Phetchaburi (เพชรบุรี) - pronounced and sometimes spelled Phetburi - is the provincial capital of Phetchaburi Province.
Phetchaburi is about 130km (75 miles) southwest of Bangkok. The city is one of the oldest settlements in Thailand, mentioned in historical records dating to the 8th century, and having significant standing artefacts dating to the 12th century. There are numerous temples in and around the city centre and market area, in addition to the Royal Palace known informally as Khao Wang that dominates the skyline. The city is situated on the River Phet ("diamond" in Thai), which originates in the Kaeng Krachan National Park and flows into the Gulf of Thailand at Baan Laem.
Phetchaburi is a predominantly agricultural province, and the city reflects this with a large and thriving traditional market, buzzing with activity from pre-dawn until mid-day, and replete with the aromas of everything. It is very much a working city, with few tourists, nor the infrastructure to support them.
From Bangkok, the blue-white express buses (977, 72) from Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal (Deep blue Ticket booth 89, departure platform 6) will take you directly to Phetchaburi's bus terminal, which is adjacent to a night market. The express buses leave Bangkok currently every two hours between 11:00 and 17:00, and you should allow two hours for the journey, which will cost 112 baht. There are also minibuses going (same ticket booth, same departure platform), however there might be problems, as they do not provide extra space for bigger pieces of luggage. Take care to avoid the blue, white and orange buses, as they will stop many times and will take much longer to reach Phetchaburi.
A minibus from Ratchaburi costs 40 baht, and stops in the city centre, after running along the outer main highway. However, no tuktuks of motorcycle taxis were noticed anywhere nearby.
You can also reach Phetchaburi by train from Hua Lamphong; the journey normally takes around four hours, but can occasionally take longer. This will cost 100-250 baht, depending on the type of train.
A taxi from Bangkok should cost no more than 2,000 baht and should take around two hours.
Phetchaburi itself is blissfully free of traffic snarls, except on the main north-south highway that bisects the province, but by-passes the town.
There are no meter taxis. There are tuk-tuks, motorcycle taxis, and for a slow cruise around the market area, plenty of traditional two-seat pedal-power tricycle taxis. Whatever your means of transportation, it would be a good idea to have your destination written down in Thai for the driver. As at Dec 2014, a tuktuk trip within the city appeared to be rather overpriced, with the driver insisting on 100 baht for a 2Km trip.
For longer journeys around the province there are local buses (trucks with benches) available from the market area, but you need to ask the drivers for their destinations (you will quickly be directed to the correct bus).
Most of the important temples (except Khao Wang) are within walking distance of the market area.
Temple junkies will be satisfied for days with the town itself but the highlight is definitely the mountain.
In Phetchaburi you can buy all of the staples of daily life as a Buddhist in Thailand with great convenience, but as regards souvenirs, there are just a few small but adequate shops around the base of the cable car that serves the Khao Wang palace. For Thai silk and clothing, the Big C hypermarket on the main highway carries a modest selection, as do a handful of shops in the market area.
Serious souvenir-hunters might wish to head south about 70km (40 miles) to Hua Hin, where there are plenty of high-class souvenir shops.
Phetchaburi province is famous throughout Thailand for its Thai desserts, Khanom Thai, delicious candy-like finger food made from egg, palm sugar, coconut, and a binding agent, usually crushed beans or flour. The main north-south highway is dotted with large stores offering a bewildering variety of such confections.
Like all Thai cities, Phetchaburi has hundreds of restaurants and cafes, serving almost every variety of Thai food. Many of them specialise in just a few menu items, so the trick is to decide what you want to eat before you decide on where to eat. There are almost no English language signs, so specific recommendations are not especially helpful. On the other hand, whichever of these cafes or restaurants you choose to frequent, your chances of not being served a wholesome Thai dish are very low.
If you wish to be "safe", hotels have restaurants that will likely not disappoint you. In addition, the Big C has several Western-style franchises under its roof (e.g., Chester's Grill, KFC), with air conditioning and English language menus.
Apart from a few Chinese restaurants, the aforementioned Big C franchises, and two pizza parlours in peripheral locations, anything other than Thai food is almost impossible to find in Phetchaburi city.
Present Bar, a local Thai hangout, across the street from the cable car.
A check within the city itself, shows that most of the accommodation is guest house standard. The more upmarket hotels appear to be close to the main highway south.
Phetchaburi is 16km (10 miles) from the coast. The nearest easily accessible seaside village is Chao Samran, which has a few small hotels and guest houses, and one luxury resort. It is a tranquil spot, ideal for seekers of peace and solitude (except on long weekends). Legend has it that this beach was a favourite place of relaxation for Thai royalty during the 17th and 18th centuries while Ayutthaya was the capital of Thailand.
Puek Tian is a few miles to the south of Chao Samran, and is somewhat larger and more popular, although evidently dilapidated. It is distinguished by the very large statues of imaginary figures from Thai literature dispersed around the beach area.
About 40km (25 miles) south of Phetchaburi lies Cha-am, a rapidly developing resort with a fine long beach that is immensely popular with Thai families. There are also many good hotels and guest houses aimed at visitors from overseas, especially from Northern Europe. The ordinary fan buses take about 90 minutes and cost you 40 baht.
The whole of the western half of the province is given over to the Kaeng Krachan National Park, the largest such park in Thailand, and a pristine evergreen jungle covering more than 1,000 square miles that remains mostly unexplored to this day. The park headquarters can provide details of hiking, rafting and camping opportunities (☎ +66 32 459 291).
Hua Hin - non aircon buses leave the city for 40 baht and take 1.5 hours.