Hua Hin, was one place in Thailand, that had been elusive to us, for so long. It wasn’t because we did not want to visit this place that was legendary for its beach resorts, it was more like the timing was never right, and it always escaped us, each time we tried to get there.
Now finally, thanks to AirAsia, we would get to see for ourselves, first hand, this formerly exclusive royal retreat that is famed for being a delightful mix of city and sea with a cosmopolitan ambience, lively markets, tasty street eats and long wide beaches.
In the end, we found Hua Hin to be a fantastic holiday spot, inexpensive and it took a lot less time and effort (and money) to get there from Bangkok (2.5 hours drive), than to the southern islands.
Here are our Top 10 Things to do in Hua Hin, if you ever get the chance to visit the place..
1. Visit the Hua Hin Railway Station
Built during the reign of King Rama VI, and only a short distance from the centre of town, Hua Hin’s railway station is an iconic piece of local architecture that everyone should visit. Back in the early days, there was no road access to this idyllic beach town, and train travel was the only other way to get from Bangkok to Hua Hin instead of by boat.
This was before the advent of motor vehicles. The outstanding structure here is a red-and-white pavilion that sits beside Hua Hin’s train station, that once served as the royal waiting room during the reign of Rama VI.
2. Stay at the Anantara Hua Hin Resort & Spa and Catch the Elephant Polo
Too bad we were just a bit too early to catch the unique sporting event called the Elephant Polo tournament hosted by Hua Hin from 28th August to 1st September 2013. Anantara Hua Hin Resort & Spa is the perfect place to stay, as they host and organize this international prestigious event. Elite teams from all around the world descended upon the royal seaside town of Hua Hin in Thailand and battled it out on mighty beasts for the championship of this unique sport.
photo credit : scmp.com
These are five days of action packed matches and you will be amazed at the agility of the elephants, as well as the skill of the polo players. Here is a great chance to catch Thailand’s much loved elephants in a sporting event, and then kick back and spend a relaxing day on at the pool/ beach of Anantara Resort, or visit the Anantara Spa for some pampering we can’t think of anything better!
Anantara Hua Hin Resort and Spa offers room price from 10,000 baht per night, price varies according to low and peak seasons and may go up to 15,000 baht a night. Their spa was voted as the top 10 spa experiences in the world by Condo Nast Traveller (UK) readers, price range from 2700 baht onwards.
3. Play Golf at the Banyan Golf Course
Hua Hin is home to some of the most amazing golf courses in the world. Too bad we don’t play golf, but no worries, there’s really nothing stopping you from walking the green really!
And if you stay at the Banyan Resort, they actually offer shuttle services to one of the most incredible golf courses that is a must-not-miss. Built among a pineapple plantation, Banyan Golf Club in Hua Hin opened in October 2008. The course provides for spectacular mountain and ocean views from almost all of the holes and is one of the best layouts in the area. Banyan Golf Club won the 2009 Best New Golf Course in Asia as voted for by the readers of Asian Golf Monthly.
Walking this course, you will notice how beautifully landscaped it is. From strategically placed water hazards, waste bunkers, sand traps, to native pineapple groves that make local the local fruit a hazard, should you stray too far off the fairway, this course is just too gorgeous for words. The Banyan Golf Club has a contemporary Thai styled club house including, reception area, full stocked pro shop, elegant locker rooms, as well as restaurant. The Mulligan’s Pub with western views over the golf course and Burmese mountains makes for an ideal way to have a few cold drinks,after your game. Golf fees are only 1500THB which include complimentary individual carts with GPS and unlimited range balls.
4. Have a wine lunch at Hua Hin Vineyards
One of the amazing things about Hua Hin is that, it is located in the wine growing zone. Its soil and climate are suitable for growing certain varietals of wine. One of the cool vineyards you should visit is the Hua Hin Vineyard which is nestled in a scenic mountain valley 45km west of Hua Hin. The loamy sand and slate soil feeds several Rhone grape varieties that are used in their Monsoon Valley wine label.
This is nice place to visit and have lunch and subsequently do the vineyard tour. There was supposed to be elephant riding around the vineyard but the elephants were not around when we visited.
5. Get Nostalgic at Plearn Wan
One of the pleasant surprises on this trip, was a visit to a funky vintage village, called Plearn Wan (Plan 1? LOL) At Plearn Wan, it is as though, time has stood still – stylized versions of old-fashioned shophouses that once occupied the Thai-Chinese districts of Bangkok and Hua Hin, a pharmacy selling roots, powders and other concoctions that Thai grandmothers once used, a music store specialising in the crooner era of the 1950s and 1960s, and other bygone shops and attractions that pre-date the arrival of 7-Eleven.
Admission is free, and you are free to wander the grounds and checkout the souvenir shops and snack shops. There is even an old retro amusement park at the far end of Plearnwan, if you want to win a prize for your partner or maybe just yourself!
6. Sign up for a Cooking Class
I am not a great cook, but even I learned to make the Som Tam (Papaya Salad) and the Tom Yam Gung, by the end of my cooking class! And learning about how to cook the local food is a great way to meet some travellers and experience another culture.
If this is the kind of experience you are looking for, don’t miss the Cooking Class offered at Hyatt Regency Hua Hin. Here, you will learn the art of preparing fine Thai cuisine with their expert Thai chefs. You can opt to learn either a single dish or the complete series of six famous dishes, ranging from the famous Som Tam and Tom Yum Goong to tasty desserts.
These classes are available daily from 1:00pm – 3:00pm for THB 1,500 per person including a meal.
7. Immerse in the Soothing Treatments at The Barai
For some serious pampering, head to the Barai Spa at the Hyatt Regency, a couple of kilometres south of the city centre. This stunning retreat with the longest stretch of sandy beach, is made even more spectacular by the fact that it houses a world-famous Spa, The Barai. The Hyatt Regency Hua Hin rooms range from 11000 baht onwards, but if you add The Barai experience, it could cost anywhere between 4200 – 5000 baht upwards.
Based on Thai concepts of health through the balance of four essential elements, all the treatments fall into one of the following categories: Water, Earth, Fire and Air. This was the first time I had ever heard of a destination spa – you basically check into the spa, and live in the spa for as long as you like.
Not only that, but The Barai Spa experience is the ultimate in luxury and pampering. Through a holistic approach to wellness, the spa is supposed to rejuvenate and recharge your batteries, and help you find inner peace.
The Barai is really a journey. You can’t help but marvel at the opulence and the truly stunning decor and architecture, that has been built to accommodate nature and its surroundings. The luxury Barai Suites are designed as sanctuaries to rejuvenate and rest. If you feel that you really need extended therapy (who doesn’t!) checking into the Barai Suites, might be the answer.
The big buzz here are the customized, authentic therapies and signature massages that combine traditions of ancient Thai health rituals with the best of Western therapies. The hand-picked herbs and handmade treatments are the highlight of any treatment at the Barai. It is not just about the time spent in the spa – a healthy diet and lifestyle is also incorporated and you will have options such as yoga and tai chi to attend if you so wish. Many people check themselves into the Barai to find balance again and then they are released back into the world, as a new person.
Just to give you a rough guide, the Barai Holistic spa that goes on for 2 hours, is priced at THB 4,200++ per person. A complimentary transfer service for guests within Hua Hin area is provided when booking two-hour spa treatment per person.
8. Visit the Beach and try Horse Riding
Horse riding on the beach is very common around these parts. Horses and their owners can usually be found at the beach at the end of Damnoen Kasem. If you don’t ride but have a vision of yourself trotting along in the surf, then maybe this is the chance for you to get acquainted with a mare.
The horses are stabled and good-natured and the guides are around to give some coaching. It’s really fun for the kids and you can even go riding as a family if you please.
9. Go for a Thai Massage
Expensive, customized spas are a great thing yes. But one of the best things about being in Thailand, is the high level of expertise in masseuses. Sure, not all of them can be that good but the affordability of massages here allows one to try a different place everyday until you find your favorite. One of the best Thai massages in Hua Hin was located just outside, along the main road of the Cicada Market front.
This massage parlor was very professional and we even saw kids here doing their manicures and pedicures!
10. Visit Cicada Market
Cicada market is Hua Hin’s coolest open-air market (dare we say, hipster market) that’s pulsating with activity. It is located just outside of the Hyatt Regency and you will see families, groups of teenagers, and tourists alike, milling about shopping, chatting watching the street shows and just basically having a ball of a time. Only open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, it is divided into four zones – Art A La Mode features local vendors and from Bangkok and the surrounding areas. This where you can pick up casual fashion and funky clothes, cute home accessories, camera accessories, traditional Thai sarongs, dolls made from yarn, postcards, hand-painted T-shirts, costume jewellery and many more unique things.
The two white buildings in the centre of the market that make up the Cicada Art Factory, give young artists a space to display and sell their original artworks. The Amphitheatre, designed to educate and amuse visitors, provides a stage for bands, dance troupes, or theatre groups. We watched a rather cute musical, but it was in Thai, so we could not make out the storyline. However, this dance troupe performed an excellent Charleston number. Very riveting!
At the entrance, an illuminated alphabet sculpture standing in a dark pool of water spells out its name for all to see – Cicada. Many folks like to grab a photo here to remember the place by. Fairy Lights strung on the trees give this place a whimsical, dreamy atmosphere. If you are facing the Cicada signage, to your right is an open space where young teenagers perform and show of their skills in breakdancing or playing the percussions as part of a 4 piece live band.
If you get tired of shopping, take a break and sprawl out on the lawn and catch the Indie Rock band, or have some food at the outdoor foodcourt. Cicada Cuisine is the outdoor restaurant area, that has a wide variety of local and international delicacies, such as grilled seafood, pork satay, pad thai, grilled seafood, Chinese, Korean and Italian dishes, plus a whole load of Thai desserts. For beer lovers, quench your thirst with the beer on tap.
Open: 16.00 – 22.00 Friday to Sunday
Address: Cicada Market, Khao Takieb, Hua Hin, Thailand
Tel: +66 (0) 32 536 606
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