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Asia » Thailand » Hua Hin

Thailand’s original beach resort is no palm-fringed castaway island and arguably it is all the better for it. Instead it is a delightful mix of city and sea with a cosmopolitan ambience, lively markets, tasty street eats, long wide beaches and fully functional city services (meaning no septic streams bisect the beach like those other places).

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The oldest and most traditional Thai resort combines the attractions of a modern holiday destination with the charm and fascination of a still active fishing port. And while most other Thai holiday destinations cater mainly to foreign tourists, Hua Hin is a holiday resort for foreigners and Thais.

Besides it's great 5 mile long beach Hua Hin provides the highest density of world class golf courses anywhere in Thailand while it's yet virtually undiscovered as an international Golf destination. Green-fees and other costs are currently among the lowest in the world while course maintenance and services are superb.

Today's visitor to Hua Hin will still sense this special atmosphere and old world charm.Besides sun-filled days on the mile-long beach there are leisure activities for the whole family from watersports to golf. The area around the town let's you discover fabulous parks and peaks, caves and waterfalls. In the evening the winding roads with a great variety of shops make a great stroll. And the restaurants built on stilts into the sea offer superb seafood in the legendary and unsurpassed preparation of the Thai cuisine.

 

Places to visit on Hua Hin

 

Local Restaurants

Everyone appreciates good quality food, and Thailand is famed the world over for its amazing cuisine, fresh ingredients, and dishes infused with fiery chilli and other spices. Hua Hin has hundreds of places to eat and many excellent restaurants, with something for everybody whether you prefer Thai or international food. We’ve already created a comprehensive dining guide and restaurant list, but two establishments that deserve a special mention are Moon Smile Platoo on Poonsuk Road, and the Palm Bistro and Wine Bar which is a few kilometres away at Orchid Palm on Soi 88.

Moon Smile serves exceptional and inexpensive Thai food and is consistently busy every night, probably much to the chagrin of the nearby restaurants. Try the wonderful grilled beef salad, but request it spicy as long as you can tolerate the heat. The menu is extensive and they have a wide selection of all kinds of Thai food; the atmosphere is great and the owner friendly, and can often be seen chatting with the guests. We think its reputation as one of the most enjoyable restaurants in town is well deserved.

The Palm Bistro has a pleasantly relaxed ambience and serves sublime Thai, international and fusion dishes with various daily specials, and has earned a decent local reputation. The head chef is from the UK and his culinary skills and talents are evident. We can wholeheartedly recommend the slow roasted belly pork with mash, the unbeatable chicken pies, delicious fish and chips, and the Sunday roasts which could well be the finest in Hua Hin. However don’t just take our word for it, go and see for yourself.

 

Drink in Soi Bintabaht

Despite its rather sedate and family oriented atmosphere, Hua Hin does have some lively and fun places to drink, with no shortage of bars considering the town’s size. Soi Bintabaht is where all the night time action takes place, and it’s possible to walk or stumble around the entire bar district in less than ten minutes. However there is sufficient variety and the compact size means you don’t need to go far. The main street is home to about twenty bars, and there are many more down the side streets. Watch out for motorbikes, street vendors, the odd drunken bar girl, elephants and other hazards, as the street is not pedestrianised. For anyone who wishes to experience more expat-oriented bars with fewer tourists, there is also the quieter Soi 80 just a few minutes away.

Most bars in Hua Hin are girly bars and the friendly “staff” are a selection of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly but it’s much less raucous than, say, Phuket or Pattaya. You won’t find any go-go clubs or girls in bikinis dancing provocatively on tables, and even families are able to enjoy the bar scene without having to witness too much overt sleaze. Those who do wish to indulge in some adult fun, however, or simply enjoy a few drinks, are more than adequately catered to. A few venues occasionally pump out excessively loud music, or have a live rock band several nights a week, but on the whole it’s possible to engage in conversation at normal volume. When the bars close at 2 a.m. the action, girls and inebriated clientele move to the nearby discos and karaoke bars, which stay open later.

When visiting Hua Hin, a night or two spent in the bars in and around Soi Bintabaht is highly recommended, but just don’t expect party central and be aware that in the low season it can be much quieter, even deserted, especially when it rains. There are also many excellent restaurants close by, so you can enjoy a splendid meal followed by a semi-wild night on the town.

 

Hua Hin Railway Station

Hua Hin Train StationThe local railway station is a fine example of traditional Thai architecture and one of the oldest railway stations in Thailand, constructed in the reign of King Rama VI (1910-1925). The decorative red-and-cream coloured wooden pavilion next to the main building is known as the Royal Waiting Room, and was originally located in Nakhom Pathom but later rebuilt in Hua Hin during 1968. On the opposite side of the tracks is an old English steam locomotive that was imported to Thailand to run on the state railway. There is also an interesting exhibition about the Thai Royal Family inside the main entrance hall and displayed on boards all along the platform. Across the road near the station’s entrance, some old trains have been renovated and converted into a library.

The train station is an extremely popular tourist attraction in Hua Hin especially among Thai visitors, as it’s a very well known site with a long cultural heritage and Royal connections, of which the local people are justifiably proud. Visit on any day and you will no doubt see countless Thais and a few foreign tourists posing and taking pictures with the famous buildings as a backdrop. The station is located centrally in Hua Hin on the western end of Damnoen Kasam Road, and can easily be reached on foot in just a few minutes from the town centre. The station has thankfully managed to preserve its grandeur and nostalgic atmosphere, and is definitely worth a look when visiting Hua Hin.

 

The Jazz Festival

The annual Hua Hin Jazz Festival seems to be getting more popular every year. From humble beginnings, it has become the biggest and most important jazz festival in Thailand, quite a considerable achievement and one which is helping to bring some welcome notoriety and recognition to the town. Visitors might be surprised that jazz music is so widely enjoyed in Thailand, but its popularity is perhaps spurred on by the King’s own interest and his keen ability at playing the saxophone. The festival normally takes place over several days in the summer months, when the town is temporarily invaded by jazz lovers and would-be musicians. The event takes place down on Hua Hin beach, where quite large crowds gather to listen to the free music and soak in the party atmosphere.

Even for those people who are not keen on jazz, there is a sufficient diversity to ensure that there is something for everyone’s taste, with music styles encompassing jazz as well as funk, soul, and even reggae. Every year, the bands and artists that play at the event seem to draw critical acclaim, and the beach setting provides a unique ambience that just can’t be matched indoors (including the rain on occasion). The music normally starts late in the afternoon and goes on until midnight, and there are many related activities and things to do such as browse the dozens of stalls selling food, clothes, music and souvenirs.

 

Play Golf

Golf in Hua Hin is a big draw for many people that come mainly to play their favourite sport whilst enjoying a holiday in the sun. The town is gradually becoming one of the premier golfing destinations in Asia. There are many great courses here, such as the Royal Hua Hin which is the oldest in Thailand and just a stone’s throw from the town centre, to the newest one in the area, namely the Sea Pines course at Suan Son Pradiphat beach, which has amazing sea views up and down the fairway. Perhaps the Springfield Royal Country Club or the Black Mountain will appeal to those that want world class courses in stunning natural settings and with excellent facilities. The Royal Trophy and Black Mountain Masters has also given the latter club some serious kudos in recent years.

During August and September, many clubs participate in the annual Hua Hin Golf Festival, when green fees are reduced to a very acceptable 800 baht. This has proved extremely popular and encouraged both avid golfers and keen amateurs to come and play, and makes it even more accessible to those who are new to the sport. Whatever your interest or skill level, there are plenty of decent and challenging courses around Hua Hin to make it the undisputed number one golfing destination in Thailand.

 

Pala-U Waterfall

PaLa-U WaterfallPala-U is an attractive waterfall with 15 levels, just over 60 kilometres to the west of Hua Hin in the Kaeng Krachan National Park, the largest protected reserve in Thailand and close to the Burmese border. It occupies a total area of around 44,000 hectares and is home to some ethnic Thai Karen tribes. It’s a very easy day trip from Hua Hin, taking 90 minutes to reach the park and the journey passes through some stunning unspoiled countryside, pineapple fields and lush farmland. It’s common to see thousands of butterflies and other species on the way there, during the right time of year.

The waterfalls themselves are set in a verdant and pristine tropical forest which is more than 1000 years old and contains all kinds of exotic flora and fauna, including wild elephants, tigers and jaguars, although it’s very rare to observe such animals. The falls comprise two distinct flows, the large Pala-U Yai and the smaller Pala-U Noi. At the park entrance, foreigners can expect to pay 400 baht for adults or 200 baht for children, or if you hold a Thai driving license or work permit you will sometimes be able to pay the reduced Thai price of 80 baht for adults or 40 baht for children, depending on your ability to negotiate with the park rangers.

Getting to the waterfall is simple as there are prominent signs displayed on the exit routes westwards out of Hua Hin on road 3219, which goes nearly all the way to the falls. Perhaps the most enjoyable way to get there is to rent your own transport, as the drive can be stunning when the weather is fine, and allows you to stop to take pictures and enjoy the views. Otherwise an organised tour is an acceptable but more expensive alternative, leaving Hua Hin early in the morning and returning late in the afternoon.

Most people only climb the first few levels of the falls, as the going is quite arduous and the footpath can be hard to follow after levels five or six. It’s often unclear where the path is supposed to lead, and it can involve crossing the water several times. There are also a few pleasant and deep pools containing abundant fish. We recommend that you go up as far as possible, as the determined few that make it to the summit will be rewarded with spectacular views across Thailand and Burma. The best time to visit is in the rainy season between June and October, when visitors are fewer and the water levels are at their peak. During the dry season however, the weather is pleasant and the journey more rewarding, even though less water flows down the cascades.

 

Khao Sam Roi Yod National Park

Sam Roi Yod - TempleKhao Sam Roi Yod means mountains with 300 peaks, which is a very appropriate description for this beautiful and diverse national park, less than an hour south of Hua Hin and easily accessible as a day trip by car or motorbike. The natural charms of the park are immediately apparent and you will come across extensive freshwater marshes, rolling hills, attractive beaches and limestone caves. Almost half of the wetlands are used as shrimp farms, and you’ll notice the water turbines spinning furiously in the sunken pools. Wildlife is quite easy to spot, such as white cranes and other bird species, and even a few lizards sunning themselves on the road. Langur monkeys and other rare species live in the park but are less commonly seen. Khao Sam Roi Yod is consistently rated amongst the top attractions near Hua Hin, and visitors will understand why.

The mountains are numerous but not that large, and it’s possible to find small walking trails which lead to some attractive viewpoints and caves. The impressive Phraya Nakhon Cave contains an intricate Buddhist style pavilion which is illuminated by light streaming through the open roof. This important site was visited by previous Thai Kings, and remains a popular attraction today. A few rather striking temples can also be found scattered around the park. Some pleasant sandy beaches, namely Hat Laem Sala and Hat Sam Phraya, are worth a visit as they are seldom crowded and afford good views up and down the coast. There are some nearby restaurants and places to relax, and activities such as parasailing, cycling, swimming and other water sports are possible. Cycling tours are a convenient and enjoyable way to get around the park whilst being close to nature, and can be arranged through most travel and tour agents in Hua Hin. Note that there is a 200 baht entrance fee.

 

The Night Market

Hua Hin Night MarketNo visit to Hua Hin would be complete without a visit to the very popular night market, which should be high on the agenda of any first time visitor. Located not far from Hua Hin’s iconic train station, the night market is an excellent way to spend a few hours in the evening, soaking up the convivial atmosphere and perhaps picking up a bargain or two along the way. The market is one of the few attractions that appeals to both foreigners and Thais alike, who rub shoulders in this lively and enjoyable setting.

Spread across two roads and just a few minutes’ walking distance from the town centre, the market is lined with dozens of stalls selling all sorts of interesting items, such as souvenirs, Thai handicrafts, clothing, art, silk and of course all the usual novelty items such as wooden frogs and silly hats. Prices are higher than at other markets but it’s the experience here that is so unique. Appealing mainly to tourists and visitors, the market is a real hotspot in Hua Hin and is busy every night, and even more so on weekends. Most visitors can be found just casually wandering up and down the market, or dining at the excellent seafood restaurants that display the fresh catches temptingly outside.

Overall, the night market is a not-to-be-missed attraction, and is well worth a few repeat visits even if only to dine at a different restaurant each time. It certainly justifies its reputation as one of the best and most visited attractions in Hua Hin.

 

The Beaches

Beaches - Hua HinHua Hin’s beaches are an essential experience, not only the main one in town, but there are several attractive and unspoiled beaches just a short distance away. Hua Hin beach might initially seem a little unremarkable when compared with Thailand’s finest and most well known beaches, but it’s probably somewhat underrated; it has some genuinely great attributes such as several kilometres of fine quality sand which curves away to the south, attractive views in either direction, a plethora of beach activities and fun things to do, decent restaurants, and some low key beach bars that have music, food and drinks.

Hua Hin beach is very family friendly, safe, easy to reach and popular without being overcrowded. A common complaint is that there is no beach road running along the shore, so it appears somewhat isolated from the town and there are only a few specific places to get down to the seafront. The upside to this however, is that even though access to the beach is slightly hampered, it remains quite tranquil and there is not much noise or disturbances from nearby roads and traffic. Ultimately, a visit to Hua Hin beach is likely to satisfy anyone looking for an attractive, clean and pleasant place to relax and unwind, as well as those looking for more energetic water activities and sports. The beach has also become host to the annual kiteboarding world cup, as the conditions are nearly perfect.

Other nearby beaches worth seeing include those at Cha-am, Khao Takiab, Khao Tao and Suan Son Pradiphat, each with its own distinctive character. It’s recommended that you visit several of the area’s beaches, as you’re sure to find one that you like the most.

 

Hua Hin Hills Vineyard

One of the most pleasurable and interesting places to visit around Hua Hin is the delightful Hua Hin Hills Vineyard. Some might be surprised to know that there is a working vineyard in the area, but it has become a very popular day trip and can easily be combined with other nearby attractions on the route, such as the temple at Wat Huay Mongkol or Pa La-U waterfall. The vineyard is consistently voted amongst the most popular things to do in Hua Hin, so we felt it really deserved the coveted number one spot.

The vineyard is set in a beautiful area just 35 kilometres west of Hua Hin, and enjoys superb views across the surrounding countryside. They provide the majority of high quality grapes for Siam Winery and wine labels such as Monsoon Valley. There is a decent bistro and wine bar, The Sala, where you can indulge in fine food and sample their locally produced wines, many of which are surprisingly good. Additionally, there are some activities to keep visitors entertained, such as elephant rides (quite appropriate as the location was previously a corral where wild elephants were tamed), a game of pétanque, several mountain bike trails, and free tours through the vineyard by jeep. Of course, you can also learn about the winemaking process and history of the place throughout the day.

The vineyard is not exactly a cheap day out, but it makes a very rewarding alternative for anyone that wants to do something a little different from all the usual tourist activities, and is definitely a recommended and enjoyable excursion.

 

Nightlife on Hua Hin

 

Hua Hin is not particularly renowned for its wild nightlife in comparison with other tourist destinations in Thailand such as Bangkok, Phuket and Pattaya. Despite this, there can be quite a lively nightlife and entertainment scene during the high tourist season (November to March), but it can be extremely quiet in the low season with barely a soul to be found. The Thai royal family lives here, which could be a reason why the nightlife in Hua Hin is somewhat kept in check.

 

Laid Back Atmosphere

The downtown bar area in Hua Hin has a relatively family friendly, low-key atmosphere and certainly does not have the same kind of sleazy reputation as Pattaya. Hua Hin could be considered quite tame in contrast and there are no go-go bars to be found. There are also a number of late night discos, karaoke bars, and live music venues.

Bars in Hua Hin are generally of the beer bar variety, populated with various Thai women that may be interested in more than just your conversation. However it’s not particularly raucous and it’s possible to enjoy a quiet drink without being hassled by the girls too much.

The bars in the tourist zone cater mainly to foreign and western customers, perhaps because there are a large number of expats with bar-owning Thai spouses. They regularly change ownership and there are always a couple of bars under renovation by the latest management.

Although Hua Hin is considered fairly safe with few serious incidents, as elsewhere it pays to be cautious especially when walking around at night and close to the bars.

 

Drink Up!

Almost without exception the bars are closed by 2 am, but those in the know should be able to find an alternative drinking venue that stays open later, either at the karaoke or a bar doing a ‘lock-in’. In recent times a series of inconsistent closing times has been enforced which has had a short-term negative effect on the town’s nightlife, as visitors were unable to find late night watering holes.

 

Drinks prices are fairly typical for a tourist town and it’s frequently possible to find happy hour discounts and special promotions. Some of the bars do three-for-two deals which can be almost as cheap as the 7-11 prices.

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