Even before the first sight, Hua Hin is intimidating. Among the Thai beach resorts it is unique because it began as a resort for Thais, specifically for Thai royalty. Even now it caters mainly to rich Thais. "Would the eternal pilgrim be able to afford drinking water there?" I kept asking myself for eons.
During my first trips in Southern Thailand, the sumptuous Klai Kangwon Palace, one of the main landmarks while crossing Hua Hin while traveling from Bangkok southwards on Highway 4, created the impression that the place was designed for royal budgets. In the end, visiting it was inevitable.
Location and Climate
Hua Hin is in the Malay Peninsula, almost 200km south of Bangkok and 25km south of Cha-Am, another popular beach resort. Such a location means it enjoys a tropical climate, hot and humid, with three seasons. The "hot and dry" season lasts from March to May, the "hot and rainy" season begins in June and ends in October, and the "cold (this is the overstament of the millennium) and dry" one runs from November to February.
Hua Hin's history goes all the way back to 1834AC, when migrating farmers from Phetchaburi settled there. The place became known as Ban Samoe Rieng (Rock Rows Village) or Ban Laem Hin (Stones Point Village). Faithful to its rural origins, even now it houses only about fifty thousand people.
For almost a century the place was of no consequence, until the state railway director built the Railway Hotel close to the beach in 1923; built in classical Thai style, it is called now the Sofitel Central Hua Hin.
Being the railways director a prince, the connection of the place with the royalty was done and soon, in 1928, the king built there a summer palace, naming it Klai Kangwon (Far from Worries); this is the official royal summer palace, and apparently the preferred residence of the king. The nearby beach was renamed Hua Hin, or Head Stone, and became the first beach resort in Thailand, much before Phuket and Samui.
Soon, an 18-hole golf course was added, and a plethora of Bangkok's rich and famous summer houses occupied a long strip of beach, practically reaching Cha-Am.
Hua Hin is not a shopping location. However, it offers Khommaphat printed cotton, which is often used for Thai pillows, bags and fans. The presence of the rich and famous means colored gemstones (mainly sapphires and rubies, which are popular in Thailand), premium silk and other upmarket products are available.
Reaching Hua Hin
Despite being close to Bangkok, Hua Hin features an airport, from where private charter flights can be booked.
Inexorably linked to Hua Hin's birth, the railway is still important; frequent trains from Hualampong Station in Bangkok reach the town. All the trains heading southwards reach it; the trip longs about four hours depending on the train class. A first class, air conditioned sleeper ticket costs 922 baht, while a third class fan one costs 234 baht.
Highway 4, also known as Petchkasem Highway, is the main road connecting Bangkok with southern Thailand; it passes through Hua Hin. If traveling by car, take the Thonburi-Paktho Road, and after Samut Songkhram, turn left onto the highway.
Buses to Hua Hin depart from Bangkok's southern bus terminal, which has been recently moved further away into Thonburi - Bangkok's twin city across the Chao Praya River. Bus number four reaches the terminal from the Victory Monument in Bangkok; the trip costs a staggering thirty baht, as compared to the regular seven baht bus fare; to that, the transport to the Victory Monument should be added. From the bus terminal regular and VIP buses are available during the day and night, roughly every thirty minutes. The trip longs about three hours.
In Hua Hin there are two terminals. The direct buses from Bangkok stop on Petchakasem Road (the highway 4 stretch within Hua Hin) at the very heart of the downtown area. Other buses continuing to other destinations stop at a new terminal near the Market Village and Soi 96. Direct connections to Chiang Mai (in northern Thailand) and Khorat (northeastern Thailand) exist.