Once the playground of the Thailand royalty and the renowned due to its magnificent beach and rolling hills, Hua Hin is now a vacation hotspot fit for a regal getaway
written by MarbeeShing-Go photographed by Erron Ocampo special thanks to Kanokkittika Kritwutikon and Elaine Seah of the Tourism Authority ofThailand and Charo Espedido of Fox International Channels Philippines
The gods, they say, like to play in places where only few mortals can enter. And, as can be expected, their pastimes are quite exotic for those blessed with but a single lifetime. One can’t be faulted for suspecting the reason for Hua Hin’s moniker, Queen of Tranquility, is partly based on fact. For one, who else would combine the ethereal joy of a vast woodland of mountains with the buoyant cheer of beautiful beaches? Those hallowed above ordinary mortals, one might suspect. And when one learns of how games were once played here with elephants (the flesh-and-blood variety, mind, not just as mascots on costumes or effigies) one can’t be faulted for beginning to wonder about whether Hua Hin was meant to be a retreat from the torturously complicated lives of kings and gods.
Located an easy three-hour drive from Bangkok, luxuriously developed Hua Hin is famous for its magnificent beach which, separated at one end from a still active fishing village by a rocky headland, curves gently for some three kilometers to its southernmost point where Buddhist temples cling to the cliffs. Beyond lies another, more secluded beach, the Hat Khao Tao.
Hua Hin is further distinguished as Thailand’s oldest beach resort, coming into vogue in the 1920s as the retreat for the elite of Bangkok society, a status that was enhanced when King Rama VII chose the site for a summer palace, which he named Klai Kangwon Palace, meaning “far from worries.” A fine hotel and Thailand’s first 18-hole golf course, both still in existence, further cemented Hua Hin’s reputation for posh entertainment.
In spite of moving with the times to offer all modern amenities, Hua Hin has retained its own enduring Thai identity, thus offering an appealing sense of peace. Ideal for families, the main attraction is the offer of a relaxed, balmy time lazing on the beach. However, there is also plenty to do away from the beach, like golfing at a number of courses, shopping at Hua Hin’s renowned night bazaar, sightseeing in the nearby historic town of Phetchaburi, and exploring Khao Sam Roi Yot (Mountain of 300 Peaks) National Park.
Being off the beaten path, Hua Hin invites you to create your own itinerary, whether it be idling along the beach, matching wits with vendors, or simply exploring with one’s mind open to surprises.
Just laze along Hua Hin beach. Hua Hin’s beautiful white-sand beach, gently curving three kilometers from the headland at Damnernkasem Road to Khao Takiab, is a tranquil haven for visitors. There’s no beach road to bring in traffic and vendors—just hotels, condominiums, and cottages facing straight onto the sand, and a few jet scooters and motorboats (they are frowned upon). Instead, tourists walk and jog along the sand, ride the local ponies, swim, windsurf, or simply relax blissfully, soaking up the warm sunshine.
Hua Hin is a coastal town, so the seafood is well known for its freshness. Must-try dishes are the oyster omelette, preserved clams with papaya salad, and crab curry, preferably at one of the seaside restaurants with a view of the shore. At Pran Buri market, tender pork and thick spiced stock of emperor’s rice noodles are two of the most popular dishes. At Hua Hin Night Market, the recommended food, dessert, and beverage are pork porridge, aromatic coffee, fried Chinese donuts, and soft buns (salapao). Don’t forget to try the roti—a special mixture of dough with a variety of llings: pineapple, pandan, custard, coffee, malt, honey, strawberries, eggs, raisins, and marmalade. (A stall is located right in the middle of the Hua Hin night market).
Revisit the old days at Plearn Wan. Part art installation, part shopping mall, part museum, Plearn Wan is a vintage town of mini shop houses inviting visitors to take in life in the olden days. Shops, designed to reflect period-style, make up the open air, two- floor complex, selling everything from vintage clocks, clothes, souvenirs, and other curiosities while dining establishments and food stalls offer snacks and meals to the hungry. There’s even an old pharmacy with a display of herbal concoctions. To complete the nostalgia, Plearn Wan also has a fairground that comes with a Ferris wheel, old-style game booths, and an outdoor theater for the occasional screenings.
Exercise your haggling skills at the night market. A visit to the night market on Dechanuchit Road is a must, if only just to savor the Hua Hin atmosphere. Here you will find roadside restaurants, food stalls, and the makers of the famous roti (pancake) mingled with vendors selling T-shirts, shoes, handicrafts, shells, knick-knacks, and a variety of souvenirs. Open seven days a week from 5 PM ‘til midnight.
Enjoy local wine over a delightful lunch at the Sala Winebar and Bistro overlooking the Hua Hin hills vineyard. Hua Hin Hills Vineyard’s loamy sand and slate terrain is ideal for growing grapes. The first boutique vineyard of Hua Hin produces the brand Monsoon, which can be found at most five- star resorts and hotels in the country. Guests can also have lunch at Sala Wine Bar and Bistro, which gives them views overlooking the vast vineyard. Visitors may also avail of the vineyard tour package which includes wine and snack pairings.
Cool off at the Vana Nava Hua Hin Waterpark. The recently opened Vana Nava Waterpark is a tropical jungle that combines state-of-the-art technology and modern facilities with over 200,000 living species from across Thailand. The result is a year-round entertainment experience that’s hard to beat. While the water park offers a gaming arcade, shops, dining options, and a massage pavilion, it’s the 19 rides and slides that really get your attention. Among the popular options are: The Abyss, the largest slide in Thailand, the Aqualoop, the country’s only vertical looping slide, and the 31-meter high Vana Nava Falls, the tallest man-made mountain waterfall in Asia. The Kiddie Cove, which has eleven interactive fountains and play structures, including seven slides, is also a popular attraction for families with children.
Take snapshots of the historic railway station, the oldest in thailand. Hua Hin became fashionable as a resort in the 1920s when the rail line was extended south from Bangkok and a station built in the center of town. To facilitate visits by the royal family, a beautiful red and white waiting room was moved from Sanam Chan Palace in Nakhon Pathom and erected on the platform. On the other side of the track is a well-preserved old steam train in front of the first tee off at Royal Hua Hin, Thailand’s oldest golf course.
Spend an afternoon at the award- winning Barai Spa. The Barai Spa at the Hya Regency Hua Hin is an award-winning spa getaway offering visitors an opportunity to take a break from the hustle and bustle of city living. Because the spa’s architecture and interiors, which have been inspired by the Khmer style of art, have been deliberately designed to elicit a mood of peace and tranquility, even just getting to your treatment room is a soothing experience. The Barai features eight spa suites, 18 treatment rooms, a tranquility court and pool for relaxation, and a beachfront casual dining area called McFarland House.
Browse through amazing nds at the Cicada market. Open only on weekends (Fridays to Sundays), CICADA (Community of Identity Culture Arts and Dynamic Activities) Market is Hua Hin’s open-air haven for crafters, shoppers, and music-lovers. The evening-only market is divided into four sections: Art a la Mode, Art Indoors, Art of Act, and Art of Eating. Art a la Mode takes up much of the market’s outdoor space and consists of a bazaar of the quirky and the handmade— clothes, home décor, accessories, shoes—every item is curated to appeal to an art-appreciative crowd of shoppers. Art Indoors, on the other hand, is CICADA’s art gallery where paintings, sketches, and sculptures on display are available for sale. Art of Eating refers to the open-air food court, bar, and beer garden taking up space in the market’s gardens while Art of Act is the open-air amphitheater for local art groups and musical acts.
Thai Airways flies daily from Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Hua Hin is accesible via
1. Train – Most of the southbound trains stop at Hua Hin, and they leave Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong and Bang Sue railways stations ten times daily between 8:05 AM and 10:50PM.
2. Bus – Non-stop VIP coaches are available from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport to Hua Hin and vice versa. Public buses to Hua Hin leave from Sai Tai Mai terminal every 20 minutes and take around three and a half hours per way.
For more information, visit <tourismthailand.org> or download their apps at <mobile.tourismthailand.org>.