Returning to Pranburi

On a recent long weekend, I decided to pack up the car and the bicycles and head to Pran Buri, a small fishing village about 30 kilometres south of Hua Hin in Prachuap Khiri Khan province.

The drive south takes nearly three hours, and it can be maddening – if not because of the sheer volume of traffic, then surely because of the aggressive drivers who charge along the road without consideration.

How I dreamed of slipping into room #11 in the Aleenta Resort and leisurely riding my bike along deserted beach and country roads, where farmers continue to walk their cows, and the cows munch idly at the roadside grass, ignoring anyone or anything passing by.

I’ve been visiting Pran Buri ever since I first arrived in Thailand nearly four years ago. I was immediately drawn to its charm and the feeling that I had somehow stepped into a place free from the city – in fact, into a gentler way of life.

On my first trip to Pran Buri, I remember coming around the corner of the mountain and just before Wat Summanawat, coming face to face with a gigantic elephant lumbering along the road. The mahout laughed at what must have been a very funny sight: a frightened foreigner on a bicycle who thought he was only steps away from imminent demise beneath the giant feet of this beast.

How times have changed. On this most recent trip, as my friend and I were returning from our first biking tour and just as the sun was setting, an Aston Martin convertible pulled up beside us. The driver looked down his nose and over his Prada sunglasses as if we were quite ridiculous to be riding bikes in the country. We smiled and let him and his security detail pass. Yes, you read it correctly – his security detail. An SUV with blackened windows and flashers blinking, just in case a rogue cow was lurking in the shadows. We started laughing, but then noticed a black Mercedes-Benz with tinted windows speeding down the road and kicking up dust.

Had Pran Buri changed so greatly and so abruptly? Thinking about it led me to a conclusion: if Hua Hin is the Hamptons of Thailand, then the new Pran Buri must be the local Malibu!

In less than four years, Pran Buri has gone from being tranquil to being red hot. It seems that, as properties become harder to get in Hua Hin, and since available beachfront property there is virtually non-existent, the nouveau riche have settled in Pran Buri. Newly built homes with frontage the width of one luxury-car length now sit side by side directly on the beach, with only a slice of land between the properties and a tiny patch of grass at the rear. Most are modernist structures and all have been named.

I’m not saying I despise it. I just want to know when the Ralph Lauren boutique is coming … and can we please have a local taco stand?

By Brent D Smith
Published on September 25, 2009
SOURCE: The Nation

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