The historic town of Hua Hin is the capital of the Hua Hin District which overlooks the Gulf of Thailand on the north-east coast of the Malay Peninsula. The town first appeared on the tourist map in the 1920s when members of the Thai Royal Family arrived here by train from Bangkok to spend their summers at the Klai Kang Won and Maruekhathaiyawan Royal Palaces. The town soon become a popular resort for wealthy Europeans living in South-East Asia.
Today this stretch of coastline around Hua Hin is a busy holiday destination for short break visitors from Bangkok. Buildings from its regal past can still be seen together with more recent attractions such as night markets, shopping complexes and water parks. The region experiences a tropical climate with high temperatures throughout the year although the dry season from December to April is the best time to visit before the monsoon rains arrive.
Getting to Hua Hin from Bangkok
Following in the footsteps of the Thai Royal Family, visitors can take a train from Bangkok’s main railway station, Hua Lamphong, which takes around four hours depending on the service. There are also frequent bus services to Hua Hin which take a similar amount of time. They depart from the Southern Bus Terminal in the city and directly from Bangkok’s International Airport.
The most convenient way to travel from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport to Hua Hin is to pre-book a private transfer with Shuttledirect. Services to Cha-Am, Khao Takiab and Pranburi along the Gulf coast can also be arranged on request. The journey to Hua Hin takes around 3 hours and 30 minutes depending on traffic conditions. Private transfers can also be arranged from the older Don Mueang Airport which deals mainly with regional flights.
Where to Stay in Hua Hin
The building of the railway from Bangkok to Malaysia enabled Hua Hin to become Siam’s first beach resort which attracted the well-to-do from Bangkok and beyond. Its first luxury hotel was the Railway Hotel which opened in 1923 with an architectural design similar to the nearby Marukhatayawan Royal Palace. Today that same colonial-style establishment is known as the Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas Hua Hin which is listed as one of the Leading Hotels of the World. It is just one of the luxury accommodation available in Hua Hin which also include the Banyan Resort and Golf Resort to the south of town and beachfront resort properties owned by the Hyatt, InterContinental and Hilton groups.
Plenty mid-range hotels are available in the town centre together with budget accommodation such as the Moon Hostel next to Hua Hin’s clock tower and Jenny Hostel near the night market. A popular backpacker option is the Mad Panda in the town centre which has dormitory rooms available for young travellers.
Hua Hin Tourist Attractions
Buildings: If you’re travelling by train you’ll arrive at Hua Hin train station which is probably the most beautiful station in Thailand. This Victorian-style building was built in 1926 when it replaced an older structure. It is a reminder of the resort’s historic past when members of the Thai royal family would travel here by train and stay at the Klai Kangwon Summer Palace. This palace is still a royal residence so is not open to the public. If you want to visit one of the royal residences along the coast you should take a bus or taxi to Maruekhathaiyawan Palace which lies 20km north of Hua Hin. This royal summer residence was built on wooden stilts overlooking the beach in the 1920s. Also known as Mrigadayavan Palace, it no longer has a royal affiliation and is open to the public. Back in Hua Hin, the other main architectural attraction is Wat Ampharam which is the town’s main Buddhist temple.
Beaches: Tourists can take a long stroll along Hua Hin Beach which runs the full length of the resort although it becomes very narrow at high tide. It is far from the idyllic beach that you’ll see on the cover of Thai holiday brochures but is still an appealing place to visit from Bangkok. Further south is Khao Takiab Beach which is quieter and more attractive than Hua Hin. In both resorts it’s important to check if there are any jelly fish warnings before swimming.
Markets and Shopping: Evening entertainment for tourists often revolves around the Hua Hin Night Market where vendors sell all kinds of clothes, bags and craft items. It’s also a great place to take a seat outside one of the restaurants and enjoy a cold beer and some local seafood. During the daytime it’s an interesting experience to visit the Chat Chai Market which is Hua Hin’s main shopping venue for local people. If you enjoyed a visit to the Asiatique shopping and leisure complex on the Riverside in Bangkok then you’ll love the Venezia Shopping Village which is a themed shopping complex based on the famous architecture of Venice. Its highlight is a miniature Grand Canal which allows visitors to take a ride on a gondola. The development of the village follows the success of the Santorini Park theme park and shopping complex on the outskirts of Cha-Am to the north whose design is based on the beautiful Greek island. Another novelty destination is the Hua Hin Floating Market which is centred around a man-made lake surrounded by retail outlets which were built to resemble Hua Hin in the 1920s. Unfortunately, the venue has gone downhill in recent years and is not the attraction it was meant to be.
Short Excursions from Hua Hin
Just 9km along the coast to the south of Hua Hin is the popular Cicada Night Market which only opens at weekends. Whilst it is well known for its arts and craft stalls it is also home to an open-air food court and a lively beer garden. Live music and dance performances allow visitors to enjoy a full evening of entertainment rather than simply visiting yet another Thai night market.
Local tour agencies offer boat trips to Ko Sai Island which is the largest of three islands which make up the Gulf Islands just offshore from Hua Hin. Alternatively, you can hop on a free bus from the Market Village in Hua Hin which takes you to Black Mountain Water Park some 10km inland. This is a popular attraction with great water slides which is rarely busy and offers a great value day out for all the family.
A rewarding experience is a trip to the Hutsadin Elephant Foundation which lies just 5km from town. It is home to elephants which have been saved from mistreatment and is manned by (mainly European) volunteers. It is NOT a place to go for elephant rides. The conservation fee you pay to visit helps keep the place running.
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