December 24, 2008

Thailand: Visiting Hua Hin

Where can travellers escape to for a beach resort retreat that’s budget-friendly as well as being known as ‘fit for royalty’? Thailand’s Hua Hin of course.

Literally fit for royalty, Hua Hin is the summer getaway for Thailand’s ruling monarchy and elite. About two to three hours away from Bangkok by coach, many locals also now use the beachside resort town for their weekend holidays.

With development throttled by Royal Decree, and no building to go up beyond three stories unless it has special permission, Hua Hin has managed to retain its traditional laid-back, seaside character.

The ‘oldest’ resort town in Thailand, it still only sees around 90,000 residents calling the area home, and without an airport connection, there’s a tranquillity to the area not seen in more built up regions like Phuket.

Hua Hin’s idyllic white-sand beaches are a sight to behold, running 5kms long, it is rumoured to be one of the reasons why King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) built his summer palace, Wang Klai Kang Won “Far from Worries”, in 1928.

Hua Hin, can not only boast to be the holiday town of the Royals, but also has another claim to fame. The township and surrounds is home to the highest density of world class golf courses anywhere in Thailand.

In this backdrop of relaxation, the ‘spa culture’ in Hua Hin is worth a mention. Whilst Thailand is renowned for its wellness tourism, the spa experience is forefront in a complete Hua Hin itinerary.

Home to arguably the world’s best spa, consistently named in Condé Nast’s top three and awarded Luxury Travel’s Best Spa in the World in 2008, Chiva-som has seen a whole slew of the rich of famous step through their doors. Said to be Hollywood’s favourite spa property, Chiva-som doesn’t come without a price tag.

Of course, unwinding in Hua Hin doesn’t have to bankrupt a travellers account, with most hotels and resorts offering either an in-house spa or access to spa facilities – or travellers can be a little more adventurous and try out the array of massage parlours in the township.

The Hua Hin night markets are worth a quick glimpse as well, while not as bountiful as Bangkok’s block-wide sprawls, they have a character of its own – and many locals believe that souvenirs such as silk and carvings can be gotten here cheaper than in the capital; of course, bargaining is essential.

From relaxed three-star beachfront properties to the decked-out five-star locations that are almost a township to themselves, Hua Hin has a property to suit every budget – with even the higher end of town ‘cheap’ compared to average global rates.

For business travel, Hua Hin can cater small to medium-sized events without a hitch. With bigger properties able to room guests in the hundreds, plenty of meeting space, and outdoor and wellness activities galore; Hua Hin would suit a wide range of needs.

With spectacular sunrises over the water and the steep backdrops of the Prachuap Khiri Khan in the distance, Hua Hin is the perfect traditional Thai beachside experience away from the modern-day Rat Race.

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