Driving Through the Thai Countryside – Phuket to Hua Hin

Andrew Leeson


Driving through the Thailand countryside

What an adventure, driving through the countryside in Thailand

I recon I have spent about nine months of my life within Thailand. I have travelled through the countryside by train, taxi, bus and of course flown over it from point to point many times. I am almost ashamed to say I have never driven through it myself though. Until now.

Phuket to Hua Hin by Car

It’s only about 650 kms between the two and about 9 hrs if you choose to do it straight. So as far as road trips go it’s not far. Neither is it a tough trip to make. The roads are great and Thai drivers are very courteous.

I rarely go to Phuket these days but had a friend with me that wanted a holiday in Phuket. I wanted to go back to Hua Hin. There are currently no direct flights between the two. Hence the road trip.

A tip: If you hire a car for 3 days you do not need to pay a ‘return fee’ due to dropping the car off at a different point than pick up location. The ‘return fee’ was $97, the per day rent cost (Budget) was $39. And so, our 2-day trip becomes 3. 

Yeah, it was time to leave Phuket

Our trip didn’t start well with the intense rainfall they had received. Phuket can handle heavy rains, but their drains can’t. They clog with rubbish and the streets flood; making the place look more like an overrun chocolate bath than what I am used to seeing. This made our trip to Phuket airport to pick up the car, rather an ordeal.

Someone needs to unblock the drains so the roads stay open.

Which road to take to Hua Hin?

We managed to set out safely and basically, you can take the west coast road through Ranong, then cross to the east side of the peninsula, or you can take the faster east coast road.

Our preference was the west, but as it was the end of the rainy season, and it was going out with a bang down the west side we decided to go east.

The west is less built up, roads less travelled and is reputed to have awesome country scenery and scenic mountains to cross. So, we were a bit bummed not to go this way.

The east road was still scenic and enjoyable, and you do pass by some of Thailand’s larger regional city centres, each of which deserve a stopover. Places like Surat Thani, Chumphon and Prachuap Khiri Khan.

Just up the road from Surat Thani you can catch ferries to Islands like Koh Samui and Ko Pha Ngan. If you wish to do a loop trip from Bangkok, fly Bangkok to Koh Samui, ferry to mainland and bus/taxi to Surat Thani. Then take a train to Hua Hin, then on to Bangkok. All stops on the way well worth a visit. 

Thailand Beaches barely touched
Hundreds of kilometres of barely touched coastline

Chumphon to Prachuap Khiri Khan

Due to dryer weather further north, we pretty much drove straight to Chumphon on the first day. We spent much of our time along the coast from Chumphon to Prachuap Khiri Khan. We didn’t expect it to be so ‘untouched’ with the feeling of remoteness. This coast is dotted with small rustic resorts though so no problems with accommodation.

Want to go somewhere to get away from it all, read a few books, drink wine at night and relax during the day. Then this coastline is right up your alley.

As the sun set on day one we had to find a place to stay. We would have found a place sooner, but I discovered my navigator couldn’t read a map. I like finding out new things about old friends. Hi Shelly…

‘You can never be lost when you have nowhere in particular you need to be’

Anyway, we turn off the main road and it hits you that you are truly in the countryside. After driving for 20 minutes to the coast about 25km north of Chumphon we found this small resort seemingly in the middle of nowhere. 

A U.S. Mansion (Sara Resort) on seemingly an untouched coastline
Sara Resort neighbours on three sides. Beach on the other

Thank you Peter and staff for your hospitality. Two people turning up after dark unannounced in the off season couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome. Seriously one of the best red curries I have ever had.

For me that’s what getting off the roads most travelled is all about, the unexpected discoveries you find along the way and the people you meet and hearing their stories. Peter is about to build a stunning condominium owner-occupied resort next door to Sara Resort. I’ll be keeping an interested eye on its development.

This coastline is remote in its feel, but Chumphon has direct flights to Bangkok and other destinations. It has the coastline and accessibility by plane and trains to make this coastline a tourist destination. It will take a lot of development though. Much of the coastline has been bought by large corporations but have chosen not to develop yet. This coastline if for the future. 

Myanmar border. You have no choice but to be in the neighbourhood so go look

Myanmar Border Crossing

It’s well worth just prior to reaching Prachuap Khiri Khan to go visit the Myanmar border. At its thinnest point, the land between the Myanmar boarder and the Thai coast is only about 9 kms. So you’re driving past anyway. But it’s also worth a visit to see the arts and crafts from Myanmar at the border markets.

People from Myanmar set up shop on the Thai side each day to sell to local Thais and tourists. They are also very friendly and hey, it’s well worth it to go have a chat with someone from Myanmar. We went on a weekday, but the markets are far bigger on the weekends and it’s better to visit then if possible.

Hua Hin

More on Hua Hin next week. Suffice to say it’s my favourite retirement destination in Thailand. Not as many Australians choose this place, but the Brits and other Europeans seem to love it. I recommend if you have never been to go check it out. It’s only a 3-hr drive from Bangkok. No flights at present. 

It’s always nice to know you have the Hilton waiting for you at the end of a road trip and the Hilton at Hua Hin is beautifully located in the centre of town and right on the beach. All rooms have great views, mostly over the ocean and town centre due to the way the building is built.

Sometimes is nice to be decadent.

Anyway, as I’ve said more on this next time.

Next Year

Next year Bangkok to Chiang Mai by car with a stopover on a rubber plantation / rat farm along the way. They sell rats for consumption for 300 Baht per rat, which is more than the cost of a roast chook at Coles. There is money in rats. They did stress that they’re ‘eating rats’ and not ‘house rats’. I guess I’ll learn the difference next year. And eat rat for the first time.

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Andrew Leeson

Andrew Leeson

Over 20 years of experience helping people live a better life in SE Asia. Having worked in financial services in Asia I understand the challenges when moving to and living in a new country. I have travelled extensively throughout the region and experienced what SE Asia has to offer to retirees.

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