Located approximately 200 kilometers from the bustling streets of Bangkok lies Hua Hin, one of Thailand’s lesser known seaside gems, also known as “The Royal Paradise”. Beginning its life as a quaint fishing village, Hua Hin garnered its royal reputation in the 1920s when Thailand’s first constitutional monarch, King Rama VII, oversaw the construction of a new palace in the village. Following construction of the palace, Hua Hin quickly established itself as one of the King’s favorite holiday destinations in the Kingdom. Unlike the larger beach destinations around Thailand, the seaside town has managed to maintain its domestic appeal with many local Thais owning holiday homes here. For visiting tourists, this provides a more accurate picture of the local way of life and a more laid-back atmosphere, ideal for families, couples, and long-staying expats and tourists.
Golf: Hua Hin has become a magnet for golfers in Thailand, with a selection of world class courses all within a 30-minute drive of the town. One of the most popular courses is the 18-hole Royal Hua Hin Golf Course. Black Mountain Golf Course, sculpted out of jungle and pineapple plantation incorporates natural creeks as water hazards and features an attached water park and wakeboard park.
PlearnWan, billed as an “eco vintage village”, is a specially built open-air market located between Hua Hin Soi 38 and 40. Shops selling traditional Thai snacks, vintage toys, and other souvenir-y items are housed in nostalgic wooden buildings. The market is great to pick up unique gifts and handcrafted memorabilia, with many a curated backdrops making it a favorite with the Generation Facebook visitors.
Last, but by no means least, arty visitors may enjoy a trip to the Cicada Market which showcases a range of contemporary arts including décor accessories, clothes and innovative new product designs. Cicada Market is also home to a plethora of creative activities and workshops for visitors who want to experience Hua Hin’s creative side with a more hands on approach.
The town is home to two night markets, with the more well-known and tourist oriented market positioned right in the centre of the town next to Dechanuchit Road. This market is a great place to stop for a bite to eat. If you would prefer to join the locals at their market of choice, head down to the Grand Market in the car park between the Grand Hotel and the Sao Paulo Hospital and make the most of the more diverse range of goods on offer. If it is Thai handicrafts you are after the Hua Hin Bazaar, located approximately 100m west of the beach, is your best bet for picking up some traditional Thai products, including the vibrantly colored pa pim kommophat, or printed cotton, that is sold by the meters or but also in the form of clothes, pillows and toys.
Like many other tourist destinations around Thailand, many people choose to get around by motorbike taxis and tuk-tuks. It is normal to negotiate a fare before the journey to minimise the risk of a price hike once you arrive at your destination.
Motorcycle rentals are readily available, although visitors in the mood for a little exercise can even opt to rent a bicycle, as the relatively flat terrain of Hua Hin does not offer too much of a physical challenge.
Due to its relatively close proximity to Bangkok, some visitors opt to take a taxi from the capital, a journey of about three hours. Price negotiations with the driver should be done prior to the journey, and expect to pay somewhere in the region of THB2,000 (~US$64) from the capital.
In Hua Hin, taxis back to Bangkok can be arranged through one of the travel agents that pepper the town, many of which are located outside the post office and along Naresdamri Road.
The train is a more economical means of transportation to Hua Hin, and with the train station located at the centre of the town is extremely convenient. The cost of a train ticket from Bangkok to Hua Hin ranges from THB 50 - 100 (US$1.60-3.20),
Visitors that do choose to travel to Hua Hin via rail can begin their journey at Bangkok's Hua Lamphong train station or Bang Sue station, which are both easy to get to as they connect to the city's Mass Rapid Transport system. The train to Hua Hin runs more than 10 times daily, with the last one leaving the capital at 10:50 p.m.
If you are travelling straight to Hua Hin from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport there is a direct VIP coach service between the two towns which costs travellers THB305 (~US$9.75) per ticket. The coaches leave the airport six times per day, with the first leaving 7:30 a.m., and the last one at 7:30 p.m.
Alternatively, visitors travelling from the centre of Bangkok can take the bus from the Sai Tai Mai Bus Terminal, where buses for Hua Hin leave around every 20 minutes, with a journey duration of three and a half hours. The price of this bus is approximately THB175 (US$5.60) per ticket, and the buses run between the hours of 4 a.m. and 10 p.m. It is worth noting that Hua Hin's main bus station is situated 3km from the centre of the town on Petkasem Road, and a tuk-tuk from there to the centre of the town usually costs around THB180 (US$5.75).
Minivans, or minibuses, as they're sometimes called, are nippier than traditional buses, but are slightly more cramped. From Bangkok, passengers hop on at the Victory Monument (look for a sign that says "Cha-am, Hua Hin" and are dropped off in Hua Hin town center three hours later, sometimes less. The fare is approximately THB200 (~US$6.40) for a one-way journey.