During our short vacation to Hua Hin, we took a road trip to Ao Manao. One of Thailand’s nicest beaches along the inner coast, Ao Manao is roughly 90 km (55 miles) south of Hua Hin in the province of Prachuap Khiri Khan, and is not often visited by foreign tourists. It was our second road trip since coming to Thailand, but this time it wasn’t on our comfortable, road cruisin’ 300cc Honda Forza. Instead, it was on a 115cc Yamaha Mio Fino rental scooter, which made the questionable roads and weather a bit of a battle. It is not something we’ll want to go through again, but it makes for a good story.
First of all, riding 90 km on a small rental motorbike with dinky helmets is nothing like riding 90 km on our own larger motorbike with full faced helmets. We realized how much we took it all for granted! Our rental helmets offered no protection against the elements. The wind dried out our eyes and roared in our ears, and there was a thin film of dirt on our faces by the time we reached Ao Manao. We also sorely missed the storage area for the camera bag we brought along, which we reluctantly took turns wearing on our backs. As for traveling, we were stuck putt-putting on the shoulder of the main road as big tanker trucks and cars flew by. It took us a little over two hours on the motorbike to finally make it safely to Ao Manao.
First Impressions of Ao Manao
Ao Manao was not as expansive or as commercialized as we thought it would be, even though the beach is quite famous for its unique crescent shape. The narrow strip of beach slightly curves around the clear, dark blue-green water of the cove, and there are islands off the coast that make for a gorgeous and unique backdrop.
Even though we visited on a holiday weekend, there were no large crowds of people visiting Ao Manao and there were no other foreigners but us. The beach itself was impeccably clean and free from typical tourist trash (even driftwood and seaweed), and had unique light pink patches along the sand. Closer inspection revealed deposits of millions of small white and pink swirled shells.
To our surprise, Ao Manao is lined with evergreen trees rather than palm trees, which offer plenty of shade for those looking for relief from the sun. On the south end of the crescent, there were even fewer visitors and several deserted boats anchored in the shallow waters.
The beach has ample parking, stands from which to rent beach chairs for a few baht, and bathrooms. The bathrooms aren’t in great condition, but it is a place to go if you really need to. Showers are also provided to rinse away the beach sand. There are several permanent outdoor food courts in which seafood, coffee, beer, and ice cream are sold. We enjoyed some of the best seafood we have eaten in Thailand here!
Unfortunately, we got to Ao Manao in the late afternoon and were only able to enjoy about two and a half hours of the beach before it got dark. On a future visit, we would like to walk along the entire length of the beach and even jump at the opportunity to go up the mountains to capture a picturesque shot of the famous crescent beach.
The Ride Home from Ao Manao
We left Ao Manao shortly after sunset, but our nice trip ended ten minutes into our drive home when it started to rain. With no visors on our helmets, no rain jackets, and a dim headlight on our motorbike, we had a long journey ahead of us. We ended up buying ponchos (the best $4 spent on our trip) that saved us from a miserably wet and cold ride home, and our camera from water damage. We both agree that our ride back was uncomfortable and slightly dangerous, and we don’t plan on doing something like that again if at all avoidable. Although we enjoyed our day trip to a quiet, beautiful beach, and ate some amazing seafood, we won’t be visiting by way of under powered motorbike again. We will definitely look for alternative transportation, likely by train or car, the next time we want to visit Ao Manao.