Live like a king in splendid luxury at a beachside resort on the stunning Thai coast long favoured by royals
Brisbane News May 24
If the King of Thailand gives a holiday destination royal approval, that's good enough for me. Hua Hin, a resort town on the Gulf of Thailand, a couple of hours south of Bangkok, got the royal seal of approval in the 1920s during the reign of Rama VI.
That king built a teak beachside palace-cum-holiday villa near the town and sitting in the tea pavilion at that residence, Phra Ratchaniwet Mrigadayavan, sipping Darjeeling tea and eating tasty Thai sweet treats, I could see why. The location at Bang Kra Beach in Cha-am County, 12km north of Hua Hin, is lovely.
Though this place is no longer a royal residence (there is another palace in town), it is busy with visitors seeking to pay homage to Thailand's past. The Thai people revere their monarchs and are still in official mourning for the much-loved late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in 2016 and often visited Hua Hin.
The palace was just near our digs, The Novotel Hua Hin Cha Am Beach Resort & Spa, a 242-room hotel on the beach between two popular towns.
Another of Hua Hin's attractions is you can get there by train and Hua Hin Station is a heritage treasure. The ornate Royal Waiting Room on the platform is a tourist attraction in itself. We caught the train from Bangkok, a leisurely, if hot, four-hour journey (we booked late and had to go third class) past rice paddies and countryside dotted with temples. If you're in a hurry you can go by car.
Hua Hin isn't a big destination for Australians and is more popular with Scandinavians, which is perhaps why there's a Swedish embassy there. It's also popular with Bangkok folk and is to Bangkok what Noosa is to Brisbane. It's a mellow town; a bit more userfriendly than the capital or crazy towns such as Patong on Phuket.
The hotel is 10 minutes from Hua Hin. A shuttle bus runs to the centre of town where the big attraction is the Hua Hin Night Market. The specialty is seafood and we tucked into lobster and king prawn dinners, topped up with banana rotis and mango and sticky rice from the bustling street food stalls.
The shopping's good in Hua Hin, with malls and another market where you can buy local handicrafts.
We made several evening forays into town for the night market but we also spent time just lounging around the hotel. The Novotel has a fabulous pool and several good eateries including the Ocean Terrace restaurant overlooking the beach. It's a breezy, cruisy locale that seems to be very popular with families so it helps if you don't mind the buzz of kids playing, which adds vitality.
We enjoyed an Asian fusion meal at TAI Restaurant and the Rooftop Bar is popular, with stunning views at night up and down the coast.
A little village just outside the hotel has shops (including the obligatory 7- Eleven) and some good inexpensive restaurants. So you can stroll in the balmy evening and sample the local fare. The hotel also has a great spa.
If you're adventurous, try a day trip to local national parks or if you're a wine buff, you can visit the Monsoon Valley Vineyards (previously known as the Hua Hin Hills Vineyard). I hear the wine is quite OK.
The region also has temples to visit. We preferred hanging around the hotel soaking up the ambience and kicking around Hua Hin town with its funky beachside streets and lanes. There are some good little local cafes to discover and we were surprised to find two Coffee Club cafes, franchises of our local chain. The things you find in Hua Hin.
REFLECTED GLORY … Lap it up at Novotel Hua Hin Cha Am Beach Resort and Spa.
The writer and his family were guests of the Novotel Hua Hin Cha Am Beach Resort.
Rooms from $78pn incl breakfast for two, ph 1300 656 565, accorhotels.com
Singapore Airlines has 24 weekly Brisbane-Singapore flights and 42 Singapore-Bangkok.
Economy return Brisbane-Bangkok from $723 incl taxes. singaporeair.com au.tourismthailand.org
with PHIL BROWN
Arts Editor - The Courier-Mail
Copyright © Phil Brown