Here are our tips following our trip from southern to central Thailand along the Gulf Coast. We arrived from Malaysia, took an overnight train from Padang Besar, stopped in Chumphon, visited the Ko Tao island and then Hua Hin. This city served as a base for us to visit the Khao Sam Roi Yot and Kui Buri parks where we were able to observe Asian elephants. We ended our discovery of Thailand with its surprising and pretty capital Bangkok.
Chumphon city is located 500 km from Bangkok. It is a crossing point, especially to go to Ko Tao, Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Samui islands. It was also a perfect place for us to rest and prepare for our trip to Thailand, with an access to a shopping centre to get a SIM card.
We stayed at the Tanisa Resort. We needed a short break from a long trip and enjoyed our two relaxing days at this very affordable yet comfortable hotel.
Hua Hin is one of the oldest and most famous seaside resort town in Thailand, notably popular with the royal family. It is located about 200 km south of Bangkok.
What to do in Hua Hin?
Be sure to visit the markets, especially at night, and the Thai restaurants on the beachfront and in the centre. Those offer excellent fish and seafood. You can also walk on the beach and go shopping. We took advantage of our few days there to get tailor-made clothes for the rest of our trip. The result is superb, very well cut and of good quality. These clothes are still in perfect condition years after the world tour. A very good investment in our opinion!
Monkey Mountain Hua Hin
From the beach, we hiked up Monkey Mountain to enjoy the beautiful view. We were also able to visit the temples upstairs including the impressive Wat Khao Takiap. Be careful, this place is named Monkey Mountain for a reason! Come empty-handed, don’t wear glasses, caps, anything shiny and be on the lookout! Monkeys are everywhere, and they are very curious and not afraid at all! We had a few scares. As usual we want to insist on not feeding, touching or disturbing them.
Little anecdote, a monk offered us a bracelet at the entrance of the temple: “for the good luck“. As we have been very lucky since then, we still wear it all the time.
Where to stay in Hua Hin?
We stayed at the Aree’s Guesthouse. This pension, run by a French-speaking Swiss and his Thai wife, offers good breakfasts as well as a restaurant where Thai and Swiss/French dishes are served. The price is very affordable. The hotel is very well located, it is possible to walk to the beach, the train station, the temples, the markets or the many restaurants.
However, it is also close to massage parlours intended for sex tourism, which bothered us.
We already knew the sad reputation of sex tourism in Thailand, this did not prevent us from being deeply shocked. We didn’t notice anything during our first stops in the South and on Ko Tao island. We were confronted with this terrible reality in Hua Hin (and later in Bangkok).
These Westerners who encourage sex tourism also encourage paedophilia networks, human trafficking and sexual slavery. Many sex workers (adults and children) are forcibly brought from neighbouring countries.
The assumed sex tourism omnipresence in Hua Hin really tarnished our stay. Moreover, we didn’t find our visits in the city or the beach worth the trip. Also, it should be noted the city posh reputation can lead to prices a little higher than elsewhere in Thailand. It was, however, a convenient base for getting to the Khao Sam Roi Yot Park, the Kuri Buri Park and the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand.
Khao Sam Roi Yot Park and Phraya Nakhon Cave
The really enjoyed visit of Khao Sam Roi Yot, with the cave of Phraya Nakhon and its incredible temple.
The park opens at 8 am and the entry was 200 tbh in 2019. We walked to the cave, but it is possible to take a boat to shorten the hike by 1 km. During our walk, we passed by some very cute monkeys and enjoyed the view. Plan to arrive before 10 am in the cave to have the best light for your photos and fewer tourists. Be careful, the climb to get there is very steep for the last 500 m.
Seeing Asian Elephants in Thailand: Kui Buri National Park and the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand
We combined visiting Khao Sam Roi Yot in the morning with Kuri Buri Park in the afternoon. To visit both, we hired a taxi for the day from Hua Hin (it was difficult to get to the parks otherwise).
For the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand rescue centre visit, carried out on another day, we organised a pick up from our hotel directly with the foundation (tickets with transport included).
Find more details of these exceptional visits and our advice for meeting Asian elephants on the coast of the Gulf of Thailand in our article: How to encounter elephants in Thailand.
After many hesitations and due to a lack of time we decided not to visit the city of Phetchaburi. However, we wanted to mention it here because we regretted our choice. We could have spent less time in Hua Hin to visit this city on which we heard excellent feedbacks from other travellers. The city is supposed to be more authentic, more affordable and seems to offer beautiful cultural discoveries. It is also on the way between Chumphon and Bangkok.
Please leave us a comment with your tips if you have visited it.
Getting to the Thailand Gulf coast
Border crossing between Malaysia and Thailand, night train in Thailand
We arrived in Thailand via Malaysia and explain our choice of itinerary via Padang Besar and the border crossing in our article: Top 13 things to do and see in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.
From Padang Besar, we boarded an overnight train. The train was going to Bangkok but we stopped at Chumphon. You will find information and prices on the night train on the rome2rio website.
It was an incredible experience! We were able to see the beautiful landscapes scroll by from certain cars opened directly on the outside. We really liked our wagon with a retro style but comfortable and very clean. After being served a delicious dinner right at our seat, our seats were turned into a bed by the staff. They were spacious and each had a curtain for privacy. It only lacked a little space to keep the bags with us. This was our favorite night train experience, we highly recommend it!
From Hua Hin to Bangkok
After a long thought, we changed our initial plan. Indeed, we decided to go to Siem Reap in Cambodia rather than Northern Thailand because the weather conditions were better there (we were there during the rainy season). To go to Cambodia, we made a compulsory passage through Bangkok.
From Hua Hin, just take a mini bus from the station. We paid 200 baht by booking our tickets in advance, but it is possible to pay on arrival. Be careful not to leave too late because the journey takes 3 to 4 hours by road to Bangkok. The trip was not easy as the mini bus was packed. Here is an excerpt from our diary: “hyper packed with the bags on us, zero shock absorbers and the driver who thinks he is a Formula 1 driver”. Well, you have been warned! Find here all the transport options to reach Bangkok from Hua Hin.
From Bangkok, we took an overnight bus to Siem Reap. This rather complicated route is detailed in our article: Visit Siem Reap in Cambodia.
Thank you for reading about our Thailand Gulf Coast experience. Do not hesitate to share your tips and favorites in Thailand in the comments section. Find all our articles on Thailand.
Clémentine’s Reading List for Thailand Gulf coast
- Thailand Lonely Planet Travel Guide
- As Thai is a difficult language we equipped ourselves with the Lonely Planet Fast Talk Thai Guide
- We are still looking for a suitable novel, if you have any ideas leave us a comment!
- It’s hard not to mention the Hollywood hit The Beach with DiCaprio. An American backpacker looking for a hidden beach on a Thai island.
Find our tips about food in Thailand in our article: Top 7 things to do in Bangkok.