You may or may not have heard of Hua Hin before, it is reputedly the oldest holiday resort in Thailand and it is popular enough that you can buy a packaged trip there with some of the big operators like Thompson or Virgin Holidays. Going to a place that package holiday makers frequent in droves can bother me, for many reasons. Let me be clear (as David Cameron likes to say), I have no problem with package holiday makers (I have been one myself), or the package holiday (I am happy that everyone can all choose their own way to travel). It is just that once the package holiday crowd appear, the full tourist circus also tends to arrive, with all of its unsavoury aspects like over-development, ecological damage, exploitation, animal cruelty etc. Frankly, I find all of that stuff more than a bit depressing, and so, like many things I don’t want to face, I just try to avoid seeing it so I can continue to pretend to myself that those things don’t happen or that I am not part of the problem.
For the above reasons, I was pretty sure I was going to hate Hua Hin, mostly because I imagined it was going to be vulgar and tacky, but also because I suspected that I might enjoy myself a bit and then feel guilty about it afterwards. So before I arrived, I promised myself that I would remain open-minded and non-judgmental about the place and, in respect of that promise, I am now delighted to make the following positive observations about Hua Hin –
- Hua Hin has a quite charming railway station. It is clearly well maintained and there is even a little shop to buy smoothies and train related souvenirs in, should you feel the need.
- Hua Hin has a very lengthy beach which would take you a long time to walk along, should you require the exercise. If you can’t be bothered with the exercise, Hua Hin also has a selection of fancy private clinics, any of which should be able to have you ship-shape and looking ten years younger in no time, minimum sweating required.
- Hua Hin has lots of restaurants serving food from all over the world. If you could murder a pizza, a chicken vindaloo, some patatas bravas or a plate of steak frites and glass of red, somewhere in Hua Hin will sort you right out in no time.
- Hua Hin appears to be harbouring lots of people who have a bit of money. Should you require a sugar daddy or if you have the skills to con a rich person into letting you have a go on their yacht, then this might be a good place for you.
- If you wake up one morning and realise that your life would be complete if only you had a full-length Chinese-inspired raw silk dress, or a white poly-cotton suit like the one Colin Farrell wore in the remake of Miami Vice, then you will be delighted to know that both can easily be whipped up in no time by any one of the three billion tailors who ply their trade in Hua Hin.
That’s about all I can think of just now.
I can understand why Hua Hin is popular, it is close to Bangkok which is a bonus if you don’t have much time in Thailand. It also has some very fancy hotels and restaurants, but then so do other Thai resorts with much nicer beaches. Perhaps most importantly Hua Hin is chock full of western tourists and expats and the associated trappings that brings. From McDonalds to English-speaking taxi drivers, you don’t need to step out of your comfort zone one bit while on holiday here if you don’t want to, which suits a lot of people just fine. We had a little bit of that action too, with fresh croissants from the French bakery for breakfast and pizza for dinner, Hua Hin is a place where it is easy to indulge yourself a wee bit, even if you do feel like a bit of a dirty sell-out afterwards.
According to the little pictures held by all of the taxi drivers there are endless things to do in the surrounding area as well, unfortunately none of them looked terribly appealing, and lack of budget and fully functioning legs stopped us from partaking anyway. We did go out to Huay Monkgol temple which was good fun and interesting enough. Apart from that, we hung out at the beach with my son’s leg expertly wrapped in both cling film and a plastic bag in a vain attempt to keep his wound sand-free. The only other thing we did of note was let the kids have a horse ride on the beach which they loved, but was ruined for me by the state of a few of the horses, not to mention having to watch some of the little ponies visibly struggling under the immense weight of some of the tourists, who frankly should have had the self-awareness to PICK A BIGGER HORSE.
Anyway, we only stayed three days and hardly did anything. Hua Hin wasn’t really for us, but then it was never intended to be, so that’s ok.
I don’t really feel in a position to give much advice on Hua Hin, but nonetheless, if your heart is set on that Miami Vice suit here are…
My really useful travel tips for Hua Hin
- We stayed in Victor Guesthouse and paid 690 baht for a really tidy, good-sized room with air con and cable TV. They did have cheaper fan rooms as well. I had a bit of a scout around nearby and it was by far the best that I could find for that kind of money. I did see various rooms advertised for a bit less, but I can’t account for their calibre or, more importantly, the calibre of their clientele.
- Despite the relatively high cost of Hua Hin there are still plenty of street stalls and small family restaurants about. As always, in and around the markets are the best places to look, and there was a grubby but great Muslim restaurant right across from the station. I can also heartily recommend Onn Onn Corner for their tasty food, bargain prices and super friendly staff. They even produced kid’s cutlery and cups, a first for us in Thailand, and a very nice touch.
- White songtaews run from the railway station and will take you out to Huay Mongkol temple via the floating market for 40baht. There is a coffee shop and a mini market with cup noodles and crisps etc there, but very little in the way of real food if you need it. We toyed with getting out at the floating market on the way back but it looked a bit soulless and deserted when we passed so we didn’t bother. I was very glad we didn’t when I saw some online reviews of it later on, one to avoid it seems.