The Governor of Prachuap Kiri Khan province has just announced that the resort town of Hua Hin 200 kilometres South of Bangkok will open on the 1st of October. I have very fond memories of Hua Hin since this was a town that I frequented in the late 1990s and early 2000. I had work stays there and our around Thailand tour would have extension days there in classic hotels like Sailom and at the time the Grand Dusit Polo Club. Nowadays it might take some years between the visits. But last December we started a roadtrip down to Krabi from Hua Hin. At the time Thailand was still considered a very safe country with very limited spread of covid. (Even though things started to change a bit around the new year 20/21).
In any case, Hua Hin works great as a stopover, for example as a weekend trip from Bangkok or as so many people do during the cold winters in Scandinavia, stay the winter and play golf.
Hua Hin has the highest density of world-class golf courses anywhere in Thailand and it has been a very popular destination for Scandinavians and others, to buy a winter house.
A Brief History of Hua Hin
Hua Hin is considered to be the oldest resort town in Thailand. It got its name from some interesting stone formations on the beach that reminded a group of farmers, that escaped a drought in Phetchaburi, about heads. Hua Hin translates as Stone Head. The old name was Samore Riang (สมอเรียง), a row of rocks.
Hua Hin gained popularity when Rama VII found the fishing village at his liking and according to some sources enjoyed hunting in the area. The royal palace “far from worries” Klai Kangwon in the Thai language, was built in 1928. In 1923 The Thai State Railways built the magnificent Railway hotel with initially only 14 lodges, which later became the Sofitel and nowadays the Centara hotel. When the movie the Killing Fields was filmed that hotel served as the Royal in Phnom Penh. Cambodia was still too unsafe stuck with internal conflict at the time. So the colonial structures of the Railway Hotel served the purpose well do that movie.
Hua Hin Railway station opened already in 1911. This station is still one of the most beautiful railway stations in Thailand and the Royal Waiting Pavilion is a delicate architectural masterpiece. We used to go here with groups, riding with the bicycle samlors and sometimes watch the Eastern & Oriental Express stop by on its route to Singapore.
Since the 1980s a large construction development took place in Hua Hin and the beach section from Cha-Am through Hua Hin is aligned with condominiums and housing estates as well as hotels. Petchkasem Road runs through Hua Hin and down to the South. The once so obvious gathering point outside the clocktower by the temple(now next to Starbucks) is not necessarily a central meeting point anymore.
When I started working in Hua Hin in 1998, there was talk about Hua Hin before and after Melia. Melia is now Hilton and the hotel is still a tall landmark with good positioning in the city.
What to do and where to go in Hua Hin
Since I am not a frequent visitor I like to revisit the places I love. Here are some personal favourites and some general recommendations.
For me, an Afternoon Tea at the Railway Museum in Centara Grand Beach Resort and Villas is a must. Furthermore, I adore the garden and the environment of this classic hotel. I have stayed here on a few occasions and the location is great. The cliche of a real oasis comes to mind. After all, it is true in this case. Read more here and reserve at Centara.
At the end of the day Hua Hin is a beach town and one of the reasons people like Hua Hin is that you get a city atmosphere as well as a beach. Hua Hins beach and water might not be as stunning as the Andaman Sea but there are long stretches with quite hard-packed sand that makes the beach enjoyable for jogging and walking. One suggestion is to sit down at some of the stalls nearby Hilton and have some great Thai Seafood dishes. The idea of horse riding on the beach in Hua Hin has always divided tourists in the beach town. But you will see horses on the beach.
Visit the railway station and let your thoughts take you back to “the good old days”. The Royal Pavilion is such a beauty.
Speaking about pavilions. Take a day trip to the National Park of Sam Rai Yod, “the mountain with 300 peaks”. Limestones, marshlands, caves and the stunning pavilion inside the cave. This park is 60 kilometres south of Hua Hin. Read more here.
If you have the time and you are looking for better water, snorkelling and a more paradisiacal feel. Travel to Koh Talu. A secluded, private island with great sustainability ambitions. Read more in my blog post here.
Golf. I am not a golfer and the topic deserves its blog post. But you can’t write about Hua Hin and not mention golf. Hua Hin is home to the first 18 holes Golf Course in Thailand – The Royal Hua Hin Golf Course commissioned in 1924. Famous Golf Courses that you find in Hua Hin are: Banyan Golf Club, Black Mountain Golf Club, Kaeng Krachan Country Club and Resort, Lake View Resort & Golf Club, Majestic Creek Country Club, Milford Golf Club & Resort, Palm Hills Golf Club & Residence, Sawang Resort and Golf Course, Sea Pine Golf Course and Springfield Royal Country Club.
From Hua Hin, you can also day tours to Kanchanaburi, or preferably overnight at some nice resort by the legendary River Kwai. Read more about Kanchanaburi here.
Day tours to the huge pagoda of Nakorn Patom, the floating market in Damnoern Saduak or the Royal mountain palace in Phetchaburi are also good options.
This is a mix of choices and recommendations from friends in Hua Hin as well as my own experience. Things change fast, and it is a pandemic going on. So be sure to check opening times and recent updates on the quality of the restaurants. A lot of nice restaurants and cafes are locating themselves in the so-called Pala U road now.
Good old Sailom hotel still offers nice food in their restaurant facing the beach. Baked Rocket Lobster used to be a classic there or the Steak Laos with sticky rice. Sailom is located here.
L’Occitan with French/International and Thai Cuisine. Great quality for a reasonable price. They also run a cafe called the Douce France location here.
Baan Alissa Creperie Restaurant with specialities like crepes from Bretagne, or boef Bourgogne. Location here.
Chomview Seafood is already a classic. This is an institution with some mixed reviews, it is large, it has great views and most people seem happy when it is not too crowded. Adress on Google maps here.
Coco 51. Nice location and excellent seafood also a chef-d’oeuvre. Location on Google maps here.
Chao Lay Seafood, still getting on according to friends. Central location. I have good memories of their Tom Yam Kung soup but it has been some time since my last visit. Location on Google maps here.
Krua Kannikar. This restaurant arguably has the best-fried chicken in Thailand. A family restaurant where the taste hasn’t changed for the last 20 years. I never miss a meal here when I am in Hua Hin. Their green curry is excellent and their laarp is mouthwatering. No view though, located near the railway and Hua Hin Grand Hotel. Location here.
A restaurant with an interesting concept is the Mon Thai restaurant and believe it or not Coca Cola is used in some seasoning. So a kind of fusion restaurant. Facebook page here.
Looking for a trendy cafe, try Marzipan. Nice break if you are shopping in Market Village.
The Livingroom Bistro & Wine Bar seems popular with the Bangkok crowds. Location on Google maps here.
Daddy Deli is a Swedish owned vintage restaurant with a focus on imported delicacies like cheese and beef. Location on Google maps here.
Where to stay in Hua Hin
There are so many fantastic resorts in and around town. When we have stayed there on a budget we quite enjoyed Ibis hotel, a classic favourite is the Dusit Thani though a bit outside of town. A bit wore but stop up to standard. My number one choice for Hua Hin would always be Centara, the old Railway hotel. During our visit last time we got an excellent deal from Hilton so absolutely nothing to complain about there. Great views, perfect location and a very huge swimming pool.
A disclaimer for this whole blog post is that it is hard to assume the situation in Hua Hin at the moment. If the city opens up, I hope that it gets back to normal for all these places. But do your research thoroughly in these covid times.
Arriving to Hua Hin’s airport we ordered a Grab to take us the short transfer to downtown. That was the most reasonable price.