The “long sandy slightly rubbish strewn beach” at Prachuab Khirikhan is not as idyllic as the beach here.
The small town shown on our map is four kilometres inland and the main highway a further ten kilometres away. The hotel here is somewhat out of place, perhaps more suitable for Koh Samui or Phuket, but this holiday centre, very carefully landscaped and well-appointed with a beach restaurant in the only accommodation on the 3/4 kilometre shoreline.
Most of the other residents have wooden shacks or houses scattered along the beach or among the extensive coconut groves. Their subsistence is largely small-scale fishing with shoreline dredging for shell fish in the evenings, tides permitting. A dirt track runs along the coast enabling a variety of old Japanese motorcycles to transport essential commodities.
We are the only ‘holidaymakers’ here; our few fellow guests arrive in the evening and leave in the early morning. We presume they are commercial travellers enjoying a well-earned break from the noisy rigours of the road. Our break has now lasted four nights, with not a banana pancake in sight.
What I have seen, however, is just as ephemeral but a darn sight more interesting, possibly because of the rarity value. I noted at Kovalum beach in India that sea birds are not so numerous as in Europe. Similarly the same holds true in Thailand. Today I saw a solitary sea eagle diving for a small sardine-sized fish. Ernes are splendid birds: their size and soaring ensures lingering gazes. Along the shore, four wagtails darted in and out of the undertow seeking the small sand crabs which leave tracks between their burrowed holes at low tide.
These are small game for the army of kempt dogs who roam the shore. They prefer the larger pincer snapping crabs which make their homes in the dark sheltered places beneath the restaurant and the pier. Some could be refugees fleeing from the supper baskets brought from the market four kilometres away.
Above the town, on a wooded low hill, sits a technicoloured wat. It was locked up when I visited, but it still afforded a restful view across the coconut groves sheltering small homesteads and a wooden colonial style police station. The hill itself is somewhat overgrown; to reach each chedi requires a machete. From the undergrowth flew a blue crow which, if I were an ornithologist I could name and describe more accurately. However, it was a first time view for me as was the insect which could have been the inspiration for Chinook helicopters. Striped black, scarlet, white and black again, it had small brownish wings at both ends, perhaps to support its sagging weight.
This is a pleasant coastline for sybarites. The day that it enters the Lonely Planet guide books will be a sorry one for then the individual pleasures will give way to mass catering. Maybe too the sea eagle will, like me, head for lonelier shores.
Nearly 30 years later, I’m pleased to note, that for some Bang Saphan is still what it used to be, a well-loved secret.