Hua Hin Review – Bangkok’s Easy Beach Getaway

The view of Hua Hin from atop Monkey Mountain

 

Bangkok is to Hua Hin as Manhattan  is to The Hamptons.  Spend a lot of time in either of these cities that seem to never sleep – even if you are a native who finds living anywhere else on the planet somewhat unimaginable --and eventually a slow day on a beach gains in appeal.  

 

There is both a public beachfront and many private beachfronts associated with hotels and resorts along the water. This is the welcoming view of the ocean front from Baan Laksasubha

 

Like Manhattanites’ beach retreats on Long Island, Hua Hin is nearby.  A mini-van can whisk you to its beaches in little more than two hours, IF you time your commute for when the roads are clear of traffic.    And, because it’s often the Southeast Asia destination with the best airfares from the States, Bangkok is also an attractive hub from which to launch more arduous Southeast Asia explorations to Laos, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, etc.  In turn, that makes Hua Hin a choice spot to do a final chill and unwind from more challenging travel before you start the sometimes 24-hour commute home.

 

Hua Hin is all about the beach!

 

Know ahead of time that this is a trip that is all about the beach.   

 

Many of the hotels and resorts at the oceanfront also have nearby pools. This is of the pool by the oceanfront at Baan Bayan

 

That’s why the Royal Family built its palace here and other Royals followed suit.  It’s also why developers eagerly bought up this land when the Royals set their sights elsewhere.  It’s not one of the knockout vista beaches that you find in nature calendars, but you won’t care. 

 

Baan Bayan, a resort in the classic Thai Teak Bungalow style, has a WiFI connection that enables their guests to work at the beachfront

 

Think gentle waves and water that is refreshing and not ice-chilling.

 

A temple bell hands on a tree in front of Monkey Mountain

 

Yes, there is a local landmark nicknamed Monkey Mountain that you can bus, ride or hike along the beach to. 

 

Someone feeds the monkeys-- actually a small portion of them- whom you meet at the top of Monkey Mountain

 

You’ll see monkeys galore and at least one monk too sitting on a perch in the temple at the mountain’s summit. 

 

Two worshippers in the temple atop Monkey Mountain

 

A view of Monkey Mountain's temple spire from the fishing village immediately below it

 

Curried blue crab-- yum!-- at a restaurant in the fishing village

 

Yes, there is a quaint fishing village that is part of Hua Hin, where you can pick your fresh catch right from the boat and get it cooked in one or another restaurant, or pick your crabs or lobsters out from the restaurant tanks. 

 

Here the fishermen are wrapping up for the day. Earlier, you can go to their boats to get the fresh catch

 

Fishermen rewinding nets for the next day's work

 

A dock in the fishing village

 

You get to pick your fresh fish or seafood in the fishing village restaurants, before they are cooked

 

Yes, it’s also a launch point to see waterfalls, caves and more natural wonders. 

 

Some travelers—and especially Northern Europeans seeking a long thaw—make Hua Hin their base and venture into Bangkok from there—not vice versa.

 

And there are golf courses. 

 

But really, really, really—just plan to go to the lovely beach. 

 

The many dots you see above the ocean are kite surfers, with Monkey Mountain behind. Last year an international kite surfing competition was held at the Hua Hin beach

 

You will be mesmerized by kite surfers and perhaps game for the horse rides being offered up and down the beach. 

 

Charming riders on horseback go back and forth on the beach offering rides. Many of the takers are adorable children whose parents trot after the horses looking for photo opps

 

Mostly, it’s a place to just relax into rhythms of splashing in the cool ocean waters alternating with baking on your lounge chair.

 

Consider too that there are some very soothing luxurious beach resorts that open right on to the beach.  By American standards, many of the better beach resorts are extremely affordable.  We explored two boutique beach resorts—Baan Laksasubha and Baan Bayan --- that have well-deserved reputations for excellence.  By Thai standards they are pricey.  By US standards they cost about the same as a lower-priced mid-range hotel in a smaller US city.  Money spent on these boutique beach resorts is money well-spent. 

 

Or, if you love the homogeneity of chain hotels, you’ll find the usual suspects with properties that they purchased one or two generations back from the royals then who owned the land.   Sofitel makes its home in the one-time train station.  It seems a waste to do so, however, as the smaller boutique resorts seem to not only have 1st class service but also a connection to Thai culture and a desire to share it that you likely will not find in a global hotel chain. 

 

Hua Hin's Morning Market is held in the same spot as the night market, but features more fresh produce and staples for sale

 

Locals come to the Morning Market to stock up on supplies

 

Hua Hin's Morning Market is less visited by tourists

 

If you are really watching your budget there are also many hotels to choose from that are not in any way posh and usually involve a bit of a stroll to get to the beach.

 

You are warmly greeted by locals in Hua Hin as you walk by

 

Some additional tips—

 

The busy night market provides just the stimulation you need after a day in super-relaxed mode on the beach

 

-Don’t miss the night market!  

 

Rock lobster, fresh prawns and more are there for the picking in Night Market restaurants

 

Bright lights, crowds, rock lobster and prawns on the grill, stalls doing massages and others selling goods, rotee dessert pancakes and more—its just the stimulation you now need after a day relaxing on the beach.

 

The night market scene is very friendly. At long restaurant tables you can meet visitors from all over the world

 

While there is no shortage of massage shops in Hua Hin town proper, there also were many takers for a good foot rub at the Night Market

 

-Don’t worry about young Thai girls getting exploited by the swarms of seedy old sad sack men that seem to flock to Hua Hin as they do in even more touristy beach resorts.  Daniel Ruprecht, Resort Manager at Baan Laksasubha longtime transplant from Switzerland to Thailand, explains that it’s actually quite the reverse—with these young women learning how to ply the aging Supermen they escort with nonstop liquor and only occasional dry times that are long enough for their newfound gentlemen friends to take them on marathon shopping sprees. 

 

Hua Hin's clock tower is a landmark. The King's portrait stands here as well, as it does in most landmark locations throughout Thailand

 

-Don’t take the mini-van back to Bangkok any time after noon.  If you do you’ll likely end up in total gridlock traffic as you approach the city.

 

Best dressed bus commuter, in shades, hands down

 

-If your hotel/resort doesn’t have a van to get you where you want to go, the bus is a great deal at 10 Baht per person--- or, at the time of this writing, less than 30 cents.

 

-Those vertically sprawling condos you see on the city’s edge are mainly inhabited by expats.  To you the traveler, what that really means is that all the amenities that Westerners crave when out of situ are there—from French restaurants, to Starbucks, and more.

 

-There is a mega-mall on one side of town that is quite busy and worth a look-see.  It also seems to be a great place to pick up some inexpensive garb, though you might find it from a street vendor for less.

 

-You won’t see too many Americans but you will see, (in winter-) pasty-faced Scandinavians and other Northern Europeans hoping for some sunshine Vitamin D—or (in summer) Australians  and also French on their  month-long holidays.  It’s especially easy to make new acquaintances from around the globe at night market restaurants with long community style tables.

 

The Hua Hin Tourism website  has blurbs on tourist attractions, calendar notices and links to expat blogs that will give you a good feel for the place. 

 

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