Just 3 hours south of Bangkok, this little village, nestled between the Pranburi river estuary and a protected mangrove forest, is becoming a destination of choice for a rising number of nomads looking for a mix of peace, wind, and sports.
Pak Nam Pran’s best season is from November to April when the latitude’s heat gets cooled down by monsoon and thermal winds. It’s a much more laid-back alternative to the bigger and busier resort city of Hua Hin, 30 km north.
The town is also a gateway into the imperial Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park about 30kms south, which translates to “The 300 peaks mountains”, home to the popular Phraya Nakhon Cave.
Pak Nam Pran offers amazing conditions for kitesurfing, paragliding and stand-up paddle, and should also satisfy wakeboarders, cyclists and hikers. The vibe among the local adventurers and digital nomads is very friendly and the locals are a true joy to be around.
Internet in Pak Nam Pran is fast and stable in and around town as most businesses and modern homes are equipped with ADSL or fiber optic setups. Wifi speeds range from 10 to 35 Mb/s. Power cuts here are non-existent.
4G in Thailand averages 9 Mb/s as measured by a recent (November 2017) state of mobile networks in Thailand (see report). It is in line with the Asia-Pacific region average of 9.69 Mb/s. The top 3 mobile providers in Thailand are Truemove, AIS and Dtac. See a full guide on Thailand’s sim card options here.
For the last 10 years, Pak Nam Pran has grown as a top spot in the Asian kitesurfing scene, thanks to a 7 months long wind season as well as the fact that it is a yearly returning tour stop for the Kiteboard Tour Asia, the official kitesurfing championship for the Asia Pacific region.
It is, in fact, the home spot of 6 times Asian champion “Yo” Narapichit Pudla, who now teaches the next generation of local kitesurf kids with Olympic dreams in mind.
The beach is 7 kms long and of sand only, and depending on the direction, you can easily downwind along the coast either towards Hua Hin to the north or Sam Roi Yot to the south. Although wind in Thailand is not as omnipresent as it is in Sri Lanka or Brazil, in season you can still expect about 60% of days with more than 12 knots, which is usually enough if you stay longer than a month.
There are 2 distinct wind seasons in this part of the Thailand gulf:
October to January:
Monsoon wind coming from the northeast, resulting in 15-28 knots side-on orientation, and choppy waters. Tide is usually always high due to wind strength and orientation. Great for old-school and surfboard kiters.
February to June:
Thermal afternoon wind coming from the south, resulting in 10-20 knots perfect side shore orientation that will progressively shape flat water lagoons all along the beach, thanks to 2 high and low tides a day.
The rest of the year sees random conditions due to the Asian rainy season, but by virtue of its coastal position far from the mountains, rain is not as prevalent here as it is in the rest of the country. It is even sometimes possible to kite at the Pranburi freshwater dam, a 40 mins drive in the backcountry.
For more info, lessons, gear rental and advice, we recommend:
Yoda Kiteschool – Asian champion “Yo” Narapichit Pudla’s own kite school. Yo is part of the Ozone kites international team and also rides for Quicksilver Thailand. He still participates in many world-class kite competitions all over the world, but also focuses on training the next generation of Thai kitesurfers. The school is family run, with the help of his lovely Russian wife Agatha and their daughter Mia.
Airstylers Kiteschool – Colin from Airstylers was the first to set up shop in Pak Nam Pran back around 2005, and is respected by all in the local community.
The kite community in Pak Nam Pran is small and healthy, everybody knows each other, so whoever you choose to go with, you will very soon get to know the whole family!
In the last 10 years, Thailand has seen a steady flow of new parks popping up everywhere from Bangkok to Koh Phangan. And Pak Nam Pran, as little as it is, is proudly home to its own 2.0 right in town, while a full size Rixen park is only a 45 mns drive away, in Hua Hin’s Black Mountain. For experts craving pro-level obstacles, the world famous Thai Wake Park is only 3 to 4 hours away up in Bangkok, perfect for week-end trips.
Kite Cable Thailand: Setup in 2013, this park features two different 2.0 systems on a artificial lake and connected to the Pranburi river itself for level adjustment. The 70 meters long cable is obstacle free and ideal for beginners or kitesurfing aspirants, while the longer cable features both a small sized simple kicker and a medium sized spine kicker that you can hit in both directions.
Both cables have their starting docks on a single island, complete with a cool bar and a terrace hovering over the water. As this cable was designed with kitesurfers in mind, it comes with a customizable rope length, to allow for the perfect tweaks tailored to your preferences.
Black Mountain Wakepark: Driving up the highway about 45 mns towards Hua Hin will take you to a full size 6 towers cable park, part of a bigger golf and residences complex called Black Mountain.
Both the cable and most obstacles are Rixen made, including 2 medium sized kickers, an A-frame, a pipe and a few other simple box sliders. What’s great about this park? It’s usually empty on week days, it’s got a chop breaking island in the middle, and if you crash at the other side of the lake, a jetski wll come pick you up. There is also a bar restaurant and a pro shop.
Between the sinuous Pranburi river passing through lush mangroves full of wildlife (think monitor lizards and wild peacocks) and a beautiful though underrated coastline dotted with deserted islands, creeks, and caves, exploring the Pak Nam Pran area by SUP is sure to blow your mind. But as awesome as SUPing is, transporting these massive boards and paddles around isn’t the easiest. The best solution is probably to rent a saleng (motorbike with custom side-car), which should be able to carry at least 2 boards, maybe more if you get creative.
The river can be accessed through many different points, one of them being Kite Cable Thailand’s lake, which is quite high upstream. The estuary is also easily reached and gives direct access to either the river or sea.
The best spots around for coastal trips are Khao Kalok, the shoe-shaped mountain between land and sea that closes Pak Nam Pran’s southern beach, or a bit further south to the breathtaking Sam Roi Yot National Park. With its giant peaks overlooking the gulf of Thailand and its deserted beaches only accessible by sea, there should be enough for months of exploration. You can also try Sai Noi Beach, 10 mins north of Pak Nam, a small and charming little creek, home to just one resort and a few Thai restaurants.
For boards rental, we recommend:
Bikepoint Pak Nam Pran: Located at the Palm Beach resort, along the beach close to town, Bikepoint has 2 decent cruising boards for rent. Prices are 300 baht / hour or 1000 baht / day for 1 board, and 500 baht / hour or 1800 baht / day for 2 boards. They also have a side-car for rent if you need transport.
Pak Nam Pran is a great center point for hikers and nature lovers. The wildlife around here is exceptionally rich and diverse, especially in the national parks, with colorful kingfisher birds, dusky leaf monkeys, Asian elephants and gaurs (wild bulls) all common sights.
Sirinart Rajini Ecosystem Learning Center: On the southern side of the Pranburi river, and just 2 minutes from Pak Nam Pran’s center, is quite a special kind of mangrove forest. It was resurrected about 20 years ago when late King Rama IX visited the Pranburi area and felt worried when he saw the destruction that intense shrimp farming had brought right on the doorstep of this beautiful estuary town. It is now an educational center with ecology in mind and proposes an easy 1-hour hike in the breeze and shade below the mangrove canopy. If you’re lucky, you might even see a big monitor lizard camouflaged in the mangrove tree roots.
Khao Sam Roi Yot: Translating as the “300 peaks mountain range”, Sam Roi Yot was declared the first coastal marine park of Thailand in 1966. It also includes Thailand’s largest freshwater marsh. The best hike here will bring you to the amazing Phraya Nakhon site, a giant cave in the mountain where the Khuha Kharuehat Pavilion was built for King Rama V’s visit in 1890. Get there before 10 am to enjoy the sunlight shining right onto the pavilion. There are plenty of other hikes throughout the park, between sea, mountains and marshes. At the southern end of the park lies another favorite: the one taking you to Khao Deng viewpoint.
Kaeng Krachang: About 1,5 hours to the northwest from Pak Nam Pran, you will find the southern tip of the largest national park in Thailand, Khaeng Krachan, with a total area of 2914 km2. This park is famous for its dense mist covering the rainforest in early mornings, and hilltops sticking out of the sea of clouds. It is host to 400+ species of birds, 300+ species of butterflies and 57 known species of mammals, and proposes a few great hike options going into the pristine jungle forest: Pala U waterfall is the main attraction in this southern part of the park and access is open all year round, while a few campsites are also available around the area but may be closed depending on the time of the year. The best campsite in the park is probably Ban Krang, which is close to where the Pranburi river originates from.
Thai people have been increasingly into cycling in recent years, and you will often see groups riding together in the early morning or late afternoon when the heat gets more manageable and the light is sweet. The beach roads are without end, mostly flat and with great scenery, but If you’re more into mountain biking or even downhill, there are also a few trails in the relief around town that are still being built by Loose Riders nomads when they come for a few months per year.
Here are a few useful links for cyclists in Pak Nam Pran:
The Prachuap Khiri Khan region is already spectacular by land, but flying over it is just mesmerizing. Although it is possible to fly here all year, you will find the best weather conditions running from January to April, which is the window the local paragliding school has chosen to operate.
300 Peaks Paragliding: Since 2013, every year from January to March, 300 Peaks proposes flying tours, tow and SIV courses for any levels around different spots in the region (like the mountainous national park Sam Roi Yot- which gave its name to the school, 300 Peaks). Englishman Graham is the school director and an experienced paraglider-kitesurfer who fell in love with the area a few years back and decided to keep it in his destinations quiver, together with Nepal, the Alps and the US.
Like any coastal town in Thailand, life in Pak Nam Pran beats mostly around the vibrant daily markets, spread between different spots in town depending on the day of the week.
The area is known for its seafood of course; crabs, mussels, prawns, red snapper, and octopus are all of exceptional quality, but most famous of all are those special squids being dried out by the sun right in the streets, filling up the air with a stunning sour smell.
Bangkok residents like to come here for a quiet and romantic weekend, while wealthy foreign tourists usually stay for one or two weeks, enjoying the privacy and peace that the many luxurious and intimate resorts along the beach have to offer.
The scenery around town is truly eye-catching, with vast plains running along the beach, often surrounded by sloping green hills. Like many other regions, Thailand forbids any human construction on hills and mountains in Pak Nam Pran (apart from temples), so the wildlife gets its own space to thrive.
Finding a cool place to stay in Pak Nam can actually be quite a lovely experience. Of course the local family-owned guest houses are plentiful and usually offer very good value and flexibility for short/medium term stays (between $100 to $200 / month), but if you’re looking for a real house for anywhere longer than a month, you’re probably going to have to do a bit of old-school exploration to find the best deals.
Even though there are always a few houses listed online on sites such as bahtsold or ddproperty, the choice is often limited and so we strongly recommend to just grab a bike and hunt around for the perfect home.
The thing is, most Thai owners will just put up a sign in front of the house that says “for rent/sale” with a phone number. Some will not even bother with a sign at all, so if you see a empty house that you really have a crush on, just look around for a neighbor that speaks a bit of English (otherwise the word for “house” in Thai is “baan”) and usually they will know the owner and hook you up after a few hand moves and laughs, the Thai way.
Locals here are usually very accommodating and not that fond of paperwork, so if you’re ready to pay upfront for the number of months you’d wish to stay, you could easily strike a deal without a year contract. Prices for a furnished 1 bedroom house vary from $150 up to $300, while bigger beachfront villas usually start at around $600.
Just always make sure to check the wifi and its quality before shaking hands, in addition to the usual things like: does it have hot water? Aircon? Does it comes furnished? Is there a farm right next to your door that will wake you up every morning at dawn?
Airbnb can also be a way of finding the right place. Even though it is more targeted towards short-term stays, there are always some hosts who will be happy to negotiate for the longer term.
Although there are no real co-working space in Pak Nam Pran yet, there are still a few cafes and restaurants that have decided to propose a dedicated space for digital workers. It usually isn’t much more than fast and free wifi as well as well-placed plugs, but it is definitely encouraging as it shows digital nomads are- in a way- being considered by some forward-thinking business owners.
As these are not real coworking spaces, it works the good old way; as long as you buy something here and there, you will be welcomed to stay as long as you want. Sometimes the wifi goes off or IP adresses get filled up, but don’t hesitate to ask for a reboot of the router and you’ll be good to go. Here are our favorite places to work at in Pak Nam Pran:
Brown Brew and Bistro: Setup very recently by a talented Thai photographer, this bright and well-decorated cafe has decent wifi, AC and a really cool counter made especially for laptop and mobile warriors, it looks out massive windows onto the main town’s street and got 6 bar level seats, each equipped with a plug). It is usually quiet on most days, but the best time to work here is definitely the morning. The place opens from 8 am until 8 pm.
Grandmother’s House: On the road to Squid Beach (the kite spot in the monsoon season), you’ll find one of the only organic coffee in town. A favorite among the local expats, kiters, and nomads, it is run by 3 generations of women: from the iconic grandma to the hard working granddaughter. This open air and retro little cafe does not have a special space for laptop warriors, but a few strategic tables will get you a plug and a fan in addition to the free wifi. The best thing about this place (apart from the great food and lovely staff) is that it opens at 6 am- perfect for early risers!
Racer Marina: Pak Nam Pran’s brand new marina, home to a few small yachts and marine workshops, is actually a great place to work. Located on the shores of the Pranburi river about 2 km upstream of the estuary, it’s got fast wifi, big outdoor tables and a banging coffee machine that gives you a true Italian espresso for $1.50. It even serves vegetarian paninis! If you like working by the water, and the idea of boats slowly coming and going as the breeze of the ocean flows in sounds attractive, you should surely give it a go. It is also the only place in town that has a massive office/meeting room for rent, complete with aircon, a giant round desk for up to 10 people and a professional printer.
Markets in Pak Nam Pran are everywhere and everyday; it is a paradise for lovers of fresh veggies, fruits and seafood. There are a few different markets in town that usually open on different days.
The main one at the entrance of town opens up every second day, while smaller markets in different corners of town happening in between. They usually open around mid-day and close a bit after dark, around 7 pm.
Even though street food in Thailand is world famous and you could simply just eat out forever, learning how to cook with local ingredients is quite rewarding, and the local market is where it all comes from. You will also find a Tesco Lotus supermarket with more western products in Pranburi town, a 10 mns drive.
The local specialities here are pineapple, octopus, and farmed shrimp (the one that goes into the strong and spicy tom yam soup). Great herbs to cook with in Thailand are lemongrass, parsley, basil and mint.
Our favorite restaurants in town are:
Beach House Bistro: With consistently delicious and generous food, this little bar serving European, Thai, Indian and Mexican food, is ran by Karl, an english kitesurfer who settled in town more than 10 years ago with his wife Michelle. Both are super friendly people who also run a cool guest house always full of kiters from all over the world. Special, they got good english cider always cold in the fridge.
Chicken & Bee: Recently just opened on the way south to Sam Roi Yot, this organic farm and restaurant is hotspot among local vegetarians and lovers of home grown food. In an wooden, green and airy setup, you will find your dose of healthy smoothies, salads, pasta but also Thai traditional food cooked to absolute perfection. And the best part: you can buy organic veggies, depending on the season and availability!
To get to Pak Nam Pran from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, the best option is to take a bus straight from the ground floor to Hua Hin and then do the last 30 km drive to Pak Nam Pran by taxi.
If you already are in the capital’s streets, you also have the train option, with several departures going south daily from Hua Lamphong station. That will bring you slightly closer to your destination, Pranburi’s old town, 10 km west of Pak Nam. Once at the train station you should be able to find a taxi easily to reach your final destination.
Bus: One company has its terminal at the Suvarnabhumi airport’s ground floor, Roong Reuang Coach. It will take you to Hua Hin city in about 3 to 4 hours, and charges 269 baht ($8.50) a seat. Even though there is an additional fee (50 baht) for online booking, it is recommended to book that way in advance as most of the time spots get full very quickly. Big board bag owners beware: they also charge for extra luggage, you can check that and book on their website.
Once in Hua Hin, you can pick up a taxi ride to Pak Nam Pran for about 400 baht.
Train: There are daily trains from Bangkok to Pranburi, leaving from Bangkok’s main train station, Hua Lamphong. 3 Classes are available, and even though the first class is comfy, quiet and (freezing) cold, if you want to make it an experience, we can only recommend going for the cheap as chips 3rd class. Once in Pranburi station, you should easily find a taxi or motorbike taxi to get you to Pak Nam town.
Private van: A van with chauffeur will cost you around 2500 baht ($80) for an easy transfer from the airport of your choice straight to your door in Pak Nam Pran. Perfect for worry-free traveling or travelers with loads of luggage.
Once in Pak Nam Pran, you’ll notice that every man, woman and child can ride a motorbike, it’s just the most convenient mode of transportation. You can rent a 50cc scooter for $10 a day, or $90 a month. To buy one you can expect prices to start at around $350. You may also find pick up trucks to rent for a day at about $30. A good rental business here is Mr. Moo, who will have everything you need, from bicycles to scooters to quads, daily or monthly.