide on where to eat. There are almost no English language signs or menus, so specific recommendations are not especially helpful. On the other hand, whichever of these cafes or restaurants you choose to frequent, your chances of not being served a wholesome Thai dish are very low.
If you wish to be "safe", the two hotels mentioned below have restaurants that will likely not disappoint you. In addition, the Big C has several Western-style franchises under its roof (e.g., Chester's Grill, KFC), with air conditioning and English language menus. But be advised these establishments suffer from severe noise pollution.
Apart from a few Chinese restaurants, the Big C franchises and two pizza parlours in peripheral locations, anything other than Thai food is almost impossible to find in Phetchaburi city.
- Present Bar (Across the street from the cable car). A local Thai hangout.
- Royal Diamond (Near the by-pass), ☎ . It is not especially convenient, as is not close to the market area although it is close to Khao Wang. You may be able to find transportation if you try hard. 1,200+ baht.
The hotels in the market area are a better option, as they are mostly old converted shop-houses, aimed at both tourists and commercial travellers.
- Dato Farm, 84 Moo 4, Bangkrog, Banlaem (8 km outside Phetchaburi), ☎ (ask for Thomas since he speaks many languages including English). A special guesthouse run by a Thai-German family offering 4 rooms. Thomas and the other members of the team organise exciting tours by car or boat to major attractions in the area as well as hidden gems. Food and service are excellent. Free pickup from railway or bus stations.
- Rabieng Rim Nam Guesthouse (On Chisa-in Rd near the bridge over the river), ☎ . Inexpensive although noisy accommodation. A great place to stay provided you bring ear plugs. The staff are very friendly and speak reasonable English. The husband of the guesthouse owner, Tom, is a jungle guide and works with Chok, his friend, who is an English-speaking tour guide. They offer expensive trips into Kaeng Krachan National Park and parks nearby. Also local wildlife can be seen right out the window of the restaurant: giant water monitors (varanus salvator) . It is worthwhile to sit and drink a big Chang beer, and by the time you're finished you may glimpsed one of these amazing, but benign, animals. There's Internet access, motorbike rental (manual/automatic 250 baht/350 baht), bikes and laundry service (5 baht per piece). They can also provide you with a map and plenty of local information. If stay here, you should check the walls of your room carefully as there are reportedly many peep-holes between at least three of the upper rooms. 300+ baht.
Phetchaburi is 16 km from the coast. The nearest easily accessible seaside village is Chao Samran, which has a few small hotels and guesthouses, and one luxury resort. It is a tranquil spot, ideal for seekers of peace and solitude (except on long weekends). Legend has it that this beach was a favourite place of relaxation for Thai royalty during the 17th and 18th centuries when Ayutthaya was the capital of Thailand.
Puek Tian is a few kilometres to the south of Chao Samran, and is somewhat larger and more popular, although dilapidated. It is distinguished by the very large statues of imaginary figures from Thai literature dotting the beach area.
About 40 km south of Phetchaburi lies Cha-am, a rapidly developing resort with a fine long beach that is immensely popular with Thai families. There are also many good hotels and guest houses aimed at visitors from overseas, especially from Northern Europe. The ordinary fan buses take about 90 min and cost 40 baht.
The whole of the western half of the province is given over to the Kaeng Krachan National Park, the largest such park in Thailand, and an evergreen jungle that remains mostly unexplored to this day. The park headquarters can provide details of hiking, rafting and camping opportunities (Tel: +66 32 459291).
|Routes through Phetchaburi|
|Bangkok ← Ratchaburi ←||N S||→ Hua Hin → Butterworth|
|Bangkok ← Ratchaburi ←||N S||→ Cha-am → Sadao|