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On the rails in Hua Hin

The Hua Hin Railway Station is a tourist attraction in itself with its elegant architecture dating back to the reign of King Rama VI in the 1920s. But the days when people actually savoured train travel seem to be forever receding down history's long track.
Or are they?
The people who run Prachuab Khiri Khan province, knowing that in Hua Hin they've already got a tourism gemstone on their hands, have organised special rail trips to let visitors further explore the area.
The province, Hua Hin municipality, State Railway of Thailand and the Tourism Authority of Thailand have arranged weekend jaunts out of Hua Hin station.
Once they've viewed a new exhibition at the terminus commemorating His Majesty the King's anniversary, passengers will spend two days and a night being shown the sights by rail.
The journeys begin at 9pm and, after a leisurely, air-conditioned two hours, you're in Prachuab Khiri Khan town, where from the station a tour of the local sights is laid on.
At Lak Muang Shrine, visitors pay respects to the sacred city pillar, then hit the beach at Khao Chong Krachok or head up Mirror Mount north of town.
This latter stop involves climbing 395 steps to reach a monastery with a small pagoda and its swarm of teasing monkeys. There's a splendid view of Prachuab Bay.
Next stop if Ao Manao, a breathtaking seaside expanse that hosts the Royal Thai Air Force's Base 53. Lunch is provided before the train ambles southward to Ban Krut station.
Governor Kittipong Sunanant says the travellers will find 25 different stations newly renovated to immaculate condition.
Ban Krut still has plentiful coconut groves, and the Mahathat Chedi Pakdi Prakas on a hill at Khao Thongchai, with its panoramic view, is great place to spend an evening before checking in at a seaside resort nearby.
There are many possible side trips on the way back to Hua Hin when the train stops at Nong Hin.
A bus will take passengers to the Waa Kor museum, also known as the King Mongkut Memorial Park of Science and Technology. Rama IV chose this spot to witness an eclipse of the sun that he had famously predicted.
Another interesting stop is Dan Singkhorn, a Burmese border checkpoint in Tambon Khlong Wan. In its time it saw crucial military strategy played out between the neighbouring rivals.
The weekend excursion ends at Hua Hin station at about 3pm on Sunday. Passengers who continue on to Bangkok's Hua Lamphong station will get there around 8pm.
Scenic, safe and gorgeously slow, the Prachuab Khiri Khan rail weekends are a terrific combination of history and sightseeing.
www.nationmultimedia.com June 06

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