Monday, February 8, 2010

Destination Profile: Hua Hin

The charming town of Hua Hin, located at the Northern end of the Malay penninsula, in the province of Prachuap Kiri Khan, is the oldest and most traditional of all the beach resorts in Thailand.

Being only 200 km South of Bangkok, it is easily accessible and has been a popular destination, among Thailand's Royal Family and high-society, for nearly 80 years.

The resort was founded in the early 1920s by King Rama VII and in 1928, construction began on on a Royal Palace, which was named Klai Kangwon, meaning "Far From Worries". The palace still remains an official residence and it's not uncommon to see Royal motorcades passing through the streets.

The building of a railway line from Bangkok ensured Hua Hin's accessibility and cemented its popularity with the general public.

I am well acquainted with Hua Hin having stayed there for over six months during 2006 and I have admit that I thoroughly enjoyed every minute. I also attended a friend's wedding at the Sofitel Hotel in August 2008 and my last trip there was in October 2009.

There are many ways to get to Hua Hin but when I am with my girlfriend we usually drive. The road links from Bangkok are quite good and the journey should only take about 4 hours. If you fancy taking a taxi it should cost no more than 1500-2000 baht.

There is also a domestic aiport in Hua Hin, but, from May 2009, the company that used to run flights from Bangkok has suspended all operations indefinitely. Not that that's neccessarily a bad thing, as a return flight used to cost about 8000 baht!!!!!

For those of you on a budget the best options for getting to Hua Hin are by public bus, minbus or train.

Air-conditioned buses cost about 180 baht and run from the Southern Terminal in Bangkok. Services start at about 5am and finish just before midnight. The journey takes 4+ hours and will normally stop en route at Cha Am.

Minibuses generally cost about 200 baht and can be caught opposite the Ratchawitee Hospital near the Victory Monument in Bangkok. Minibuses often make multiple stops to let people on and off and this can add to the journey time and if you have a lot of luggage they may ask you to buy an extra seat!!!!

The most scenic way of getting to Hua Hin has to be by train. Services run from Hualumphong Station in Bangkok and stop at Hua Hin en route to Surat Thani and other towns in the South. A 2nd class seat on an air-conditioned Express train costs about 350 Baht and 3rd class seat will set you back just over 100 Baht.

For up-to-date information and prices please visit the Thai Railways website at

www.railway.co.th/english/index.asp

Once you've arrived in Hua Hin, you won't have any difficulty in finding good quality hotels, great restaurants and plenty of things to do.

Firstly, I'd like to discuss accommodation and I am happy to share my secrets about the best places to stay!!!! The broad range of options, makes Hua Hin a great place to visit for both the budget and the luxury traveller.

At the top of my list of luxury properties are the elegant V Villas. The resort has a nice beachfront location and is situated at the Southern end of the Petchkasem road, in a relatively quiet part of town. It features 13 boutique villas each with a private pool and terrrace area.

Your personal butler is on hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and whether you want a cocktail at 3 in the morning, a romantic candle-lit dinner served on your terrace or you want to be woken by a choir of cherubs, they will indulge your every whim.

The resort also has a huge infinity pool and the Villazzo Restaurant serves excellent international and Thai dishes.

It is very easy to miss the V Villas and drive straight past the resort, as there is very little in the way of signage. However, this is keeping with the rest of the development, being elegantly understated and whose aim is to protect the privacy of guests.

The cost per night, for experiencing this little slice of paradise, is from 12,000 baht!!!!

If you want more information you can follow this link....

http://www.accorhotels.com/gb/hotel-7050-v-villas-hua-hin/index.shtml

If your budget doesn't stretch that far then a good mid-range option is the Hua Hin White Sands Hotel (formerly the Hua Hin Suites). This is a small 3 star hotel, offering deluxe rooms together with 1 and 2 bedroom suites. It has recently been refurbished and there is also a nice pool area and restaurant. The prices start from about 1500 baht per night in the low season.

This is a popular hotel thanks to it being only 2 minutes walk from the beach and the main entertainment area of "Soi Bintabaht".

For any of you who would like to take a look, here is their website.....

http://www.huahinwhitesand.com/index.html

In my opinion one of the best budget hotels in Hua Hin is the Blue Moon. It is centrally located along the Chomsin road and close to the station and night market. The rooms rates start at 550 baht for a standard room with a fan which is not likely to break the bank!!!!

Click here for their website.....

http://www.bluemoonhuahin.net/en/?inc=page&pageid=1

For me one of the most important aspects of travelling is enjoying the the food and embarking on new culianry experiences. Eating out in Hua Hin is a real joy and being a town that was built on fishing, it is best known for the delicious, freshly caught seafood. However, for those of you who are not enamoured with Thai food there are plenty of fast-food establishments and chain restaurants, not to mention a multiplicity of independent eateries, where you can find international cuisine including French, Italian, Japanese and Indian.

Located on the seafront along the Naresdamri road and close to the fishing piers you can find some excellent seafood places. My personal favourite is the Ketsarin. You can feast on lobsters, crabs, sea perch, King prawns, oysters and red snapper but of all the dishes I recommend the rock lobsters!!! The restaurant is built on stilts over the water meaning you can enjoy the sunsets and beautiful views of the Hua Hin coastline.

If you fancy a 10-15 minute journey by taxi to Khao Takiab Village Beach, the Madam Greene restaurant is a great option too.

Another restaurant which is well worth a visit is Hagi, a Japanese venue serving traditional fare including sashimi, teppanyaki and the famous sukiyaki hot pot. It is located on the corner of Damnernkasem and Naresdamri roads and close the beach and main entertainment areas.

I know sitting by the pool soaking up the sun can be very relaxing but I always encourage visitors to drag themselves away from their resorts and get out and about. If you take the time to explore Hua Hin and the surrounding areas you will be rewarded with some spectacular sites.

The nearby Khao Takiab, better known as Chopstick Hill, with its palm fringed sandy beach and eponymous "Monkey Mountain" which is home to the temple of Wat Khao Takiab is well worth a visit for the stunning views.

From Khao Takiab, it is possible to take a day trip to the pretty island of Koh Singto. It is accessible by boat and takes around 30 minutes. There are plenty of local operators who will be happy to arrange a trip for you.

A few kilometres further South you will find the beautiful Suan Son beach. It is owned by the Thai army which means development has been limited, but is open to the public. For those of you with an interest in flora and fauna, Suan Son is renowned for the rare tropical sea pines along the shore.

In my opnion some of the best beaches in the area are near the trditional fishing village of Khao Tao (not to be confused with Koh Tao, the island famous for diving!!!). The beaches of Hat Sai Noi and Hat Sai Yai are very quiet compared to Hua Hin and there are also some nice temples to visit.

Staying on the theme of nature, there is a lovely waterfall, called Namtok Pala U in the Kaeng Krachan National Park, about 50 kilometres West of Hua Hin. The best time of year to visit is from November to April when the water is running at its peak and the forest is at its most lush. If you are looking to get in touch with the natural world and fancy a night under the stars, you are able to hire a tent and camp in the park.

Like a lot of attractions in Thailand there is double pricing in operation here and whilst Thais are only charged 40 baht, admission for foreigners is 200 baht!!!

The most spectacular national park in the area is Khao Sam Roi Yot or the "300 Peaks Mountain". Visitors can explore towering limestone mountain ranges, deserted beaches, ancient mangrove swamps and deep caves with centuries-old stalactites and stalagmites. The park is only 65 kilometres from Hua Hin and can be reached by car in about an hour.

I can't mention Hua Hin without mentioning golf!!! Even for the uninitiated like me, it is obvious that golf plays an important part in the life of the town. During the month of August, Hua Hin & Cha Am, host an annual golf festival, with local courses offering vastly reduced green fees.

I have been reliably informed by golf playing chums that it is home to some of the best courses in Thailand, if not the whole of Asia.

I have only ever played on one course which was in August 2008, at the Black Mountain Golf Club. I was extremely impressed with the course, location and facilities, but, as I have not played at any of the other courses I have nothing to compare it with.

For 18 holes including a caddy, golf buggy and refreshments, my friends and I each paid about 3500 baht. For more information here is their weblink

http://www.bmghuahin.com/

There are some good websites covering Hua Hin and the environs and my favourites are listed below.

http://www.tourismhuahin.com/

http://huahin.sawadee.com/

http://www.huahinafterdark.com/

This seems the perfect place to end my review of Hua Hin and all that is left to say is "enjoy your trip to HH".

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