Once the playground of aristocracy, Hua Hin has become one of Thailand’s loveliest seaside towns, just a three-hour drive from Bangkok.
Since the 1920s, Hua Hin has hosted the rich, famous and well connected, treating them to a delectable blend of tradition and opulence. Nearly a century on, Thailand's oldest resort town beckons the world's discerning travellers (and hardcore romantics) to its azure shores.
Initially a quiet fishing village, when royalty caught a glimpse of Hua Hin this quickly changed. Prince Chakrabongse was out on a tiger hunt when he stumbled across this Siamese gem, prompting the then-King Rama VII to build his summer palace here. He used the town as his escape from bustling Bangkok, playing golf and soaking up the sun.
The royal stamp of approval still lingers on Hua Hin – the beloved previous King, Rama IX, spent months at a time in Klai Kangwon Palace – and for this reason it’s not gone the same way as Koh Samui or Krabi. Rather than becoming an international tourist hub, Hua Hin has remained a local favourite, with many Bangkokians driving down on the weekends for a refined dose of respite.
Tourists can visit the palace even as royalty resides there, or spend a few nights in one of the sumptuously appointed five-star hotels along the water’s edge. And somehow the village still maintains a quaint charm alongside the pulsing vibrancy of modern resort life.
Golf remains ever popular, with the wilderness well tamed (legend has it that caddies used to chase tigers off the greens before royalty could tee off) and the views pristine. Since the Royal Hua Hin opened in the early 20s, it’s become a continental hub for golf tournaments, both local and global. Nine courses stretch between the Gulf of Thailand and Hua Hin – a 20-kilometre distance spotted with some of the world’s best fairways and fiercest golfers.
By night, the Hua Hin Night Market serves tantalising Thai street food and handicrafts. By day, the nearby Chat Chai markets go underground and sell groceries, meats, fish and seafood to the locals (pick up a solid bargain here).
The five-kilometre beach beckons as the sun sets. While it’s not a snorkelling wonderland like some of Thailand’s islands, Hua Hin’s beach is what romantic twilight experiences are made of. Sit back with your sweetheart, sand between your toes, and watch the last rays of light dip into the ocean as the stars appear, waves lapping at the shore.
Need to Know:
DO visit Plearn Wan, a living museum devoted to traditional Thai practices and food – those that were thriving until the 50s. A trip locals certainly recommend.
DON’T expect the gin-clear waters of the southern Thai isles. Hua Hin offers a lovely seaside escape, but these are not the beaches of postcards and Thai holiday brochures.
COUPLES WILL LOVE the easy access from Bangkok. In fact, if you are planning to visit Bangkok but are not keen on flying down south, an easy air-conditioned drive to Hua Hin for a few nights will round out your city break and see you going home relaxed.