About 200 kilometers south of Bangkok, along the Chalerm Prakiat Rama II highway, is one of Thailand’s most popular, yet clean and sustainable seaside destinations. For more than seven decades, the kingdom’s original beach resort destination, Hua Hin, has served as an ideal, weekend sea-side getaway for Bangkokians, gradually developing into the international yet charming city it is today – attracting local and foreign visitors alike.
Hua Hin at a Glance
Initially territory of Phetchburi, though now a district of Prachuap Kiri Khan province, Hua Hin’s resort reputation foundations go back to the end of the First World War. To commence the completion of Thailand’s southern rail route in 1921, Prince Purachatra, then State Railways Director General, built the Railway Hotel next to a pristine white sand beach painted with rows of rocks. The luxurious Victorian style resort (present day Sofitel Central), which featured lavish gardens, cozy rooms, and one of Thailand’s first professional golf courses, attracted flocks of elite Bangkokian and Royal class weekenders, marking Hua Hin on the map as the first such beach resort of (then) Siam. By 1928, King Rama VII (the uncle of Rama IX) built his summer palace, Klai Kangwon (far from worries) which still serves as the present monarch, H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s primary residence.
With it’s Royal connections and background, Hua Hin maintains a sense of class and character not apparent in the other major Thailand beach destinations. While filtering out the sleaze and maintaining a cosmopolitan yet local flavor, Hua Hin is not lacking in culture and charm – continuing to attract not only weekenders, but a growing number of long term residents who are proud to call Hua Hin home.
From a sleepy sea side town of the 50′s crowded on the weekends to its year round colorful, booming, and characteristic streets and sois of today, the modern city of Hua Hin is home to more than 50,000 residents while greater Hua Hin (district or Amphur) exceeds 80,000.
Whether in pursuit of leisure or relaxation, Hua Hin’s sufficient attractions and facilities, enforced by a traditional charm, are sure to provide travelers with a memorable if not rejuvenating experience.
Hua Hin Accommodation
Hua Hin caters to all budgets, offering a wide selection of accommodations to suit the needs and comfort requirement of all travelers. The most popular stay at Hua Hin is obviously seaside or within walking access. There are several small and reasonable boutique (remodeled former summer homes) hotels as well as a handful of exclusive Luxurious resorts with prime beach access. Most such accommodations can be found along the 7 kilometer stretch of Hua Hin main beach, called Shirahama beach. Just south of Shirahama is Hua Hin’s secondary beach, Khao Takiab (Chop stick hill). For budget travellers, bungalows are ever abundant though vacancy can not be guaranteed during peak seasons or on weekends, as is for most seaside accommodations. It’s probably better to book with an agent ahead of time to secure a sea view. South of Khao Takiab is Suan Son Pradiphat beach. Lined with pine trees, and much less crowded than Hua Hin, limited accommodations are available.
If the cool sea breeze isn’t your top priority and you aim to shop, dine at various restaurants, sample the nightlife and entertainment, and/or go on sightseeing excursions in the surrounding areas, than there are various reasonable 2 to 4 star city hotels in/around Hua Hin’s city center.
For long term travelers and expats, Hua Hin has a budding property market with several condotels (rented like hotel but with facilities like a condominium i.e. kitchen) to be booked as well as long term leasing for modern and western standard condominiums and homes.
For a list of hotels in Hua Hin see: Hua Hin hotels
What to See and Do
One can’t say they’ve done Hua Hin until they’ve swam and played among its famous stone painted waters (Hua Hin means head stone in Thai), played a round of golf at the 83 year old (Thailand’s oldest) Royal Hua Hin Golf Course or one of the other six professional standard courses, endured a climb to one of its many rocky hills which feature Buddhist monuments and breathtaking viewpoints – most worthy of mention here is the fantastic panoramic view of Hua Hin city, bay, and the surrounding mountain and coastal lands found at the top of Khao Hin Lek Fai, two kilometers west of town.
Day trips out of town are popular. Booked or informal excursions of rainforest trekking, hiking, waterfall picnic, river rafting, and cave exploring can be done to the nearby Kaeng Kra Jan National Park, Thailand’s largest national park by area, or, 50 kilometers to the south of Hua Hin is Saam Roi Yort (Three hundred Summits) national park, featuring steep limestone cliffs overlooking the sea–common hangout area of dolphins.
Being a Sea Destination, Hua Hin’s most abundant and popular dining choice is fresh seafood, with a sufficient supply of roadside grills, laid back sea-view restaurants, and clean and considerable formal and non-formal (open air) joints all along more than a dozen kilometers of coast, particularly around Hua Hin’s main pier stretching south towards Takiab beach, and also around the city center. While Thai food dominates the restaurant scene, many establishments cater to an International crowd with Thai-western and Japanese fusion menus. For a local walk and snack experience, you’re sure to find something palatable – fried goodies, finger foods, fruits, local smoothies, and then some at the night market on Decha Nuchit road. Most of the nicer hotels and resorts all have reputable restaurants attached. 2 kilometers south of downtown on Petchkasem road is the recently built, Market village shopping mall offering the typical fast food chains (i.e. KFC, Fuji) serving western, thai, and Japanese favorites – offering diner and cinema (or bowling) evenings if you need a break from the sea breeze.
Being a royal city, Hua Hin is no haven for debauchery, at least not in comparison to Patong or Pattaya. Nevertheless, it’s not to say that night owls are to be bored during their stay in this lively city. There are plenty of late hour dance clubs, bars, and International friendly and owned establishments, as well as Thai style pubs and discos worthy of a drink or two. The center of the bar scene is concentrated around Soi Bindabat and Soi Selakam, while you’ll also find several watering holes along Naret Damri road and Soi Sai Roon 1 (Hua Hin 80).
Getting to Hua Hin
Located just 200 kilometers south of Bangkok, Hua Hin is mostly accessed via car, taxi, or one of the frequent first and second class busses and trains. By bus, the trip is about 3 and half hours and costs about 150 baht for first class ticket, while the train, about half the cost, takes about five hours. Private cars, taxis, and shuttles can be hired in Bangkok from around 2,500 baht.
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